Jerusalem (Dec. 20)
Insinuations by government counsel Preedy that the policy of the Zionist Organization may have been responsible for the Hebron massacres and the disturbances elsewhere and the revival of the charge that the actions of the Zionist Congress at Zurich frightened the Arab leaders featured yesterday’s session of the Inquiry Commission at which Harry Sacher, chairman of the Palestine Zionist Executive, was again subject to a warm cross-examination during which questions to him by members of the Commission seemed to indicate that the Commissioners had already formed a definite attitude on the land problem.
By his questions Preedy tried to establish that the arrogance of the Jews was responsible for the August riots. He introduced Pierre Van Paassen’s interview with H. C. Luke in which the latter echoed the Grand Mufti’s opinion that the Zurich Congress had frightened the Arab leaders. The fact that Luke later repudiated the interview seemed to count for little with Preedy.
Referring to Sacher’s proposal to have British officials destined for Palestine service instructed in the character of the mandate. Preedy belittled the suggestion, asking who would instruct them. He then read extracts of a speech made by Dr. M. D. Eder before the Zionist Actions Committee in London in September in which Eder demanded punishment for the Arab ringleaders, enlistment of special constables and consultation with the Jewish Agency with regard to the selection of higher officials. Sacher said he had not heard the speech and would not have approved of it if he had. Preedy then read the resolutions of the administrative committee of the Jewish Agency demanding they be consulted with regard to the personnel of the government. Sacher explained that certain principles, it was felt should govern the selection of such officials. Commissioner Hopkin Morris thought those officials should be efficient, not sympathetic, to which Sacher replied that he meant officials should on the whole take a view similar to that which he would adopt if he were an official.
After asking the witness how often he visited the Wailing Wall, whether he was an orthodox Jew, and whether he was a Palestinian. Preedy questioned the benefit of Jewish immigration to the Arabs. The witness replied that the Jews provided revenue otherwise unobtainable for health and education and that Jewish capital indirectly provided the Arabs with employment.
Preedy tried to show, from Sacher’s speech at the Zionist Organization Congress that he aims to supplant the (Continued on Page 4)
Arab laborer with the Jew. He suggested that the Arabs were justified in their fear of the formation of the Jewish Agency, and the enlistment of such men as Lord Melchett and the late Louis Marshall to work for it. The government counsel quoted from the statement of Ussishkin placing Weizmann’s estimate that one hundred thousand Jews would arrive in Palestine during the next five years. Preedy also mentioned Weizmann’s agreement with Lord Melchett in his dissatisfaction over the administration of Palestine and quoted Weizmann’s hope that the Agency would be able to get from the government what, till then, the Zionists had been unable to.
Sacher explained that the leaders of the Jewish Agency felt that the Government had not assisted the Jews in forming a Jewish National Home. State lands had not been given, taxation had been high, immigration had been restricted. “My own opinion is that there is no serious quarrel with the Government who reduced the proposed Zionist quota from more than 5,000 to 2,300.”
“Shouldn’t it make the Arabs nervous when they heard the demands of the Jewish Agency?” questioned Preedy. The witness said he would not deny those demands might have caused irritation, but he did not think they should have.
Questioning Sacher about the Zurich Congress Preedy attempted to show that the congress deliberately revived the question of the removal of the screen at the Wailing Wall. The witness reminded the government counsel that this was the first congress after the situation had occurred, and though the incident of the screen as an issue between Jews and Moslems had died down, the feeling against the Government rankled.
Sacher said he was convinced that an Arab conspiracy existed but conceded that it was difficult to prove this and indict those guilty. The Government he felt however, should have denied through officials all over the country the allegations that Jews wished to seize Moslem Holy Places and should have published Col. Amery’s refutation of this charge made in the House of Commons. Preedy made the witness admit that the “Doar Hayom.” Hebrew weekly, should have been punished the same as Arab papers for inflammatory statements. Sacher, however, reiterated his statements made in the article in the “Manchester Guardian” in which he criticized the “blundering and weakness of the Palestine Government.” He admitted that he used strong language but insisted that the situation could not have been handled any worse than it was. He disagreed, he said, with the statement made in the London “Jewish Chronicle” which stated that the Walling Wall was the “gauge of Jewish prestige.”
