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J. D. B. News Letter

July 1, 1929
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Zionist Federation of South Africa, in a statement issued by its Executive Council reiterated its opposition to the movement to carry on Jewish colonization work in Soviet Russia, reechoing the controversy in American Jewish life in 1925. In yesterday’s issue of the "Zionist Record," English weekly published here, organ of the Federation, a lengthy statement dealing with the subject was made public. The move was the result of the stir created in South African Jewish communities, re-echoing in Palestine and in other countries, by the visit here of Reuben Brainin, veteran Hebrew writer and Zionist, who came to wage a campaign in the interest of Jewish colonization in Russia. The campaign is being carried on under the name, Reuben Brainin Campaign, and has met with indifference on the part of the Zionist Federation and opposition resulting in charges on the part of individual Zionists. The statement of the Federation reads:

"Owing to statements of various kinds, widely circulated, which incorrectly represent the attitude of the South African Zionist Federation, the executive council finds that the time has arrived to issue an authoritative statement to the Jews of South Africa. From the very birth, some few years ago, of the Russian colonization movement, the Federation declared itself in principle opposed to it. The question arose on several subsequent occasions and in each instance the Federation reaffirmed its attitude. The latest of these occasions was when, some five months ago, it became known that a campaign in aid of this movement was about to be launched in South Africa and that certain South African Jews had invited Reuben Brainin to lead that campaign. On that occasion the attitude of the Federation was defined by the executive as follows:

"(a) It again reaffirmed in principle it is opposed to the Russian colonization movement, but that

"(b) It contemplated no active opposition to the Reuben Brainin campaign.

"The years following the Balfour Declaration witnessed a remarkable intensification of the sentiment for the up-building of Palestine as the Jewish National Home. The Jewish masses, and more especially the Jewish youth throughout the world, including Russia, concentrated their thoughts and energies upon this aim, and highest hopes were aroused in the hearts of world Jewry, including Russian Jewry, that the Jewish National aspiration in Palestine would reach complete realization.

"The result was that the Russian Soviet authorities saw in the Zionist effort danger to their own anti-nationalistic ideals and in order to counteract the Jewish nationalistic tendency, especially among the youth, that movement for the settlement of Jews on the land in Russia was initiated. That this was the underlying motive there cannot be better evidence than the following statement made in July, 1926, by Kalinin, president of the Russian Soviets, in the course of an article published in the official organ ‘Izvestya’: ‘There is at present a tendency among Jews to settle in Palestine, and we do not desire that the Jewish masses should leave us in order to become the slaves of British and Jewish capital. For this reason, upon representations and the request of Jewish Communists, we are trying to settle them in our own country.’

"That Soviet Russia hates and wars upon the Jewish national spirit is indeed fully known, and if any further testimony is needed, it is afforded by the throttling in Russia of Hebrew and Hebrew culture, the suppression of Zionist work, the persecution and imprisonment, torture and banishment of Zionists. These are facts well known to every Jew. They are going on and are reported every day. They called forth weighty, vehement and unanimous protest at the last Zionist Congress in 1927. The position in this regard has not improved since then. Indeed, according to overwhelming evidence, it has become worse. And in spite of all this, Jewish protagonists of the Russian colonization movement in their appeals and propaganda hold it forth as a Jewish national movement, capable not merely of improving the material position of a number of Russian Jews, but of solving the Jewish problem in its national aspect.

"In all these circumstances the South African Zionist Federation felt in duty bound to express itself in principle opposed to a movement whose primary aim is to paralyze world Jewry’s effort for Palestine, while its Russian sponsors are endeavoring to achieve the spiritual annihilation of millions of our brethren in Russia. As soon as we learned of the forthcoming visit of Mr. Brainin and its object, we informed the Zionist headquarters overseas of our opposition in principle to the Russian colonization movement, and this was conveyed to Mr. Brainin. Before he sailed from America he knew, therefore, that we would not support his mission and that the utmost he could expect from us was no active opposition. If he did not convey this information to those here at whose invitation he came, he should have done so, and if he did, then they, as well as he, were fully cognizant of our attitude from the outset. (Continued on Page 4)

"The Zionist Congress, the supreme Zionist authority, never passed an opinion upon the Russian colonization movement, and every Zionist Federation was, therefore, free to form its own views and take its own line of action. In fact, the Russian colonization movement, as apart from Russia, where it is encouraged for sinister reasons, has only appealed to American Jewry and has elicited no sympathy in any other part of the world.

