JERUSALEM (Jun. 28)
A general strike which shut all Jewish shops in Jerusalem tonight climaxed a mounting nation-wide movement of protest against tomorrow morning’s scheduled execution of 25-year-old Shlomo Ben Josef — the first Jew to be executed in hundreds of years of Palestine history — for shooting at an Arab bus.
Posters signed by the Chief Rabbinate, calling for stoppage of work and prayers in synagogues were put up throughout the city, and within fifteen minutes every shop, restaurant, cafe and cinema under Jewish ownership was closed and shuttered.
These crowds filled the main streets, and large detachments of steel-helmeted police were on hand to preserve order. The Chief Rabbinate and the Jerusalem Jewish Community issued appeals for self-restraint.
Prayers of intercession, strikes and demonstrations marked the nation-wide movement in protest against the scheduled execution of the Polish-born youth, who was sentenced by the Haifa Military Court. His case became a cause celebre for all of Jewish Palestine.
Feeling Among Jews was at a high point as an order nisi to show cause why Ben Josef’s execution should not be postponed was rejected by the Palestine Chief Justice. Preparations were completed at Acre Prison for the youth’s hanging tomorrow morning between eight and nine o’clock, and the warden asked the chief rabbi of Haifa to administer last rites.
Ben Josef was seized with two other young Jews on April 21 in possession of arms and bombs after an attack on an Arab bus, in which no one was killed or injured. One of his companions was adjudged insane. Major-General Robert H. Haining last week commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence of the second, on the ground he was under age, but confirmed the death penalty of Ben Josef.
A protest movement, which had been gathering momentum since the trial ended at Haifa early this month, reached a climax today, following widespread demonstrations yesterday, synagogue services, general strikes in Petach Tikva and other Jewish colonies and early closing of cafes and cinemas in Jerusalem.
At Acre prison, Jewish prisoners Launched a hunger strike in protest at the scheduled hanging. Zionist Revisionists, after prayers in a synagogue, staged a demonstration in front of the Tel Aviv City Hall. They were Dispersed by police, four of the demonstrators being injured, two severely. Several arrests were made.
Police arrested three women in dispersing a crowd which tried to call out girl pupils from a Jerusalem school to participate in a demonstration at the residence of High Commissioner Sir Harold Alfred MacMichael. A spontaneous walkout emptied all schools in Tel Aviv.
Dr. Philip Joseph, the youth’s counsel, a Canadian citizen and native of Montreal, addressed a memorandum to General Haining, asking a new trial on the ground of new evidence by a witness hitherto unavailable. If the new trial could not be granted, the memorandum asked reconsideration of the confirmation, citing the case of a Gaza Arab whose death sentence had been confirmed by Lieut. -General Wavell, General Haining’s predecessor, only to be commuted at the last moment to a ten-year prison term upon advice of the civil authorities that the Arab community in that region had been composed of peaceful citizens.
If the protests and appeals are unavailing, Ben-Josef will be the first Jew legally executed in Palestine in peace times, not only under the British mandatory regime, but as far as is known, under the 400 previous years of Turkish rule. The only Jews officially put to death in the Holy land were those killed by troops of the Turkish general, Jamal Pasha, during the World War, on suspicion of aiding the Allied cause.
Three Arabs convicted of murder by the civil courts died on the gallows today at the Jerusalem prison.
Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog Testified today at a closed hearing of the Palestine Partition Commission.