WASHINGTON (Jun. 26)
The plenary session of the National Community Relations Advisory Council, central advisory body of eight national Jewish organizations and 78 local Jewish councils, was split here today over a resolution concerning the Viet Nam war, and expressing fear that the right of protest and dissent is threatened.
The resolution was presented at today’s meeting of the four-day NCRAC session, which is being attended by 250 delegates from all parts of the country. It was vetoed by the Jewish War Veterans of America, one of the eight national organizations affiliated with the NCRAC. Immediately, the seven other national organizations voted for it. Under NCRAC procedure, any of the eight national constituent groups can exercise a veto on a policy action, to prevent its issuance in the name of the NCRAC. Thus the resolution is not an NCRAC measure but an expression of the seven groups which voted for it.
The seven groups were the American Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith and the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Labor Committee, United Synagogue of America, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and the National Council of Jewish Women. Many affiliated Jewish community councils also endorsed the measure.
The resolution vetoed by the JWV said in part: “We deplore all action which threatens expression of dissent in connection with U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the case of the Viet Nam war; or to discredit such expressions by the propagandistic association of dissent with the most bizarre, disreputable, or unpatriotic elements in society. Such action threatens to recreate the hysteria of the McCarthy period, which happily we overcame.” The resolution cited President Johnson’s recent comments supporting the right to dissent as the “life breath of democracy.”
In a statement of its position against the proposed NCRAC resolution, the Jewish War Veterans said they “strongly disagree with any statement of Jewish organizations that alleges the existence of a so-called spirit of McCarthyism is abroad in our land, allegedly inhibiting the exercise of the right of protest and dissent. Our Government, like any American, is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty; critics of our Viet Nam policy should debate the issue on its merits, and should not cry foul when the debate becomes heated on both sides, so long as there are no acts of repression or retaliation.”
MUTUAL AMERICAN-RUSSIAN UNDERSTANDING ON MIDDLE EAST URGED
The NCRAC session — which reelected Aaron Goldman as national chairman –adopted a resolution voicing opposition to the proposed Dirksen amendment or similar legislation that would amend the U.S. Constitution to undermine recent Supreme Court decisions barring Bible reading and prayer recitation in public schools. Singling out the Dirksen amendment as the specific target of NCRAC concern, the resolution envisaged a distinct threat to the concept of separation of church from state.
Another resolution adopted called for Jewish communal actions against the “Radical Right.” This resolution viewed “with grave concern the continuing activities of radical right organizations in general, and the John Birch Society in particular.” Such groups were charged with exploiting fears and prejudices in the name of anti-Communism.
The plenary session also adopted a resolution calling for American initiative for discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union to de-escalation of the Near Eastern arms race. The NCRAC said the U.S. should persuade the Soviet Union to join in reducing and allaying fears in the Near East through a mutual understanding that would include a guarantee of the security of the nations in the region. The resolution also voiced appreciation of the U.S. role in sending balancing arms to Israel, but said that a long-range solution was required.
The NCRAC also adopted a policy declaration on international human rights, asking the U.S. Senate to ratify, with certain reservations, the United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly at its last session. The reservation voiced by the NCRAC delegates pertained to a provision of the Convention that requires participating nations to outlaw within their borders those groups that seek to promote racial hatred and superiority. The NCRAC statement also denounced the Government’s failure to ratify the Genocide Convention and other U.N. human rights accords.
Another policy declaration said that, despite “a few token concessions,” the Soviet policy toward Jewish citizens of the USSR “continues to be one of spiritual and cultural attrition.” However the minor concessions, “while not altering the fundamental discriminatory policy toward the Jews, testify to the Soviet Government’s increasing sensitivity to world public opinion on the issue of its treatment of its Jewish citizens, ” the NCRAC declared. The NCRAC reaffirmed the call sounded by the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry.