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American Jewish Committee Opposes Holding of Geneva “conference on Jewish Rights”

May 20, 1927
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A marked difference of opinion between the American Jewish Committee and Dr. Stephen S. Wise, as president of the American Jewish Congress, concerning a vital issue came to the surface yesterday with the publication of statements by Mr. Marshall and Dr. Wise.

The point at issue revolves around the decision of the American Jewish Congress to participate in a conference on Jewish rights which is to be held in Geneva on August 18.

At a recent meeting of the Executive Committee of the American Jewish Congress a delegation, headed by Judge Julian W. Mack, and consisting of twenty-five American Jewish delegates, was named to proceed to the conference which will consider the question of reorganizing the Committee of Jewish Delegations, the body which was formed during the Peace Conference for securing the protection of the rights of the Jewish populations in Eastern and Central Europe, and from which the American Jewish Committee withdrew following the conclusion of the Peace Conference and the enactment of the national minority clauses into the international treaties with the new and enlarged countries.

In a statement issued to the “Jewish Tribune”, Mr. Marshall criticized the American Jewish Congress for its decision to participate in the Geneva conference to revive the Committee of Jewish Delegations. Declaring that he “deplores the projected conference.” Mr. Marshall added: “I am not afraid to confess that prudence admonishes me to fear the consequences of the ill-considered words and acts of men however well in’entioned.”

A different view was taken in a statement issued by Dr. Wise.

Mr. Marshall declared in his statement:

“You are asking my opinion regarding the so-called Conference on Jewish rights which is to be convened in Geneva, under the auspices of the Committee of Jewish Delegations in Paris and the American Jewish Congress, for the purpose of protecting the rights guaranteed under the so-called Minority Treaties. I assume that this inquiry is made out of deference to the fact that at a critical period. I was the President of the Committee of Jewish Delegations and took an active part in bringing about the adoption of these Treaties, and that since that time their enforcement has constantly occupied, as it is now commanding, my serious attention.

“When I left Paris in the middle of July. 1919, after having devoted eighteen hours a day during four months to the solution of the problems with which the racial religious and linguistic minorities of Eastern Europe were confronted, it was with the understanding that the Committee of Jewish Delegations no longer had any function to perform, and when later, pursuant to a previous agreement, the American Jewish Congress was dissolved, it seemed to me that there was no occasion for the immediate creation of another Congress wedded to partisan theories which, to my mind, did not conform with the fundamental ideas underlying the Minority Treaties.

“It is not for me to sit in judgment upon these organizations. They are free to act as they may see fit and to disregard and even view with contempt the opinion of others differing from their own whose method of approach to vital problems of the utmost delicacy is neither lurid nor vociferous. There will always be two contrasting methods of meeting a situation–one, that of the soap-box orator, who sometimes is not even conscious of what he says or what the consequences of eloquence may be; the other, that of a laboratory worker, who seeks to ascertain the facts and to deal with them constructively. The former to evoke applause will tear a passion to tatters in the presence of all the world. The latter shrinks from heroics and prefers to avoid needless irritation by adopting tactful and diplomatic means. The former is indifferent to results and is oblivious of the moral of the ancient fable that what is fun for boys is death for the frogs. The latter is unwilling to forget that he is under responsibility to those with whom he seeks to befriend and that he may not jeopardize their safety by the blare of trumpets and the clashing of cymbals.

“There are many reasons, which I am unwilling to discuss in such an interview as this, leading me to deplore the projected Conference. Not having been consulted it is useless to tender advice. It would only meet with the fate which usually overtakes the volunteer. Knowing and understanding the realities, familier with the methods adopted in the past by the Committee of Jewish Delegations, and solicitous for the welfare of all of the minorities affected by these treaties, I feel that it is my duty to voice with all solemnity regret for the step about to be taken. This conviction is not inspired by fear or cowardice, certainly not by fear of our enemies. I am not afraid to confess, however, that prudence admonishes me to fear the consequences of the ill-considered words and acts of men however well-intentioned. At the best it will only result in working at cross purposes with those who, to say the least, have not been recreant to their duties and have had no axes to grind. But, as the French say, every one according to his taste,” Mr. Marshall concluded.

