Jerusalsm (May. 3)
The report of the International Wailing Wall Commission appointed by the League of Nations to settle finally the question of the respective claims of the Jews and Moslems at the Wailing all, will be published on Wednesday or Thursday of this week, it is learned here.
The J.T.A. understands that in broad terms the verdict of the International Commission is the maintenance of the status quo at the Wall. The report, the J.T.A. representative in Genevalearnt during last February, will be a big document, running to about 80 pages of typescript and consisting of two parts, the first a historical survey of the Wailing Wall question and conflict, and the second consisting of about seven or eight pages, containing the conclusions and verdict of the Commission. The Commission, basing its decision on the terms of Article 13 of the Mandate for Palestine, which places upon the Mandatory Power all responsibility in connection with the Holy Places in Palestine, of preserving existing rights and securing free access and the free exercise of worship, while ensuring the requirements of public order and decorum, at the same time making the further provision that “nothing in this Mandate shall be constructed as conferring upon the Mandatory authority to interfere with the fabric or the management of purely Moslem shrines, the immunities of which are guaranteed, “has formulated an exact and detailed regulation laying down the rights of the Jews at the Wailing Wall, with regard to their approach to the Wall for worship, and the use of the appurtenances required for Jewish worship, which, in accordance with the terms of reference under which the Commission was appointed, are final, and will now take the place of the temporary regulations issued after the publication of the White Paper on the Wailing Wall by the British Government in 1928.
Although the Commission had been given powers by the British Government and the League of Nations Council to settle finally the conflict at the Wailing Wall, Judge Barde, one of the members of the Commission, who is resident in Geneva, has told the J.T.A. representative there, the members of the Commission had nevertheless been anxious to obtain a voluntary settlement by agreement between the parties than to pronounce a verdict and have it enforced.
They regetted, Judge Barde said, that they had not been able to bring about such an agreement, which he did not think by any means impossible. The aim of the Commission had been to find a way of establishing real peace in Palestine on the principles of justice, and they believed that their verdict embodied such a compromise decision as might have been reached by agreement between the parties, and they were confident that it would help to calm the atmosphere in Palestine, and to promote the great work of peace and goodwill between the different sections of the Palestine population.
The status quo was defined by the British Government in the White Paper on the Wailing Wall issued in 1928. The Western or Wailing Wall, it was said there, formed part of the western exterior of the ancient Jewish Temple; as such, it is holy to the Jewish community, and their custom of praying there extends back to the Middle Ages and possible further. The Wall is also part of the Haram-al-Sharif, as such, it is holy to Moslems. Moreover, it is legally the absolute property of the Moslem community, and the strip of pavement facing it is Waqf property, as is shown by documents preserved by the Guardian of the Waqf. The Jewish community have established an undoubted right of access to the pavement for the purposes of their devotions, but, whenever protests were made by the Moslem authorities, the Turkish authorities repeatedly ruled that they would not permit such departures from the existing practice as the bringing of cha and benches to the pavement. It is understood that a ruling prohibiting the bringing of screens to the pavement was given in 1912. The Palestine Government and His Majesty’s Government, having in mind the terms of Article 13 of the Mandate for Palestine, have taken the view that the matter is one in which they are bound to maintain the status quo, which they have regarded as being, in general terms, that the Jewish Community have a right of access to the pavement for the purposes of their devotions, but may bring to the Wall only those appurtenances of worship which were permitted under the Turkish regime. Whenever the Moslem authorities have preferred complaints that innovations have been made in the established practice, and the Palestine Government on enquiry have satisfied themselves that the complaints were well founded, they have felt it their duty to insist that the departures from practice which gave rise to the complaints should be discontinued.
His Majesty’s Government, the White Paper declared, regard it as their duty, and it is their intention to maintain the established Jewish right of access to the pavement in front of the Wall for the purposes of their devotions and also their right to bring to the Wall those appurtenances that they were allowed to take to the Wall under the Turkish regime. It would be inconsistent with their duty under the Mandate were they to endeavour to compel the Moslem owners of the pavement to accord any further privileges or rights to the Jewish community.