Police Commandant Saunders, First Witness Before Commission, Reveals Important Details of Palestine

Major Alan Saunders, Acting Commandant of the Police at the time of the riots, testifying before the Commission of Inquiry all day yesterday, the first day of the hearing, revived the well-known history of the anti-Jewish attack. Adding details of the greatest importance, hitherto the property of the police and which now become the property of the civilized world, Major Saunders revealed the unpreparedness on the fateful Friday of August 23, and that the authorities, with only two mounted police at the Damascus Gate attempted to stem the murder bent mob. In his testimony he showed the valor of the Jews in repulsing the Moslem attack on Meah Shearim and disclosed that the rioting continued for hours before the British police were allowed to open fire. He made it known that the house of the Grand Mufti, Amin el. Husseini, was suspected as a brigand’s nest.

The authorities learned of the Hebron massacre too late to be of any help, he said. He revealed that while the Arabs poured into Jerusalem fully armed, both Jews and Englishmen were disarmed because the Arabs demanded it, although the police were unable to afford adequate protection.

The situation was saved before the arrival of troops, Major Saunders declared, by four factors. First, no Bedouin movement occurred, rioters being from the Dead Sea area and the vicinity of Hebron. Secondly, there was no invasion from Transjordan. Third, there was no general movement from Syria towards Palestine. Fourth, the disturbances did not occur simultaneously.

Major Saunders covered the period from August 14 to 26th, prodded by Government Counsel Preedy and only occasionally questioned by the Arab and Zionist counsel.

The witness stated that he received a report that Moselms, armed with sticks and clubs were pouring in through the Jaffa Gate, but that he had not heard of the invasion at the Wailing Wall, where a considerable number of British police were stationed. He stated that shortly after twelve o’clock on the Friday of the beginning of the riots, August 23, he saw Moslems breaking into Jewish shops. Realizing the gravity of the situation, he requested the government to enlist special constables to cope with simultaneous attacks on Meah Shearim, at the Jaffa Gate, the Jaffa Road, and the Damascus Gate, where six Jews were killed, which was followed by the evacuation of the Jews from all isolated quarters.

Saunders stated that the Arabs did the firing. Preedy, counsel for the Palestine Administration received the reply, upon questioning, that the Government prohibited Saunders from arming the Jews for protection “if the military could afford them a measure of protection,” because the Government had promised the Arabs not to arm the Jews “against the Arabs.”

“Is there a copy of the order to disarm the Jews?” asked Preedy. “No, it was given verbally, during a consultation,” Saunders replied.

Major Saunders admitted that the night before the riots occurred the Zionist Executive had asked permission that a number of specially selected Jews be armed, on the ground that a number of Arabs were waiting in ambush to attack the Jews enroute to the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus.

He received reports that there had been a mob attack upon the police at Nablus, and that the day before one Jew had been killed at Hebron, but it was not until nearly twelve o’clock of the day of the Hebron massacre that the police heard of its occurrence. Reinforcements were sent more than three hours too late. Troops enroute to Hebron met Moslems bound for Jerusalem armed with clubs and daggers.

The old City of Jerusalem was quiet all day Friday, he continued, but the New City resembled a state of siege with shooting going on around Romema, the Bukhara quarter, the Hebrew University and Talpioth. Firing continued (Continued on Page 4)

It was not before late Friday evening, that the authorities decided to ask for reinforcements, although Ben Zvi, who led the Jewish self defense, earlier in the day had begged that Jewish ex-soldiers and other Jewish youth be permitted to participate in the defense of Jewish quarters. Eighteen ex-soldiers were armed, and sixty were given clubs. The police, during this night dealt with many emergencies, such as the night march of Arabs from Birch, near Ramallah, preparatory to attacking Atarot.

Saturday, Saunders searched-he said “inspected”-the house owned by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the garden of which a large number of Arabs armed with sticks were reported concealed. Later he observed a large number of Arabs fall upon the Georgian quarter of Jerusalem, where there were but two mounted local policemen to control them. He heard that Moslems were marching on Meah Shearim where about three hundred Jews of all classes were massed for self defense. He heard an explosion of a bomb in the direction of the Jewish quarter and saw Jews fire at Arab groups crouching in an empty space preparatory to another attack. The Jews obeyed when ordered to return to their quarters after repulsing the attack with the help of unarmed police.

The first time the British police opened fire was at Yemin Moshe where Moslems attacked en masse. That same afternoon, thirty Arabs from Lifta encountered about one hundred and fifty Jews within the Russian compound. The Arabs asked the police to escort them back to their village.

The danger shifted outside Jerusalem after the arrival of armored cars.

The looters of Talpioth carried German and English rifles, Major Saunders disclosed. Twenty-five British Jews were disarmed in Jerusalem and 200 Jews in Tel Aviv, who enlisted as special constables, armed with sticks on Friday, were disbanded on Monday, following the outbreak in Jaffa on Sunday, Major Saunders testified.

A bequest of $30,000 to the Montefiore Hospital, of which he was an honorary vice-president, and $2,000 each to fourteen other Jewish philanthropic organizations were left by the late Leopold Stern, diamond merchant, who died last December. The residuary estate of $2,979,546 went to two sons.

Eight hundred guests attended a banquet given by the Los Angeles Tuberculosis Sanatorium Sunday night. Al Jolson delivered an address, speaking into a microphone connected up to the bedsides of patients in the sanatorium. Mr. Jolson contributed $10,000 to the Sanatorium’s fund.

More than 1,500 persons attended a testimonial dinner given by the Jewish Theatrical Guild in honor of George Jessel, Sunday night, at the Hotel Commodore. Speakers at the dinner included Mayor Walker, Rabbi Nathan Krass. Father Martin Fahey, of the Catholic Actors’ Guild, and Eddie Cantor, who was toastmaster. An entertainment, in which many prominent stage stars participated, followed the dinner.

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