Recalling Louis Marshall's Condemnation of 'Jewish Vote'
Seekers in Relation to the Newest Ethnic Political Issue
Approach of another election, and a very important one, since a new U. S.
House of Representatives is to be elected and a gubernatorial race is in process in
Michigan, calls for renewed consideration of what has been termed the ethnic problem.
In a community like Greater Detroit it should be labeled the ethnic and racial chal-
lenge. It has already been raised in Detroit and must, therefore, be viewed real-
In all frankness, this issue in past years was summarized in the three-word
puzzle called The Jewish Vote. Does it exist? Is it valid?
It was a subject for serious consideration 60 years •ago, in the era of Louis
Marshall's leadership in the American Jewish Committee. Formation of Jewish
political clubs, appeals to Jewish voters, the late Henry Morgenthau Sr.'s activities
to secure Jewish votes for the Democratic Party—these and other occurrences
aggravated him. In the two-volume collection of Louis Marshall's collected papers
and addresses, published by the Jewish Publication Society of America, in 1957,
are reproduced several of the eminent leader's expressions of resentment over the
appeals for Jewish votes. One of these is the letter he wrote to the editor of
Der Tag (The Day), Nov. 1, 1916, in which he stated:
"You have asked me to express my views concerning Mr. Charles Evans
Hughes as a candidate for President, from the Jewish standpoint.
"I have had frequent occasion, in past years, to protest against the Jews,
as such, participating in politics. To me it is a degradation to hear of a
Jewish Republican Club or a Hebrew Democratic Club, or to make a special
appeal to Jews, or Catholics, or Protestants, in connection with our political
life. It is not only undignified, but it is extremely dangerous. The greatness
of our country is due to the fact politics and religion are separated, and
woe to us if the time should ever come when a political discussion should
take place along religious or racial lines. There are always two who can
play at that game. If it is once known that Jews are to be reached by
appeals to their race or religion, then it is quite possible that at some time
the majority of our American citizens might be reached, as they have recently
been in Georgia, by anti-Jewish propaganda. For that reason I was one of
those who protested against the appeal made by Mr. (Henry) Morgenthau
and Herman Bernstein to the Jews of America, urging them to support
President (Thomas Woodrow) Wilson because of what he had done for the
Jews. What has he done for them that it was not his duty as the President
to do? What has he done that, under like conditions, any other president would
not be likely to do? He permitted vessels belonging to the government to be
used in transporting food and money to Palestine. That was an act of humanity
which was almost inevitable under' the extraordinary conditions which prevailed.
He has appointed a number of Jews to high office. If they had not been
qualified they would not have been appointed. If they were not qualified, then
their appointments would not be a source of gratification, but a misfortune,
to the Jews. Other presidents have appointed Jews to high office, and in
the future it may reasonably be expected that, with the increase of the Jewish
population, the proportion of Jews who will be selected for public office will
naturally increase. When the Jewish population of this country was one-tenth
of what it now is, Republican Presidents appointed Jews to high office, and
no thanks are due to them for having done so.
"The real question for a voter to determine should be, What can any
American citizen expect from an administration which will tend to the protec-
tion of the citizen, to the enforcement of right and justice, to the preservation
The mention of the Georgian anti-Semitism in Lous Marshall's letter was with
reference to the Leo Frank case and its aftermath.
Mr. Marshall had not foreseen the racial appeals of latter decades, the anti-
black sentiments of the past, the reactions in favor of Blacks in the present.
Meanwhile, the ethnic issue emerged anew in New York, and a NYTimes
editorial, July 5, under the heading "The Ethnic Fallacy," described the issue
so effectively that it has earned consideration in other
editorial analyzed the New York issue as follows:
The immigrant-borne virus of ethnic
politics, a chronic affliction of 'both major
consciousness among some older, more
parties—especially in this gateway state
thoroughly assimilated immigrant nation-
—has hit New York Democrats this year
alities and their descendents. Practical
with a vengeance that threatens to under- politicians cannot completely ignore the
mine the party's best hope in a long time state's rich cultural, geographic, intellec-
for sweeping major state offices.
tual and other diversities in attempting to
An "unseemly wrangle" over the eth-
fashion winning tickets and platforms.
nic-religious issue already has forced at
In our view, however, tradition-bound
least one leading challenger to drop out politicians in both parties have grossly
of what had promised to be a lively and
exaggerated the importance of the ethnic
enlightening Democratic primary contest.
and religious component of this diversity.
