Jerusalem (Nov. 7)
Evidence of incompetence of British officials, regarded by many as a contributory cause of the outbreak in Palestine, piled up before the Inquiry Commission as Major Foley, Police Superintendent of the Northern District, and General Dobbie, in command of the British forces, testified yesterday.
The massacre at Safed, one of the bloodiest scenes of the recent outbreak, could have been prevented had British troops been dispatched earlier, instead of several hours after it occurred, the witnesses testified reluctantly under the pressure of cross examination by Sir Boyd Merriman, counsel for the Jewish Agency.
Asked why he failed to send re-inforcements to Safed when he received an urgent call for aid, General Dobbie, who was in command until relived by Air Vice-Marshal Dowding, intimated that he had “more important problems.” He told the Commission that he had originally been sent to Palestine by Headquarters in Egypt in order to ascertain the situation and report if more troops were needed. There was a company of soldiers in Jaffa, another one in Haifa, and they had steadying effects on the cities. However, there were many disturbances throughout the country, attacks on the colonies continuing, which he hoped could be checked with new troops. He did not send troops to Safed because he was faced by more important problems, although what these more important problems were he failed to state. On August 28 a detachment was sent toward Safed. At noon on August 29, a serious disturbance took place throughout Galilee. Questioned by Merriman, he admitted that Safed was the key to Galilee, declaring, however, that he learned of its importance only after the outbreak had occurred.
He declared he did not remember telling a Jewish delegation, in the presence of Civil Secretary H. C. Luke, that he had sufficient troops for all emergencies, declaring: “Not in my wildest dream did I imagine that I could protect all the colonies in the north.” Pressed to answer why the colonists’ request for arms was refused, he could give no answer. He admitted that he might possibly have acted (Continued on Page 3)
Responsibility for the spread of the outbreaks throughout Palestine was attributed by Captain Playfair, head of the forces called from Transjordania, to the failure of the forces in the country to check the outbreak in Jerusalem, under examination by Merriman. Captain Playfair said that he had offered to come to Jerusalem earlier, but that Luke, then Acting High Commissioner, did not call him until August 23. If the outbreak had been prevented or stopped betimes in Jerusalem, it would have had a deterrent effect on the entire country. It would have been easier to do certain things. Had he begun on the 22nd of August, and if the seven armored cars and tenders with their ninety-eight ground troops had been in Jerusalem earlier, the troubles might have been prevented, he declared.
He said he did not remember being consulted about the disarming of British Jews.
Asked by Merriman whether the Arab police were reliable in an emergency, Playfair answered: “No.” Questioned by Stoker whether the Jewish police were also unreliable, Playfair replied: “Yes.”
Captain Playfair was preceded by Major Foley, who completed his testimony and was cross examined by Merriman. Climaxing his own evidence, Foley admitted that although the situation in Safed was dangerous throughout the week, he had failed to send reinforcements despite the demands of Captain Farraday, and although there were two hundred troops in Haifa at the time.
“Had you repeatedly been asked for help by Farraday?” Merriman asked.
“Yes,” answered Foley, after a long, tense pause.
“Did you send any?” Merriman continued.
“Eight British police,” was Foley’s answer.
“How many did you send to Nablus?” the Jews’ counsel asked.
“Ten,” the British Police Superintendent answered.
“Why did you send police to Nablus, which was quiet?” Merriman queried.
“Nablus was always very difficult. The remaining forces were needed in Haifa. The police worked for four days without sleep,” Foley asserted.
“Was it physically impossible to send help?” Merriman demanded.
“No,” Foley replied.
“You knew the danger in Safed was appalling, that help was desperately needed?” Merriman pressed.
“Yes,” replied Foley, almost inaudibly.
At this point, Merriman left off his cross examination, turning over the witness to Preedy, counsel for the Palestine Administration.
Preedy attempted to justify the detention of the forty-four Jews held in the Acre citadel for a month, on the ground that they had defended themselves.
Harry Snell, Labor member of the Commission, who speaks very rarely, interrupted to say: “I am troubled to know why, if four pistols were found, more than thirty men were arrested.” Sir Walter Shaw added to this interpolation: “It is fortunate the women and children were not arrested. We understand that while the mill was never attacked, the huts outside, occupied by mill workers, were burned.”
“The huts were burned because they were Jewish huts,” Foley explained. “The people from these huts took shelter in the mill,” Shaw declared. “I didn’t know this at the time,” Foley stated.
Under suestioning by Preedy, Foley denied that he entertained any anti-Jewish prejudice. To preedy’s query whether or not Mr. Miller, port contractor of Haifa, was led handcuffffed through the streets, following his arrest, because he was a Jew, Foley answered: “No.”
“Did you state the Jews started the riots or did you state the Arab demonstration and the Jewish wounding of an Arab caused the disturbance?” Preedy asked. Foley said the latter statement was true, although he was alleged to have charged the Jews with responsibility in an interview with Jewish notables.
“Was the police problem increased by the conduct of the Jews?” Preedy asked.
“Yes,” answered Foley.
Have you been an enemy of the Jews?” Preedy wanted to know.
“No,” declared Foley.
“Have you done everything in your power to protect them and is this the way they repay you?” the government counsel queried.
Summarizing the testimony of Foley, as to the reasons more adequate protection was not afforded, Sir Walter Shaw said the British constables were worn out or were assigned elsewhere, and that Foley was annoyed with the conduct of both sides, especially with the Jews, whose conduct he considered improper. Foley thought that he had sufficient forces, while the Jews used too much force in defending themselves. Turning to Foley, Sir Walter said: “The situation in Haifa was very bad. Would you have maintained security if the troops had not arrived?”
“If the maintenance of security had been left to me, it would have been maintained,” Foley replied.
“How many Jews were killed?” Shaw asked. “Six Jews,” Foley answered. “How many Arabs were killed?” interposed Stoker. “Twelve were killed and twenty wounded, including those killed by the troops,” Foley testified.
“Did the Jews attack the Arabs, or the Arabs the Jews?” Shaw demanded. Foley finally admitted that the Arab demonstration on August 24 started (Continued on Page 8)