Jerusalem (Nov. 22)
The cross examination of H. C. Luke. Chief Secretary of the Palestine Government and Acting High Commissioner of Palestine during the riots, now a witness before the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry, was yesterday afternoon taken out of the hands of William Henry Stoker, English barrister who had been summoned from London to conduct the Arab case, and placed in the hands of a local Arab attorney. Aouni Bey Abbul Sadi, secretary of the Arab Executive, who had been associated with Stoker as a junior Arab counsel.
With the Commissioners listening attentively to a lengthy cross examination, laborious because it was conducted in Arabic and had to be translated. Aouni Bey Abbul Sadi, cross examining Luke on the general policy of the Palestine Government, marshalled every point which might be construed as favoritism toward the Jews and against Arab policy, which he interpreted as eventually aiming to deprive the Arabs of both their economic and political status.
Sir Henry Batterton conducted the proceedings, which were, however, attended by Sir Walter Shaw. Chairman of the Commission. The stream of questions placed by the Arab counsel were uninterrupted, the Commission evidently desiring to give the Arabs a full opportunity not only to state their counter charges, but to produce evidence of what they consider the immediate and contributory causes to the Arab unrest.
It is believed that Sir Boyd Merriman, counsel for the Jewish Agency, will again cross-examine Luke on points growing out of the interrogation by Aouni Bey Abbul Sadi. The correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency understands that factual material, disposing of most of the Arab contentions against the so-called Zionist policy, in particular disproving the allegations that Jewish land purchases have injured Arab cultivators, has long been prepared.
The Arab counsel started his exam (Continued on Page 3)
ination of Luke with the statement that the Arab Executive had not once met with Luke, because its secretaries believed such a meeting to be of no avail, since the Government was committed to a Zionist policy.
Luke recollected that the Government had offered the Arabs both a Legislative Council and an Arab Agency, which the Arabs had refused. He agreed, upon being questioned, that the Jews had asked they be employed in the Haifa Harbor construction in the proportions of Jewish to Arab laborers, not in proportion to the general population. The Jews, he said, had also asked for higher wages in Government works, a request which was not granted. The Government was willing, however, to differentiate between skilled and unskilled work.
Luke agreed that the Government had spent during the economic crisis more than sixty-five thousand pounds in behalf of the Jewish unemployed. The Government grants twenty thousand pounds to the Jewish education system, he told the Commissioners, in response to Aouni Bey Abdul Sadi’s question. The Arab counsel, in putting his question, neglected, however, to mention that aside from this lump sum granted to the Zionists the entire educational budget of the Government benefits the Arab schools.
Aouni asked, and Luke promised to produce, the circular to all Government departments requesting the officers to assist the Jewish authorities rendering relief to the victims of the latest disturbances. Aouni charged that the Government spent considerable sums for the feeding of the Jewish refugees, but that no like sum had been expended on the “Arab victims.” The Arab counsel declared further that in closing the Ottoman Agricultural Bank, the Government had facilitated Jewish immigration and land purchase. To this assertion, Luke replied that the Government is studying the question of establishing a new bank. He agreed that under the Turks the Palesinians enjoyed a greater constitutional share in the Government than they do now.
Replying to Luke’s statement that the Government had offered the Arabs an assembly and an agency, Aouni Bey Abdul Sadi declared that the refusal had been dictated by the fact that the Arabs considered themselves the masters of the country and objected to being placed on the same level as the Jews.
Luke agreed that there were two Jews and but one Arab in the Government secretariat, to which statement. Aouni added that there were eighty-seven Moslems in the senior civil service as against sixty-eight Jews. Continuing in this vein, he pointed out that Norman Bentwich is a member of the present Executive Council, consisting of the High Commissioner, the Chief Secretary, the Attorney General and the Treasurer, whereas no Arab is represented. There is one Jew in the official Advisory Council, and not one Arab, he continued. The Advisory Council proposed in 1922 would have given British officials and Jewish members a majority, he asserted. Luke agreed with his statement that the Legislative Council elections of 1923 were abortive.
The Arab counsel disclosed that Assistant Secretary Mills of the Palestine tine Government had conducted private conversations with Arab leaders, concerning a Parliament, and extracted from Luke the admission that Lord Plumer, when High Commissioner, stopped the negotiations because he wanted first to be convinced that the Arabs were capable of administering municipal affairs before he gave them national responsibilities.
Aouni Bey Abdul Sadi indicated to the Commission that Mills should be called in order to produce the “private” letter he had written in connection with these negotiations.
Responding to the Arab counsel’s assertions. Luke declared that he was unaware that a thousand Arab families had lost their homes and their means of livelihood as a result of the immigration of Jews. He stated that he knew of certain cases where Arabs were dispossessed, but he had not heard that the Arabs of Nazareth were on the verge of starvation and that Jenin was similarly doomed because (Continued on Page 4)
the Jewish colonists of the Emek had refused to trade with these towns.
When Luke asserted that he was unaware that crime is on the increase in Palestine, Preedy, Government counsel, attributed the present figures, which are higher than under the Turks, criminals perhaps were not brought to justice.
The subject of the Wailing Wall was introduced by the Arab counsel, who sought to draw out Luke on the question of the sanctity of the pavement outside the Wall. Luke, however, refused to admit that the pavement at the Wailing Wall was sacred to any one.
