Jerusalem (Nov. 25)
The first Arab witness was called before the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry Saturday, following the completion of the testimony and cross examination of H. C. Luke, Chief Secretary of the Palestine Government, who was the last Government witness.
Dr. Michael A. Shammus, a graduate of the American Medical College at Beirut, the first Arab witness called, a resident in the Abyssinian quarter of Jerusalem, told of the alleged Jewish attack upon an Arab, on August 23, which he claimed took place before the Arabs had begun their attacks on the Jews, under the cross examination of Sir Boyd Merriman, counsel for the Jewish Agency.
The story Dr. Shammus told on the stand was that he was having lunch at home on the afternoon of August 23, when he heard noises in the street. Looking out he said he saw Jews running towards Mea Shearim, with sticks and iron bars. He returned to his lunch and was finished at twelve-thirty. He looked at his watch because his father was late. He then went to the veranda and from there saw a group of chaluzim, both Ashkenazi and Yemenites, dragging a man and beating him. When he shouted at them to desist, they left, but returned to beat the man again. The witness said he stayed on the veranda for three-quarters of an hour, while the man lay on the road. He thought the man was dead, but watching for some movement, saw his leg move. He then went out to him, discovered that the man was a Moslem and that he was suffering from a basal skull fracture, and that the case was hopeless. He stopped a Jewish truck driver, who drove him with the Moslem to the Hadassah hospital. Returning home immediately afterward, he noted that the time was one-forty.
When Merriman asked him, “Are you sure that it wasn’t three o’clock, instead of one-forty?” the witness answered: “I am sure.” Why did you note your watch then?” Merriman continued. “I just happened to,” Dr. Shammas replied. “Why did you stay on the veranda so long?” Snell, a member of the Commission, wanted to know. “I thought the man was dead,” Shammas answered.
The cross examination of Luke by Stoker, whoch preceded the examination of the Arab witness, again departed from the immediate facts relating to the August disorders, to take up general questions, such as policy, the land laws, press laws, and even the value of the Dead Sea minerals.
Assistant Attorney General Drayton asked Luke several questions concerning the displacement of Arabs resulting from the Jewish purchase of land.
Sir Henry Batterton, a member of the Commission asked Luke to supply the Commission with a textbook on the Ottoman Land Law.
In his cross examination, Stoker attempted to bring out evidence that the Government did not consult the Arabs before enacting legislation. Luke maintained that the publication of bills in the Official Gazette was sufficient notice, giving the people ample opportunity to recommend changes in ordinances before they became law.
Asked whether he consulted the Arab Executive before the ordinances were printed in the Gazette, Luke replied in the negative, declaring that they had no constitutional standing and are comparatible to the Primrose League of England.
The Rutenberg Electrification Company and the Novomejsky Dead Sea concession were next taken up by Stoker. He read from the Mandate, which provides that the Government should develop the natural resources of the country, sell or turn them over to the Jewish Agency, which is to have a fair return of the capital, shar- (Continued on Page 5)
ing the profits with the government. “But the Government did not do this?” asked Stoker. “No,” Luke answered.
“Was there any protest against giving the concession to private Jewish companies?” Stoker queried. “There was a certain amount of general protest before the agreement with Rutenberg was concluded,” Luke replied, but could not remember specific instances.
Luke stated that the opposition was not based on Arab rivalry for the concession, but hostility due merely to the fact that the Jews were getting the concession. He said he did not know whether tenders had been asked for, and he was equally unaware if pressure had been brought upon the Jaffa and the Haifa municipalities to compel them to take electricity from the Rutenberg Electrification Works. He said he did not know the proportion of Arab employees in the Rutenberg works.
Stoker suggested that the Dead Sea concession was of great value because of the minerals. Luke replied that undoubtedly the minerals were there, but they must be salvaged and transported, therefore the concession is not exactly gilt edged.
Answering a question, Luke said that he did not know if Major Tulloch is merely a Novomejsky creature. bound hand and foot.
Preedy, Government counsel, took up the re-examination of Luke regarding the failure of the Government to act against the inciting articles in the press, between January and August. Luke replied he had not seen the articles, and moreover it was the duty of the District Commissioners to deal with the problem.
The cross examination was interrupted three-quarters of an hour while Preedy and Merriman debated the ability of Luke to answer general questions regarding the Government’s failule to bind over editors and suspend papers, and its failure to issue a proclamation rebuking false incitement. Preedy contended that each case must be investigated on its own merits, while Merriman asserted that Luke, as a central official, could give a general answer.
Preedy maintained that the Government could not properly proclaim as untrue an article appearing in the Arab press stating that the Jews covet the Mosque.
Merriman at this point jumped to his feet, demanding: “Do you mean to say that the Government does not know definitely whether or not the Jews covet the Mosque?” Luke replied to this query: “The Government cannot issue proclamations about the wishes or aspirations of various peoples.”
Discussing the letter sent on May 27 by Harry Sacher, in behalf of the Zionist Executive, concerning the regulations at the Wailing Wall, Luke declared that it dissented from the White Paper of 1928. He stated he could not define exactly what the Zionists wanted about the Wailing Wall; at any rate, the Zionists do not represent all the religious Jews.
Under questioning by Preedy, Luke seized the opportunity to again contradict Pinchas Rutenberg’s version of his consultation with him before the riots. Luke flatly disagreed with several points in Rutenberg’s testimony, denying Rutenberg told him if the Shofar blowing was prohibited, the Government would break its neck on that horn blow.
He explained that the Hebron and Jerusalem casualities were lumped together because both were in the same health district.
Luke asserted that he would not say that the Arabs do not accept the present Government, but that they think there should be no Zionist Executive.