Dr. Wise, in his reply, stated.

“The president of the American Jewish Congress will not bring himself to use the methods of criticism, which, one regrets to note, Mr. Marshall has seen fit to adopt. The Conference on Jewish Rights will be held at Geneva, pursuant to program, as were the sessions in Paris in 1919, of the delegates of the American Jewish Congress including Mr. Marshall, together with the other members of the Committee of Jewish Delegations. Their joint deliberations did much to make possible the enactment of the Minority Rights Treaties. In achieving this end, Mr. Marshall cannot have forgotten that he was one of a number of delegates elected by the American Jewish Congress and representing that Congress. Neither can Mr. Marshall fail to remember that he was long opposed to the Congress which ultimately he came to attend and to represent, not that he was strongly antagonistic to Minority Rights, the cause of which he came ultimately to espouse. Not oratory but the gradual processes of education wrought the change in Mr. Marshall. It is, therefore, not too much to hope that the further processes of enlightenment may bring Mr. Marshall to recognize the importance of public deliberation and consultation as the method of ensuring such enforcement as shall give substance to the enactment of the Minority Rights Treaties.”

In the course of another statement outlining the purposes of the conference, Dr. Wise stated:

“For some time there has been felt the necessity of reorganizing the Committee as far as possible on its former basis and, by making its membership more immediately representative both of the Jewiries of Europe through new mandates and of the American Jewish Congress, to establish it again for those organizations and bodies that participate therein as the authorized central agency for dealing with Jewish affairs in European lands. To this end a preliminary conference was held in London. 1926, attended by a number of delegates from the United States and some representatives from European Jewries. It was then decided to call a larger Conference this year with the object of reconstituting a Committee of Jewish delegations and of placing its Bureau, whether it is to be continued in Paris or elsewhere, on a more effective working basis.

“The principle of the American Jewish Congress has always been to determine its plans and activities on behalf of Jewish groups in Europe only after the fullest possible consultation with the representatives of the European Jewries rather than to reach conclusions and to endeavor to act without the full knowledge and approval of those who have at least an equal interest in the results that it is sought to attain. In accordance with this principle, the proposed Conterence in Geneva, in addition to considering the technical reorganization of the Committee of Jewish Delegations, expects also to consider the actual and present status of European Jews in several lands and the policies to be pursued in order that their treaty rights may be safe-guarded. The Conference grows out of the expressed wish and attitude of important European Jewish leaders with whom the officers of the American Jewish Congress have been and are in constant communication.

“It is to be borne in mind that the Conference is called for specific and definite purposes, purposes which are bound up with the sate-guarding of rights in Eastern and Central European lands, rights secured in part through the initiative and leadership of the representatives of the American Jewish Congress in Paris during the Peace Conference, but rights accorded to each minority group and to each member thereof and as such, neither more nor less, to Jews individually and as groups, in the countries in question.

“The editorial assertion of the ‘Jewish Tribune.’ ‘Jewish world conferences are risky tinugs,’ ‘that a false interpretation may be placed upon such conferences,’ and that it ‘may further antagonize the enemies of the Jews’ and that it ‘may bring to mind the myth of world-dominion.’ is so obsolete and baseless that it is hardly deserving of serious thought. Jews from different countries have heretofore come together for all kinds of worthy and legitimate purposes, and to say that we cannot meet to relieve the distress of our brethren or to help them attain their rights as guaranteed by national and international law, is to say that the Zionist Congress and that all other important world-wide activities and assemblies must be abolished because of the ancient and ignoble fear, mah yomru hagoyim.

“Exen if certain risks should have to be incurred, we know that nothing can be as dangerous to the future of the Jews of Roumania as to allow them to continue in the present state, without vigorous protest and action on our part. In regard to this situation there is nothing so much to be feared as fear. And there is nothing from which we can expect more than from courageous insistence that these damnable injustices be ended,” Dr. Wise concluded.

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