At this point, R. Hopkin Morris, member of the Commission, interrupted to point out that the question of the sanctity of the Wall to the Jews and the Moslems is a dispute with which the Commission is not concerned. The Commission is interested only in how, and if, the dispute caused the riots, he stated. Merriman agreed with this interpretation, declaring that another Commission must be named to settle the question of the Wailing Wall.
Answering the Arab counsel’s charges that the Government had subsidized Jewish unemployed during the economic crisis of 1927. Merriman quoted from the Palestine Government’s report to the effect that “no Jew fell a direct charge upon the country owing to unemployment. The Jewish funds contributed more than the Government funds to the solution of the unemployment. The Government did not contribute to the unemployment dole which the Zionist Organization financed.”
Discussion was revived yesterday over the meeting at the house of Luke on the eve of the August of Luke on the eve of the August outbreaks. Merriman established that the Zionist representative urged the meeting, and drafted the proclamation for joint signature, which the Moslems refused to sign.
The possibilities of averting the Arab outbreak in Palestine were contemplated yesterday by the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry when the original proclamation drawn up by Braude, representing the Zionist Executive, on the eve of the outbreak, in an effort to calm both sides, but which the Arabs refused to sign, was introduced at the hearing yesterday afternoon by Sir Boyd Merriman.
The document which was identified by H. C. Luke, Chief Secretary of the Palestine Government, read: “We, the undersigned representatives of the Moslem and Jewish supreme institutions wish to inform both the Jews and the Moslems that at a joint meet-we came to the conclusion that the present excitement among the Moslems and the Jews is chiefly due to a misunderstanding. We are convinced that by good will, the misunderstanding can be cleared up. For this reason we demand that both the Jews and the Moslems should do their utmost to attain peaceful and quiet relations. We all deprecate any acts of violence and appeal to everyone to assist their supreme institutions in the sacred work of obtaining peace between both nations.”
Luke agreed that the Moslems refused to sign any joint document at the meeting which took place in his house twelve hours before the outbreaks occurred. The Commissioners present in the court room could not help contemplating what might have happened if the Moslems had agreed to sign the above proclamation twelve hours before one of the greatest tragedies in its recent history had gripped Palestine.
The Arab accusation that the Jews had damaged a small Mosque in Zichron Moshe, a quarter in Jerusalem, was countered by Merriman with the reminder that this had happened as a reprisal for the destruction of a synagogue in the Georgian quarter where the Arabs first ran amuck.
Referring to the abortive peace efforts on the eve of the riots, Aouni Bey Abdul Sadi asked Luke if he really expected the Arab representatives to sign the proclamation advising friendly relations with the Jews.
Somewhat exasperated, Luke answered: “I have been asked to take responsibility for what I have done, for what the High Commissioner has done, for what the Colonial Office has done. You must not expect me to be responsible for the Arab notables.”
The Chief Secretary of the Palestine government admitted having told the Arabs that the discipline among them was better than among the Jews. He said he was aware that the Jews stoned an Arab in Jerusalem, killed a Moslem family in Jaffa, assaulted Arab passersby in Jerusalem, in response to the questioning of Aouni.
Stoker, prior to yielding his place to Aouni Bey Abbul Sadi, insinuated that the Moslems came to Jerusalem armed on the 23rd of August because they feared the Jews would attack them. Stoker asserted that the Grand Mufti was not responsible for what had happened in Hebron because the Arabs of Hebron pay no attention to him, and in fact had entered an action against him in connection with the Wakf Administration. The Chief Arab counsel again stated that the mutilations at Hebron had not been proved.
At this point Merriman intervened to say: “I do not in the least admit that the charges are unfounded, but I have never mentioned this before this tribunal. It is not part of my case.”
When Stoker insisted that the official bulletins show that a mutual attack occurred between the Arabs on the Jews, R. Hopkin Morris said: “Official bulletins are like the British Gazette during the General Strike in England.” Luke repeated that the official bulletins were intended as sedatives. While they were not untruthful, certain cases were under-estimated.
Pressed by Stoker to tell all he knew about the Jewish self-defense, Luke said that as far as he knew it was a voluntary Jewish defense force, certainly not officially recognized. He declared his belief that some of these young men helped to keep order at the Wailing Wall on Tisha B’Ab. It is a quasi-secret organization, but not subversive to the government.
Merriman at this point stated: “We do not pretend that the Jewish self-defense does not exist.” When Stoker demanded to know defense against whom, Luke replied he prefers not to draw inferences.
Denying that the Arabs hate the Jews, he said they hate rather the policy which certain Jews advocate, but admitted that the fellaheen also dislike the Balfour Declaration.
Stoker provoked laughter when he handed around a coin directing the attention to the Hebrew initials of “Eretz Israel,” inscribed in brackets. Luke explained that Sir Herbert Samuel, first Palestine High Commissioner, had devised this as a compromise when the Jews objected to Eretz Israel being called Palestine, in Hebrew.
When Stoker referred to the cancellation of the debt of the municipality of Tel Aviv, Luke reminded him that the Government was showing no favoritism, having wiped off the debts of numerous other municipalities, including Jerusalem.
Stoker complained that the government is withholding Palestine nationality from Arab emigrants to South America. Drayton, Assistant Attorney General, who is acting as assistant counsel for the government, explained that pre-war emigrants returning to Palestine are considered Ottomans and must apply for citizenship the same as other immigrants.
Stoker served notice on Luke that he intends examining him on the Pinchas Rutenberg Electrification lease and the Dead Sea concessions. Luke replied that while the former is the subject of an ordinance and the latter of a White Paper, he is ready to answer the questions.