Jerusalem (Oct. 30)
A letter purporting to be signed by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, calling upon the Mukhtars and the elders of the Nablus. Arab stronghold, to join the attack upon the Jews in Jerusalem on August 23rd was read yesterday into the record by Sir Boyd Merriman. Counsel for the Jewish Agency, at the third day’s session of the investigation being carried on by the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry.
The letter, which was included in the Nablus police report submitted by Acting Police Commandant Saunders and carried the alleged signature of Amin El Husseini read: “Fighting will take place in Jerusalem August 23rd between the Jews and the Moslems. All who are of the Moslem religion should come to Jerusalem to help their brethren.” Police believe the letter to be a forgery. Sir Boyd Merriman indicated, however, that even if the letter is a forgery, it showed that people knew there would be trouble.
Asked whether he had seen any more such letters. Major Saunders replied in the negative, adding that the intelligence section had not submitted any reports.
An angry discussion between Merriman and Preedy, Counsel for the Administration, took place when Merriman asked Saunders whether he was aware that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on August 22nd, the day before the riots, applied for a visa to Syria, which the French consul refused. “This is not Saunders’s business,” Preedy angrily intervened. At this point Sir Walter Shaw, the Commission’s head, reminded Preedy that he is here to assist the Commission, whereupon Preedy undertook to obtain the information from the French Consulate.
That British Jews and Jewish exsoldiers were disarmed, although the police needed every man to quell the disorders was was admitted by Major Saunders under cross-examination by Sir Boyd Merriman, Major Saunders also admitted that Beth Alpha succeeded in repelling the attacking horde by its own efforts, that the whole Moslem attack, if unpremeditated was (Continued on Page 3)
Major Saunders has been on the witness stand two days. He answered most of the questions of the Jewish counsel in the affirmative, establishing that the Hebron massacre was over a full two hours before reinforcements arrived, that the government, knowing the massacre had occurred in the morning did not ask for troops and airships before late in the afternoon. Sir Boyd demanded: “On what ground do you justify the disarming of the British Jewish constables?” Major Saunders answered: “Were I asked whether I could spare forty men and rifles I would have said no.” Sir Boyd expressed himself dissatisfied with this answer, but Government Counsel Preedy insisted that the question should be addressed to H. C. Luke, whereupon Sir Boyd returned to the question of the protection the police were able to give which was admittedly inadequate.
The Acting Police Commandant admitted that there was a parade of British constables on August 27, when the Jews were ordered to step out of the ranks and hand in their rifles. “Had you as Commandant any complaints against the efficiency of these constables?” Saunders first answered “Yes” and later explained he received reports that the Jewish constables were indiscriminately firing after dark. Merriman showed that the so-called constables were civilians who had been tried and fined for possessing firearms. Therefore, they could not have been constables. “Do you put that forward as ground for disbanding the Jews?” he asked.
Sir Walter Shaw, who is presiding intervened, addressing Major Saunders: “From the way you spoke I thought there were many complaints.”
Passing to the massacre at Hebron which occurred on August 24, Merriman made Saunders admit that there was no clash of rival factions, but that there had been a massacre of Jews who had been partly concentrated in the homes of the most respected Jews, at the urgent advice of Assistant Police Superintendent Cafferatta.
Turning to the massacre at Safed which occurred six days after the Hebron massacre, Merriman cited a letter from the Police Commandant at Safed which declared: “The long expected trouble broke out. Moslems entered the Jewish quarter and started butchering men, women and children, but their main object was looting and burning. The available troops inflicted many casualties on the Arabs. The Jews had been evacuated for safety to the police barracks.”
Completing the reading of the report Merriman turned dramatically to Saunders asking: “Why was this allowed to occur when troops and warships were in the country?” The question was not answered. Again Merriman queried Saunders about the two Jews who were killed and six wounded in the square of the police barracks, by bullets allegedly fired from a rifle in the square itself, it having been intimated that it was an Arab policemen or some one possessing an army rifle, who fired. “Who fired the shots?” Merriman asked. This question is now being investigated by the Commission of Inquiry especially appointed by the request of Sir John Chancellor was Saunders’s reply.
