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National Minorities Rights Are Same As Rights Guaranteed by United States Constitution, Louis Marsha

August 25, 1926
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A defense of his stand on the question of the National Minorities Treaties as a factor in the protection of the life and liberty of racial, linguistic and religious minorities and an explanation that these so-called treaties are in essence nothing more than the rights and liberties guaranteed to the citizens of the United States by the Constitution of the United States were made by Louis Marshall, president of the American Jewish Committee, in a letter to the “American Israelite” of Cincinnati.

The Jewish press in the United States and the Anglo-Jewish weeklies have widely discussed the action of the Turkish Jewish notables in renouncing their claim to the national minority rights guaranteed to Turkish Jewry by the Treaty of Lausanne and the statement of Mr. Marshall condemning this action. During this discussion a misunderstanding of the meaning of the national minority clauses in the international peace treaties and their beneficial influence was often manifest. The “American Israelite” in its issue of August 19th criticized the statement of Mr. Marshall against the Turkish Jewish notables, taking the view that “the Jews of Turkey are attempting to adapt themselves to the New Turkey and are proceeding in a manner becoming to a highly intelligent, loyal and patriotic group who are Turkish citizens first and Jews in religious belief afterward, precisely as we Jews of the United States have always been and shall always be.” The paper also contended that Mr. Marshall “lays himself open to the charge first of all, that his statement was made without taking into consideration that conditions in Turkey as well as in a number of other countries affected by the Lausanne Treaty, but particularly in Turkey, have changed completely within the last few months.”


In his statement to the “American Israelite,” Mr. Marshall again sharply criticized the action of the Turkish Jewish notables. “It has been intimated that they have feared the consequences of adherence to the treaties. So far as I am concerned, I would rather die ten thousand deaths than to show myself so lacking in manly courage as to sell my birthright of liberty and equality for temporary safety,” he declared. Mr. Marshall’s statement read:

“The editorial comment in your last issue upon my statement condemnatory of the action of the so-called ‘Turko-Jewish Notables,’ who have taken it upon themselves to renounce the rights of Turkish Jewry guaranteed by the Treaty of Lausanne, calls for an answer. You intimate that my criticism of their action is ‘born of excess devotion to (my) own hobbies’ and that, what you term ‘the real trouble with the Jews in European and Near East countries,’ to wit, ‘the false idea of segregation, groups and national minorities,’ is overlooked.


“To one familiar with the so-called Minority Treaties, it is evident that if you have read them at all you have done so to no purpose, because you treat them as based on the idea that by these treaties ‘the Jews insist that they are different and separate from their fellow-countrymen.’ These treaties, I would have you know, do not represent a hobby. They are the outcome of the most careful thought and study of conditions which have brought misfortune to millions of human beings for centuries past, and especially to the Jews. {SPAN}###{/SPAN} 1878, when the Treaty of Berlin sought to confer human rights upon the Jews of Roumania and other newly created governments, that act was hailel with joy by all humanitarians. Unfortunately, that treaty contained no guarantees or sanctions, nor was it formulated in such terms as to prevent an interpretation which in effect nullified it. When the Peace Conference con{SPAN}###ened{/SPAN} in 1919 at Paris, it was recognized by President Wilson and other forward-looking statesmen that it would be essential in connection with the Treaty of Peace to protect racial, linguistic and religious minorities in the newly constituted countries and in those with which treaties of peace were to be consummated. The prevailing idea was that there should be assured equal rights to all men in all lands. Those rights were to be the same as are conferred by the Constitution of the United States upon all persons dwelling within our land. The treaties that were formulated, and which, for the sake of brevity, are termed Minority Treaties, were designed solely to accomplish that result, and to prevent evasion, the observance of these treaties was made a matter of international concern and was to be guaranteed by the League of Nations. They were to become the fundamental law of each of the countries to which they related. Except in respect to the right to observe their Sabbath none of the treaties related exclusively to Jews. They applied equally to all of the inhabitants of these several countries. In Poland, for instance, they affected not only Jews, but Germans, Austrians, Ukrainians and Russians. In Roumania they affected Germans, Hungarians, Ruosians and Jews. In Czechoslovakia they affected Germans, Hungarians and Roumanians. In none of these treaties was there insistence that the so-called minorities were ‘different and separate from their fellow-countrymen’ On the contrary, the insistence was that all of the inhabitants of these several countries were to be equal in the eyes of the law and were to be protected against discrimination and loss or deprivation of their civil, political and religious rights.


“You seem entirely to have overlooked the fact that in the absence of these treaties natives of these various countries or of territory annexed to these countries, would have been deprived altogether of the rights of citizenship. They would have been aliens, as in Roumania, as it existed under the Treaty of 1878, the Jews continued to be, even though their ancestors had lived in that teritory for centuries. The first and underlying proposition contained in these treaties was that those born within these territories or in territory annexed to these several countries, were ipso facto to become citizens of these countries, with the option on their part, if they desired to leave the countries, to continue citizenship in the countries to which they originally belonged. By the force of these treaties the Jews, who until their promulgation, were not regarded as citizens of Poland or Roumania or Czechoslovakia, or Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia or Austria, became citizens of those countries and had conferred upon them the equal right of citizenship. Today they are recognized as citizens of those several countries. Whereas there were not more than a few hundred Jews who became citizens of Roumania as a result of the Treaty of Berlin, under the Minority Treaties practically every Jew in Roumania, including those who lived in Bessarabia and Transylvania, have become Roumanian citizens. And it is likewise true that not only the Jews who lived in Congress Poland but also those of Galicia and Eastern Prussia, and those who had been born in Russian territory outside of Poland but who were living in Poland, became Polish citizens. The same is true of the Jews who lived in Turkey. By virtue of the Treaty of Lausanne they became Turkish citizens.