Heavy pressure is being exerted on other They have wildly overestimated the pull
primary aspirants to withdraw in the in- of ethnic preference and religious cohe-
terest of party unity.
sion. Conversely, they seriously under-
The pressure comes from party lead-
estimate the sophistication of New York's
ers who fear that an open primary could
voters and the importance they attach to
upset the delicately "balanced" ticket— the fundamental issues, such as the in-
two Jews, two Catholics and one Protest-
tegrity, the ability and the philosophy of
ant—fashioned at last month's designat-
ing convention. Their apprehension has
In seeking to narrow down the primary
been expressed with characteristic blunt-
ness by Queens County Democratic leader because of their irrational ethnic fears,
Democratic leaders are depriving the elec-
Matthew J. Troy Jr., who recently warned
torate and the party of a valuable oppor-
that the emergence of a top state slate
to select the strongest possible can-
that is "primarily Jewish" would be a
didates to represent the basic public in-
In spite of his typically simplistic terest in the November election.
It is absurd to imagine that in this
hyperbole, Mr. Troy's widely shared con-
day and age New Yorkers can be led en
cern cannot be dismissed out of hand.
masse to the polls like sheep by parochial-
Regrettably, ethnic considerations still
minded ethnic or religious leaders; that
influence some New York voters, especial-
ly at a time when the efforts of Blacks New York voters would reject an attrac-
tive candidate merely because of the ori-
and Puerto Ricans to secure political
gins of his grandparents or the place
rights appear to have restimulated group
where he worships.
The question of merit has become a painful one. Merit has been abandoned
in scholastic quota systems that have been reintroduced in many fields, academic,
This commentator debated the questions of quotas in medical schools with
2 Friday, July 12, 1974
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
'The Jewish Vote' and the New Ethnic Political
Controversy as Challenges to Merit System . . .
Expose of Misleading Arab 'Moderation' Claims
a very prominent physician in the late 1930s, at a Friday night service in the old
Willis and Brush synagogue of Shaarey Zedek. The doctor pleaded realism, this
commentator adhered to the merit system. The question arose: at that time some
800 applications were received for the available 110 places in the freshman class
of the St. Louis Medical School. The secretary of the American Medical Association
(Dr. Morris Fishbein) was told at the time that if applicants were to be accepted
on their scholastic merits, the 110 freshman places would be filled in the St. Louis
school by 60 to 70 per cent Jews. The Detroit doctor argued against it, this corn-
mentator, perhaps unrealistically, said: let merit rule.
Politically, it is easier to solve the problem. The ethnic issue must not dom; -
nate. Without merit we'll perpetuate mediocrity. That's how we'll assure me
Watergates, because mediocrity breeds inferiority, indifference, irresponsibility.
Let's have merit as a guideline in our academic and social life and especially
Exposing So Called 'Moderates' in Palestinian Ranks
So much misunderstanding exists regarding the "terrorists" who are often
described as "guerrillas" and about the Palestinians whose status is seldom described
realistically, that much is yet to be attained to assuring realistic approaches to the
Middle East situation.
Detroit correspondents who accompanied President Nixon on his Middle East
trip felt compassion for refugees, and some returned with arguments that echoed
propaganda that has been framed by the oil interests. They can't be accused of
prejudice. They were no doubt motivated by good will. But they did not stop to
consider that refugees have been kept in camps by their own kinsmen, as tools
in a battle to destroy Israel. They did not search sufficiently to learn that many
refugees became wealthy, and that most of the less fortunate could have been
wholesome citizens in the Arab countries where they were kept on rations because
their own coreligionists wanted them to subsist on meager rations, mostly financed
by the United States, in order to retain them as a symbol of their antagonism
Yet, some of the Arabs, who are encouraging terrorism, have spoken softly
while carrying weapons of destruction. It is the claim of the existence of "modera-
tion" that caused Richard Cohen, of the American Jewish Congress national staff,
to go deeply into the question, to ask "How 'moderate' can an Arab terrorist be?,"
and to give this explanation in his article that appeared on the NYTimes Op-Ed page:
The recent Cairo meeting of the Pales-
cupied •ands"—meaning Israel proper as
tine National Council that adopted the
well as the territories captured during
policies of Yassir Arafat and Nayef Ha-
the 1967 war—just in case there was any
watmeh—who have perhaps 100 murders
doubt about the intention of the "mod-
.to their credit—was described in the press
as "a victory for the movement's mod- erates" to kill and maim as many Israelis
as they can lay their hands on.