Taking up the question of the Wailing Wall, Merriman maintained, with Saunders not always assenting, that the screen erected on the Day of Atonement last year was not necessarily provocative, since it was no innovation. A screen had frequently been erected under the Turkish regime, he said. On the other hand, the door and the steps built by the Moslems at the Wailing Wall were provocative innovations to the Jews. The two Jewish demonstrations on Tisha B’ab, this year were on the basis of official reports, orderly and peaceful, although the Zionist flag was hoisted and the Hatikvah sung, and although some youths shouted. “The Wailing Wall is ours. Shame on the (Continued on Page 4)
Coming to the Jewish colonies, Merriman pointed to the map, showed that there was no trouble with the Arabs anywhere in Judea or Galilee. The Jewish and Arab cultivators lived side by side in amity, trading together. During the troubles some headmen protected the Jewish colonies and sheltered the colonists, none complaining that Arab lands were expropriated, Merriman declared.
He mentioned that twenty Jews were wounded at Beisan where all Jewish houses were sacked.
Major Saunders confirmed that at Nablus and Hebron the fanatical outbreak was entirely Moslem fanned by the Moslem religious appeal to assist the threatened Moslem religion. He declared in his opinion every Moslem disturbance was the result of such agitation. Pressing the point, Merriman stated that the appeal to attack was conveyed by letter, by messengers and by sermons in the mosques where the Arab worshippers were told bombs had been thrown on the Mosque of Omar and Moslems killed.
Interrupting at this point. Sir Walter caused surprise by asking: “Where there reports that the Jews were killing Arabs?” In reply Saunders said that the general report was that the Jews had thrown a bomb into the Mosque of Omar, killing Arabs. Prior to this many wild and exaggerated rumors had been spread, he said.
“Were inciting speeches made at the Mosque?” Merriman queried. “Yes, we had reports from some districts to this effect,” Saunders replied.
Tackling the political features, Merriman asked Saunders whether he was aware of the considerable division in the Arab press before the riots regarding the Mufti, one section of the press definitely supporting, the other definitely opposing the Mufti, who is also the Chairman of the Moslem Supreme Council and whether Saunders knew that immediately after the outbreak the Arab press practically dropped the Wailing Wall question, demanding the repeal of the Balfour Declaration and the establishment of a parliamentary Government. Saunders agreed with this analysis.
“Do you doubt that this outbreak was premeditated?” Merriman pressed. An swering evasively, Saunders said: “Most of us in position of authority knew that sooner or later a clash was bound to occur if the atmosphere remained unchanged.”
Dissatisfied with the reply, Merriman, followed up with: “By premeditaed outbreak is meant an attack which is not spasmodic but organized.” Saunders replied: “I don’t know whether the attack was organized but a spark once lighted in Jerusalem was certain to travel.”
“Didn’t you know of meetings in the Mosque where inflammatory speeches were delivered?” Merriman asked.
“Yes,” was the answer. “It was all working up to a conflagration.”
“Did you notice a marked movement in the villages of agitators addressing meetings?” Merriman continued. Saunders reply was that there were not only marked movements, but marked personages after August 15th.
Merriman submitted that sheiks and Mukhtars of Galilee were summoned to assemble in Nazareth.
Preceding Sir Boyd Merriman. William Henry Stoker. Arab counsel, cross-examined Saunders. To support the contention that the Jews demanded greater privileges at the Wailing Wall and contested the Moslem rights to build on their own property. Stoker introduced an article by Dr. Joseph Klausner in the “Palestine Weekly,” urging the protection of Jewish rights at the Wall and suggesting that if the Arabs threaten the Jews they will throw stones, the Jews could follow their example.
Although Stoker confined his questioning only to the parts of Saunders’ evidence reflecting on Jewish conduct, such as the throwing of missiles at Arab villagers from Lifta, Saunders volunteered information about the noticeable absence of Arab women from the Old City on August 23, which was generally considered as significant that the men intended to make trouble.