"The South African Zionist Federation having taken the view it did and opposed the movement in principle, why then, it may be asked, did we not actively oppose it? We were actuated by several motives. The first and overmastering consideration was to avoid any action which might cause dissension or inflict in the ranks of South African Jewry, hitherto thoroughly united, a principle which has guided our actions throughout our whole existence as an organized body; secondly, our decision not to actively oppose the campaign was further influenced by the pact of understanding arrived at in America between Dr. Weizmann and Mr. Marshall; thirdly, in case there might be even the slightest possibility of some Jews in Russia benefiting materially as a result of the campaign, we had not the desire to interfere either with the appeal or its response. For these main reasons we resolved to offer no active opposition to the Brainin campaign. To this attitude we consistently and faithfully adhered, both in spirit and letter. We refrained from publishing anything unfavorable to the campaign, even refrained from giving publicity to a definition of our attitude, in case such publication might have been construed as an act of opposition.

"While the entire Jewish press in Palestine, in London the ‘Jewish Chronicle’ and the ‘Jewish World,’ as well as the Jewish press in other countries, published attack after attack upon Mr. Brainin and his mission, some in the strongest possible terms, from the moment they knew he was coming to South Africa, and still continue to do so, the ‘Zionist Record,’ our official organ has scrupulously abstained from any such attack, even from quoting attacks published elsewhere. From the moment of Mr. Brainin’s arrival, in spite of the repeated representations from Zionist societies and kindred bodies, we instructed them to refrain from any act of opposition. No member of our executive, on any platform, opposed the Brainin campaign.

"Although Mr. Brainin, since his arrival, has given provocative interviews to the South African ‘Jewish Chronicle’ of Capetown and the ‘Afrikaner’ of Johannesburg, and while his supporters made numerous provocative public statements, we haven’t made any public rejoinder. In spite, however, of our strict adherence, certain statements have been made and widely circulated which are calculated to provoke our active hostility, causing dissension in the ranks of South African Jewry. We propose to deal here with two of them.

"First, it has been stated that we have not extended to Mr. Brainin due recognition. His Zionist record and his services to modern Hebrew literature are known to and recognized by no one more than by Zionists. Had he come to South Africa for any other purpose than Russian colonization, he would have received our ample recognition, but coming in behalf of a movement which we in principle opposed, knowing well that he made it totally impossible for us to act in any other manner, as to extend official recognition would have been bound to give the false impression that we favored his mission.

"Secondly, the twelfth South African Zionist conference was held at Bloomfontein May 23rd to 26th. It was widely known long beforehand that this would be essentially a business conference and was held at a smaller center for the specific purpose of facilitating its business. Mr. Brainin arrived at Bloomfontein unexpectedly, without previously informing us of his intention. He addressed a letter to the chairman of the conference, requesting to be allowed to address it in refutation of certain rumors. His unexpected arrival and his request to address the conference was an incident which we felt was bound to involve the conference in a declaration of opposition and possibly force us to abandon our consistent attitude. This feeling was conveyed to Mr. Brainin through Mr. Kentridge, member of the Executive, and the columns of the ‘Zionist Record’ were offered to him for any statement he wished to make. In view of his insistence, his request and the gist of the letter in which it was contained, the chairman conferred in an executive meeting of the committee and with but four dissentients, the conference resolved that it could not comply with his request. Mr. Brainin’s letter to the chairman was then circulated throughout Bloomfontein. It has also been published in the official bulletin of the Reuben Brainin Campaign, accompanied by a narrative which contained many misstatements of fact.

"In conclusion, we desire to draw attention to the fact that Mr. Brainin came to South Africa on the invitation of local people, some of whom are known to be hostile to the Zionist movement, who are exploiting his name and his visit, as a means of undermining the influence and usefulness of Zionism in South Africa to the serious detriment of the great cause as a whole," the Federation’s statement concludes.

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