Special Interview Goldmann; Public Grappling with Delicate Issues is Healthy and Necessary to Find a

“We should have the courage to talk about it–despite the danger that our public statements might be seized upon by anti-Semites….They seize upon and pervert our public statements anyway.” Dr. Nahum Goldmann, firm and forceful as ever, was referring to his demand, voiced in his opening address at the World Jewish Congress Sixth Plenary Assembly that Jewry face up to the problem of “dual loyalties” which, he believes, will affect and harass diaspora communities with increasing intensity in the coming years.

He is unperturbed, he said in a special interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, by the headlines that this statement made in the world press. It has always been his principle to take the risk of short-term harmful effect that might arise from the public grappling with delicate issues. In the long-term, he believes, such grappling is healthy and necessary in order to find a solution. His own experience, he continued, is that rational and well-disposed Gentiles appreciate the unique peculiarity of the Jewish “dual loyalty” predicament, and do not suspect or resent it if it is explained to them frankly and openly.

Dr. Goldmann linked his proposal that the “dual loyalties” issue be aired by Jewish forums to his broader assessment of the world outlook–and the Jewish situation within it–over the coming years. His warning–in his opening address last Monday–that the post-war “honeymoon” between the Western world and world Jewry was drawing to an end has already become an aphorism, and has triggered debate and controversy in the press here.

The end of the honeymoon, Dr. Goldmann explained, will be a function of the general weakening of the Western democracies, which indeed has already become perceptible. As they grow weaker, the democracies will inevitably become “more egoistic,” Dr. Goldmann reasoned. Their “bad conscience” toward the Jews, which was an aftermath of the holocaust, is “fizzling out”–even in Germany itself.

THE DIALECTIC OF ISRAEL AND THE DIASPORA

This is the backdrop, against which the fact that Israel’s current policies are not supported by many of the Western states will be an added contributory cause of “the end of the honeymoon.” A change of Israeli policy alone, which Dr. Goldmann has long advocated as his “personal opinions,” cannot of itself reverse these more generalized developments in world affairs and consequently in world-Jewish relationships, which he considers inevitable.

In his Assembly opening address, which was very much of an over-view of almost 50 years in Jewish public affairs, Dr. Goldmann urged that in the final analysis world Jewry must rally faithfully to Israel’s side regardless of individual doubts about this or that aspect of Israel’s policy.

To the JTA he explained: There is no future for the Jewish diaspora without Israel, and Israel cannot survive without the support of the diaspora. Support for Israel in opposition to the policy-line of a particular national government could certainly exacerbate the “dual loyalties” tension pertaining to a given Jewish community, and Dr. Goldmann warned that such developments now appear more possible than before.

The veteran Jewish and Zionist leader staunchly defended the rights of individual Jews abroad–or of individual Jewish organizations which so wish–to take issue with Israel on policy matters. The WJC, he explained, obviously cannot do so because it embraces such a broad spectrum of Jewish opinion from Communist and non-Zionist to extreme nationalist Herut views.

ROLE OF THE WJ CONGRESS

The Congress, he asserted, can claim to represent today some seven to eight million of the twelve million Jews in the free world. This current assembly has been a landmark in its ongoing growth and development, he noted, and cited the admission of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and (recently) of several prominent American Jewish organizations.

Among the important achievements of the Assembly would be the ratification of the agreement with the World Zionist Organization, the formation of “a more cohesive leadership” for the WJC and above all the intensive and intelligent discussion of the pressing and pregnant issues which Dr. Goldmann had outlined in his opening address.

The WJC, Dr. Goldmann said, can provide the nucleus, but certainly not the full solution, of one pressing issue that he delineated: the need for an Israel-diaspora consultative body. He had been pondering this question for years, he admitted, but had not come up with a realistic answer. The newly elected WJC Executive would probably be asked by the Assembly to undertake a serious study to deal with it.

Menachem Beigin’s proposal–for a “council of world Jewry and the State of Israel” comprising 30 Knesseters and 30 elected diaspora leaders–was not viable or realistic, he observed. Israel could not contemplate such a violation of its sovereignty. The representatives of a sovereign state could not meet on an equal footing with Jewish delegates who represented no state, certainly not on matters concerning Israel policies, on which Israel alone, as a sovereign state, must decide.

Nor could world Jewry itself accept the Beigin plan, Dr. Goldmann added. It would trigger accusations of double loyalty, and many Jewish organizations would, for that reason alone, be reluctant to countenance it or participate in it. Other points made by Dr. Goldmann in the JTA interview included:

The Soviets–contrary to the view of some analysts here and abroad–are interested in a peaceful settlement in the Mideast. Their main policy aim is to foster detente, and the Mideast conflict presents the gravest danger to detente. Their massive commitment to the Arab states has become a burden to them. It is expensive and unpopular within the USSR. But the Soviets will not agree to a “Pax Americana.” They will press for a settlement which both great powers are involved in achieving and which they both guarantee and in whose preservation they both participate.

The WJC might consider in the future spearheading a form of cooperation with other minorities–such as religious minorities–to develop a “minorities bloc” to pursue cultural and religious rights. The world, said Dr. Goldmann, is increasingly suffering from the hegemony of majorities. Minorities are not threatened by physical destruction or political discrimination. But their cultural and religious identity needs to be guarded by collective action. He said his thoughts on this issue still needed development.

The Israeli press. (Some papers, notably the mass-circulation Maariv, have strongly attacked him): “I am not bitter–I am disgusted with some of the Israeli papers. They are demagogic…dominated by Herut people….Their attacks on me are not what is important. What is important is the harm they do in educating-in-doctrinating their readers on matters of Israeli policy making the achievement of peace more difficult….”

THE PAST AND THE FUTURE

His own career and position: He was not “sad,” he said, that his continued leadership of WJC was being opposed by the right-wing parties and questioned by others. The same fate had been suffered by Winston Churchill and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, both “greater men on greater occasions.” Gratitude was a quality notoriously absent in democratic life, and more especially in Jewish life. “Politics is only a small part of my life…my interests embrace art and music, travelling and reading….I went into Jewish politics because of Hitler…noblesse oblige…I never dreamt of the WZO Presidency. Ben Gurion virtually forced me to take it on….”

He had “never been a party man,” Dr. Goldmann pointed out, and was “proud of it.” This fact in itself had precluded his capturing powerful positions inside Israel–”one of the most party-obsessed countries in the world.” Did he regret not settling in Israel at the creation of the State when, as he recalled, he was invited to be a member of the first Israeli government, and not having been active in a leadership role within the framework of Israeli politics?

Dr. Goldmann answered with a firm “no.” In Ben Gurion’s day “I would have failed” (to win office.) The late Premier had often pressed him to come to Israel and establish “a real opposition which B. G. always believed was lacking in Israeli life. But I knew that it was B.G. who represented the real mood of the country….”

Furthermore, Dr. Goldmann said, he would have been unable to be effective in Israel being “allergic to parties and to the party system.” He therefore felt that he could serve the Jewish people and Israel better, he said, by his work outside of Israel. “Today, if I were twenty years younger….” Dr. Goldmann began to muse pensively. “….but I wouldn’t dream of it now, at my age….”

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