Rather, a distinction is drawn by virtue
And when Fatah's military arm, Al
Assifa, said it was responsible for the of the willingness of the Arafat-Hawatmeh
June 24 raid in the northern Israeli town coalition to participate in the Geneva
peace talks on condition, according to the
of Nahariya that resulted in seven deaths,
Fatah was again described in the press press, "that what they describe as the
national rights of the Palestinian people
are recognized as an issue at the confer-
It is a curious malapropism, rooted
apparently in the tendency among news-
The "moderates," then, would go to
men to classify people, movements, even
Geneva if they could establish a "national
countries as good guys and bad guys.
This disposition is so strong that even Palestine authority" on the west bank of
when the organization in question con- the Jordan River and in Gaza; the "hard-
liners" would not.
sists of all bad guys—as, for example, a
The difference boils down to a dispute
band of assassins—i• is necessary to
between those who insist on destroying
find the moderates among the murderers.
Israel all at once and those who are will-
Neither in the methods they use nor in
ing to destroy Israel gradually—first by
the goals they espouse can Arafat's Fatah
or Hawatmeh's Popular Democratic Front taking over Gaza and the West Bank and
for the Liberation of Palestine or 'any setting up a Palestinian state there, then
by using it as a base to fulfill the man-
other Arab terrorist group meet the dic-
date of the Palestinian National Covenant
tionary definition of moderation: "keep-
"to purge the Zionist presence from Pale-
ing within due bounds; not extreme, ex-
stine" (Article 15).
cessive or intense . . . opposed to extreme
The main principles of this covenant,
views and courses, in politics or religion."
The issue is not .a semantic one; if which is a summation of the official posi-
tion of all the Palestinian terrorist groups,
Americans are to understand the Arab
is not likely to give much comfort to those
world, in which our country is currently
making so huge a financial and political who regard any Palestinians as "moder-
ates." For example:
investment, it makes no more sense to
"Armed struggle is the anly way to
call Fatah moderate than to accept East
Germany as the "German Democratic Re- liberate Palestine and is therefore a stra-
public" when it is neither democratic nor tegy and not tactics" (Article 9).
"The Liberation of Palestine . . . is a
Fatah is the parent body of Black national duty to repulse the Zionist, 5?
September—the organization that assas- perialist invasion" (Article 15).
"The partitioning of Palestine in 1917
sinated the Jordanian Premier Wafsi Tal
and the establishment of Israel is funda-
in 19'71, murdered 11 Israeli athletes
at the Munich Olympics in 1972 and shot mentally null and void" (Article 19).
"The Palestinian Arab people—rejects
to death the United States ambassador
every solution that is a substitute for a
and charge d'affaires in Khartoum in
complete liberation of Palestine" (Article
1973, among other exploits. Mr. Hawat-
meh's Popular Democratic Front claimed
These are the "national rights" of the
responsibility for the massacre at Ma'alot.
Palestinian people that the "moderates"
What separates the "moderates" from
the "hard-liners," then is not any reluc- demand no less insistently than the "hard
liners." There is no distinction between
tance to murder innocent civilians. In-
the two. If differences among the Pale-
deed, both groups enthusiastically em-
stinians are to be found at all, they will
braced a declaration adopted at the Cairo
be between the terrorist leaders and the
meeting ordering the leadership of the
Palestinian people in whose name they
over-all Palestine Liberation Organization
issue communiques and kill children. But
to set up military operations "inside oc-
on these the press has not yet reported.
The publication of this article appears at a time when, just before the planned
Geneva conference, there is a great increase in suspicion that Arab official threats
to Israel once again spell doom rather than hope for a peaceful future. The burdens
upon the embattled state can only be mitigated with a peace agreement, and that's
so far off! In the struggle for an internaional understanding of the issues it is vital that
no one should be deluded by claims of "moderates" who haven't contributed an iota
toward amity between Jews and Arabs. The quoted Cohen statement must receive
widest attention, to eliminate spread of delusions about an unwholesome Middle East