Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Political Zionism Represented at Philadelphia 1918 Congress of Oppressed Nationalities

I stumbled across an historical incident that either I had forgotten ever knowing or I was never aware of it.

As noted, a Congress of Oppressed Nationalities, convened in Rome, Italy, during the second week of April 1918:

...[it closed on April 10] after representatives from the Czechoslovak, South Slav (or Yugoslav), Romanian and Polish National Committees proclaim their right to become "completely independent national States" after World War I ends.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's call for "self-determination" for all nations in his famous Fourteen Points speech, delivered in January 1918, began a decisive year in the history of the diverse peoples of central and eastern Europe...The Congress of Oppressed Nationalities was sponsored by the Allies–particularly France and Italy–and designed to encourage the minority populations of different ethnicities inside Germany and particularly Austria-Hungary to assert their right to self-determination and rebel against their oppressors, thus weakening the Central Powers and making an Allied victory more likely. The congress's closing vote, on April 10, denounced the Hapsburg government as an impediment to the rightful freedom and development of the nations and called for the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary once it had been defeated in the war.

But that was only a first development.  Another congress convened:-

Conference of oppressed or dependent nationalities at Washington, December 10th and 11th, under the auspices of American Delegation to the Congress-After-the-War of the Internation Committee of Women for Permanent Peace.

But before proceeding, let us back up a bit.  Back in January 1916, the first annual meeting of the Women's Peace Party was held at Washington and as testified to:-

The reports showed that during the year mass meetings had been held all over the country...there were one hundred and sixty-five group memberships, totaling about forty thousand women. In becoming a section of the Women's International Committee for Permanent Peace we were securely committed to an international body which at that time had well defined branches in fifteen countries.

The third annual meeting was held at the end of eleven months, in December of 1916, again in Washington. The most important feature of it was a conference on Oppressed and Dependent Nationalities...The invitations to this special conference called attention to the fact that as Americans we believed that good government is no substitute for self-government, and that a federal form offers the most satisfactory method of giving local self-government in a country great in territory or complex in population...

...Prominent representatives of the Poles, Czecho-Slovaks, Lithuanians and Letts, Ukrainians, Jugo-Slavs, Albanians, Armenians, Zionists and Irish Republicians were, for this reason, the speakers at the Conference. All the problems of conflicting claims and the creation of new subject minorities as a result of any territorial changes which might be made, were developed in the course of the Conference. Disagreement also developed as to the weight which should be given to historic claims in the righting of ancient wrongs in contrast to the demands of a present population.
This experimental conference had behind it a very sound theory of the contribution which American experience might have made toward a reconciliation of European differences in advance of the meeting of the Peace Conference. Professor Masaryk, later President of Czecho-Slovakia, attempted to accomplish such an end in the organization of the Central European nationalities, which actually came to a tentative agreement in Philadelphia more than a year later...

Did you notice that?

Zionists.  Yes, Zionism was on the international political map.
It was at this third annual meeting in Washington, the last held before the United States entered the war, that we discussed the inevitable shortage of food throughout the world which long-continued war entailed. For three years we, like many other sympathetic citizens of the United States, had been at times horribly oppressed with the consciousness that widespread famine had once more returned to the world. At moments there seemed to be no spot upon which to rest one's mind with a sense of well being. One recalled...Palestine, where the old horrors of the siege of Jerusalem, as described by Josephus, had been revived;

That was from Jane Addams, Peace and Bread in Time of War, Chapter 1 - "At the Beginning of the Great War." Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1960, (originally published by The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1922-1945), pp. 1-25.  In Bulgaria, there's a university course that deals with this "Oppressed Nationalities" theme.

At the Philadelphia session of the Congress in late 1918, a declaration was issued and there was a Hebrew translation issued at that time:

Declaration of Common Aims of the Mid-European Nations, [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], 1918. Hebrew and English.

The declaration was written on 26.10.1918, following three days of discussions between representatives of 13 nations, Zionists amongst them, who represented "fifty million people between the Adriatic Sea the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea". "We declare that we give our allies all we have for use in their war against our common enemy". Two columns: Hebrew and English, with signatures of twelve leaders, amongst them Thomas Massarik. Massarik declared several days earlier, in the same place, the independence of Czeckoslovakia. Itamar Ben Avi also participated in that meeting. The American Liberty Bell appears on the upper part with the writing '1776', and opposite it the Liberty Bell of Central Europe, '1918' and between them an illustration of the Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the United States declared its independence. 46X60 cm.

A wonderful episode about that conference can be found here, how Itamar Ben-Avi became

a representative of the reborn Jewish nation in the Holy Land to the Conference of Small Nations. The conference first met in Philadelphia, and then traveled to France, to the peace conference. There, representatives of displaced and dispossessed small nations of the world in the lands of the defeated enemies of France, Britain, Italy and the U.S. demanded their independence.

And there's a picture there where Itamar ben-Avi, the 'first Hebrew child', Eliezer ben-Yehudah's eldest son, can be seen at the far right, next to the Zionist flag:

Thomas Masaryk, the first Czech president is seated in the middle.  Among others there are Herbert Adolphus Miller, U. S. expert and director of Mid-European Democratic Union, profesor of sociology on Oberlin College (Ohio); Tomas Narucevicius, from Lithuania, promiment leader of Lithuanian exile from Russia; Christo Anastalos Dako, from Albania; Carlo Tomazolli representantive of Italian irredentists in Austria; Mykola Cehlynskyj representanting the Federation of Ukrainians in USA; Christos Vassilekakis, Greek irredentist from Turkey; Tadeusz Helinski, representantive of the Polish National Comittee in Paris; Basile Stoica (in a captain's uniform of the French army), representantive of Romanians from south Hungary;
Gregogy Zatkovic (or Zhatkovich), leader of ethnic organizations of Ruthenians (from north Hungary) in USA;


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