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Jewish Groups Split on Laws Outlawing Anti-semitism; Urge Civil Rights Protection

May 2, 1947
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Spokesmen for two major Jewish civic protection organizations split sharply today on the question of outlawing group libel and banning anti-Semitic literature from the mails, during testimony before the President’s Committee on Civil Rights.

Will Maslow, head of the Social Action Commission of the American Jewish Congress, urged the committee to recommend the creation of the “a group defamation statute” and to sponsor legislation to outlaw the sending of anti-Jewish publications through the mails. Declaring that there were at least 55 such publications circulating despite the fact that organized anti-Semitism is probably “at its lowest abb since the early ’30s,” Dr. Maslow said the Congress was concerned with such manifestations because they imperilled not only a particular minority group, “but democracy itself.”

Dr. John Slawson, executive vice-president of the American Jewish Committee, apposed enactment of group libel laws and laws banning the mails or denying second class mailing privileges to publications containing objectionable material. “To attempt to curb by sanctions the free expression of ideas, even hostile ideas, is payckelogically as well as legally unsound,” Dr. Slawson said.

Drs. Slawson and Maslow agreed on the need for enlarged and improved machinery in the federal government to defend civil rights. They advocated expansion of the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department so that more funds were available for investigators. Both endorsed the Ives FEPC Bill and called for abolishment of the poll tax, and for prosecution of violations.

Replying to a question by Committee member Boris Shishkin, chief economist for the A.F.L., Dr. Slawson said that he favored a permanent Commission on Civil Rights which would set policy to coordinate all the work of government departments in seeking to abolish violations of civil rights, and also plan an education program to get the need for protection of civil rights over to the public. He also urged a federal anti-lynching bill, federal and state legislation against discrimination by educational institutions and state laws on civil rights, fair employment, fair educational practices and outlawing restrictive real estate convenants.

Dr. Maslowtestified that he felt that the abolishment of the poll tax and guaranteed suffrage for the Negro was perhaps the most important item in the fight for civil rights, since once the Negro in the South is enfranchised his political power can be utilized “to protect his race against any deprivation of his civil rights.”

Alexander F. Miller, Southern representative of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, reported that there are a large number of professional anti-Semitic groups working throughout the country, in “close cooperation.” He also cited the need for corrective work in the South, stating that he feared that the coming political campaigns will raise race hatred in that area to a new pitch.

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