Preedy, quoting from Sacher’s testimany of the day before in which he stated “for us as well as for you, the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church,” asked whether the martyrs were represented at the Zionist Congresses. “No,” replied the witness, “martyrs are dead.”
“May it not be the result of the Zionist policy?” asked Preedy. Sacher remarked that such a statement, coming from the legal representative of the Palestine government was interesting and said he would note that. Sir Boyd Merriman, chief counsel for the Jews, rose to his feet hurriedly, saying, “So will I.” Preedy remarked that he would not be deterred from asking questions by comments from the witness or counsel. Commissioner Morris reminded Sacher that he was in the witness-box and asked him not to make comments.
“You suggest that the terms of the Mandate are inconsistent. Therefore it is unworkable and should be repealed, or amended,” said Stoker cross-examining Harry Sacher.
“You’re running fast,” countered the witness. “I was answering a hypothetical legal problem.” Laughter broke the tension in the courtroom.
The interchange came as the result of a question which Commissioner Betterton had put to Sacher. “Assuming for a moment that there were no more land available in Palestine than what is needed for the Arab population, would you consider it the Government duty in carrying out the Mandate to prohibit any further sale of land to Jews?” he asked. Sacher refused to answer the question directly, saying only, “Such prohibition would be a violation of the Mandate, for it would be discrimination against the Jews.”
Stoker, reading the complaint of the Zurich Congress that Jews do not get a fair share of government positions, tried to explain that government contracts go to the cheapest labor, therefore to the Arabs. Sacher said vehemently. “That is my complaint. The government is practicing a most miserable form of economics. In undertaking the carrying out of the Mandate it also undertakes the task of civilizing the territory. The Jews insist upon a ### in wages to a reasonable standard both for Arabs and Jews alike.
Reading then, from the resolutions passed at Zurich which expressed the hope that thousands of Jews would enter Palestine during the next year. Stoker remarked that the resolution was optimistic, like the immigration of 1925. Sacher answered that the labor needs of new plantations and industry were estimated before bringing in immigrants. “We do not allow them to come on the chance that they might find work,” he explained, and said that the Zionist Congress often indulged in very general resolutions, while it was the task of the Zionist Executive to “get down to brass tasks.” The Congress, he said, included elements who were engaged part of the time in expressing disrespect for the Executive. Commissioner Snell said with a smile that in his experience the congresses expressed pious aspirations rather than aims which had a direct chance of fulfillment.
Sacher said that some of the resolutions passed by the Congress were more or less injunctions, while others belonged in the realm of literature. “This one,” he stated, “simply instructs us to get as many Jews into the country as the economic policy requires.”
Asked whether there were any limits to the ambitions of the Jews in so far as increase in population and acquisition of land were concerned. Sacher responded “only finances and the amount of land offered for purchase.”
“Do you spend any consideration on the amount of land left for the Arabs?” asked Stoker. “That matter is for the consideration of the Arabs and the Government,” responded the witness.
Asked if A. M. Hyamson, head of immigration affairs, was a Zionist, the witness answered in the negative. “But he was,” persisted Stoker. “You had better ask him his views,” retorted Sacher.
Questioned about the Government duty to encourage close settlement of the Jews, Sacher said that in his opinion the economic and tax policy of the Government was injurious to progressive agriculture, that the railways were managed without any conception of the place or possible play of the economic development of the country.
Introducing into the Commission’s records the statement that Col. Frederick Kisch on May 4th stated to High Commissioner Chancellor that building operations at the Wailing Wall “were a flagrant change in status quo” and liable to lead to racial conflict, Sir Boyd Merriman disposed, early in the session, of the charge that Braude, former witness, invented the “status quo” issue.
Preedy, for the Government showed that the High Commissioner told the Mufti on May 6th that he had asked the rabbis to produce evidence of their rights to the Wailing Wall, under the Turks, but as they had brought none, they probably had none. Sacher said the rabbis should have submitted evidence, but feared that the Moslems would insist on observing Turkish paper laws, whereas under Turkey, the law on paper differed materially from what was meant. Sacher said he accepted the White Paper ruling that the status quo is basis for determining the rights to the Wailing Wall as a provisionary measure, but he refused, he added, to accept the implication of the White Paper that the status quo is basis for a final settlement.