“Far from there being segregation of the Jews of these several countries into groups and national minorities, the purpose of the treaties was and the effect of them will be, so long as they remain in force, to prevent such segregagation. The Jews of these lands have become and are part and parcel of the citizenry of these countries, each individual having the guarantee of constitutional rights, such as are conferred upon every citizen and, therefore every minority in the United States. Have you ever thought what is meant by the rights conferred by our Constitution, not only upon its citizens, but upon the inhabitants of the United States? It is nothing more than the protection of minorities, every dweller in the land taken separately being a minority. Majorities ordinarily require no protection. It is those whom majorities seek to deprive of their rights who need protection.

“Eliminate the Minority Treaties, put it within the power of notables, whoever they may be, to abdicate the rights conferred by these treaties upon the so-called minorities, and I shudder to think what would happen to those minorities. I do not refer merely to Jews, but to all people living in these various lands who are not regarded by the ruling powers as belonging to the majority. What, I ask, do you think would happen to the Jews of these countries without these treaties? They would be deprived of their citizenship. They would be bereft of those guarantees which have been conferred and which are recognized as in force by Great Britain and France and Italy and Japan and by the leading nations of the world. It is said that they are not in all respects observed by various of the countries which have entered into these treaties. To a very large extent they are observed, The very fact that they exist and are recognized as existing is in itself an assurance of safety so far as the big things in life are concerned. There may be pin-pricks for the time being, annoyances, irritations, but they will disappear in time when economic conditions in these various countries have settled down, when peace prevails, and when it becomes recognized that in consequence of these treaties these various nations are now on a higher place of civilization than they ever have been before.


“The World Court, I would have you know, has recognized the importance of these treaties and has upheld them, not only in accordance with their letter, but with their spirit. Ask any member of these so-called minorities living in any of the lands to which these treaties apply, and who is not actuated by cowardice, stupidity or corruption, what the effect of these treaties have been, and you will have but one answer, and that is a repetition, in substance of what was said to me by the diplomat whom I quoted in my recent statement, that nothing stands between them and destruction except the guarantees contained in these treaties which you look upon so lightly.

“Apparently you have so little regard for my powers of observation and so little respect for my judgment, as to declare that my criticisms were made without taking into consideration that conditions in Turkey ‘have changed completely within the last few months.’ Your belief in miracles is touching. The inference of your argument is that, while the Lausanne Treaty was previously desirable, recent occurrences have rendered it unnecessary. By the same line of argument you might say that because the Bill of Rights was essential to human liberty when adopted it may now be dispensed with because human nature has recently reached a state of perfection.

“You speak also from personal observation (whose is not specified), that the Jews of Turkey were the very first to recognize that under the dictatorship of Kemal Pasha ‘Church peonage had come to an end and the Synagogues were emptied simultaneously with the Mosques.’ My mind is so obfuscated that you will pardon me when I confess that I at least do not know what you are talking about.

“Nor do I quite comprehend when you say that the Jews of Turkey ‘are Turkish citizens first and Jews in religious belief afterwards, precisely as we Jews of the United States have always been and always shall be.’ It had always been my fond conviction that we were at the same time American citizens and religiously Jews, that there could be no possible incompatibility between these two facts, that neither had precedence over the other, that the glory of our country was and is that every citizen worshipped God according to his own conscience, and that there was no occasion for him to make any concessions to government by subordinating his religious beliefs. It is just because a contrary philosophy has prevailed in Turkey and other countries that these Minority Treaties are necessary. It is just because ‘Ghetto limitations’ have existed in those countries that these treaties were required to break down these limitations. Let us not live in a fool’s paradise or forget for a single instant that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

“The more I reflect upon the action of these Turkish Jewish Notables, the more shameful and inexcusable is their unauthorized attempt to discharge the Turkish Government from the observance of the guaranties contained in the Treaty of Lausanne. It has been intimated that they have feared the consequences of adherence to the treaties. So far as I am concerned, I would rather die ten thousand deaths than to show myself so lacking in manly courage as to sell my birthright of liberty and equality for temporary safety.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency further learns from its correspondent in Constantinople that the action of the Jewish National Assembly of Turkey was taken in accordance with the wishes of the Turkish government. In taking this step the National Assembly decided to accept the proposed Statute of Communal Organizations as amended by the Turkish government. This new statute has for its object the complete devolution of all communal affairs. Each Achgaha (congregation) will be administratively autonomous. The chief rabbi will confine his attention exclusively to religious matters. The Beth Din will be suppressed and ritual questions will have to be decided locally by the rabbis of the districts. The Angora government has promised the Turkish Jewish notables that after the National Assembly will definitely have renounced the minority rights it will return all property of Jews which was recently confiscated, will permit the return to Turkey of Jews who left occupied Turkish territory with non-Turkish passports and will gradually remove the discrimination against Jews in publice service.


The booth of the National Council of Jewish Women in the Educational Building of the Sesqui-Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, is completed. The arrangements for this exhibit were executed by a special Council Committee of Philadelphia women.

A reproduction of the Council seal, six feet in diameter, announces the motto of the National Council of Jewish Women: “Faith and Humanity.” The twelve snow white pillars are surmounted by white electric globes, bearing the names of twelve departments and committees into which the Council’s program is divided. Illuminated pictures, portraying every feature of Council activity, are shown.

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