Minority Treaties Are Failure, Says Morris Waldman; Urges “international Bill of Rights”
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Minority Treaties Are Failure, Says Morris Waldman; Urges “international Bill of Rights”

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The “minorities treaties” of 1919 and 1920 which, with their collateral safeguards, were set up by the Treaty of Versailles peacemakers as protection for racial and religious minorities, are characterized as a failure by Morris D. Waldman in an article in the current issue of the Contemporary Jewish Record. Mr. Waldman, vice-chairman of the executive committee of the American Jewish Committee, declares that, in order to insure equality of rights for people belonging to minority elements, drastic changes are necessary in the approach to the problem, including changes in the doctrine of “national self-determination” sponsored by Woodrow Wilson.

The doctrine of national self-determination, based on the theory that any ethnic group is entitled to have a state of its own, has unwittingly led to the Nazi concept of race-state, “the latest and most hideous outgrowth of the more recent history of nationality states,” says Mr. Waldman. The core of Nazism is nationality self-determination, he claims.

Mr. Waldman also points out that the doctrine of national self-determination actually resulted in vitiating the rights of minorities despite the “minorities treaties” and the guarantees of the League of Nations. He suggests that in order to assure equal rights to all inhabitants “not only the race state idea must be blotted out, but the very concept of ‘national majority’ and ‘national minorities’ must also be abandoned.” He proposes that “an international bill of rights must be adopted for the protection of all human beings as such rather than their protection as a majority or minority, buttressed by international safeguards more effective than the guarantees of the Treaty of Versailles and collateral treaties. An international bill of rights, though a substitute for ‘minorities treaties,'” he says, “would go far beyond the protection of those belonging to minority populations. It would cover the rights of all human beings as persons, including those belonging to majority populations. National self-determination should give way to human self-determination.”


Reviewing the record of “minorities rights” in Europe since the first World War, Mr. Waldman states that history has proved the “minorities treaties” to be impracticable. The newly established states, based on racial homogeneity, regarded their ethnic minorities as obstacles to their development into full-fledged nationality states. The governments of these states felt responsible primarily, if not solely, to the majority-people of their countries and regarded the minorities as quasi-alien and subordinate elements to be assimilated or liquidated or evacuated — the treaties notwithstanding. The safeguards established in the form of League of Nations guarantees proved quite ineffective. Every ethnic group in Europe had been awakened to national consciousness; and some which had never enjoyed territorial independence began to press for a nationality-state of their own. The treaties, the state constitutions, and the guarantees of the League of Nations did not solve these problems; on the contrary they aggravated them.

Mr. Waldman believes that there is no basis for the acceptance of “the idea that nationality and territory form a natural synthesis.” Pointing out that the “American state is neither a race-state in the East European sense, consisting of a majority nationality and many minority nationalities, nor a state of equal nationalities in the sense of the Soviet example,” he expresses the hope that the American political conception of the United States and other western democracies would be accepted by the world, namely, that “the individual and not his nationality is the political unit.”

He condemns the proposals recently made to “solve the minorities problem by interchange of populations so as to bring all persons of a particular nationality into one country, perpetuating the erroneous idea that race-state is a natural institution divinely ordained.”

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