Jerusalem (Sep. 7)
The question of whether it is lawful for the Jewish Agency to supervise the recruitment of Jewish volunteers in Palestine for the British armed forces was again raised today at the military tribunal which is conducting the "arms trial."
This time the question was raised by Dr. Philip Joseph, counsel for the defense. While examining Golda Meirson, one of the leaders of the Histadruth, the Jewish lawyer referred to the statement made yesterday by the president of the court, in which he questioned the legality of the Jewish Agency’s recruiting activities.
"There can be no doubt that these activities are lawful," Miss Meirson testified, "We were asked and encouraged by both the civil and military authorities to conduct these activities. In fact, high military officers came to me personally asking that we assist in the recruiting. The representative of the Jewish Agency was until recently in Sarafand at the military barracks there and was recognized by the military command."
Cross-examined by the prosecutor, Major Baxter, the witness said that the Histadruth embraces forty-five percent of the entire Jewish population in Palestine and its manifold activities are concentrated on organising labor for agriculture, road-building, colonization and other activities aimed at developing the country. The Histadruth has always opposed violence and has, since 1936, called on the Jewish population in Palestine to exercise self-restraint, Miss Meirson stated. "Our policy is self-defense only," she declared." We never wanted war with our neighbors and the policy remains unchanged today."
WITNESS CROSS-EXAMINED CONCERNING JEWISH DEFENSE ORGANIZATIONS
Questioned concerning the Jewish labor sport organization, "Hapoel," Miss Meirson stated that it never engaged in securing arms illegally.
"Did you ever use firearms yourself?", Major Baxter asked.
"No," the witness replied.
"Were you trained to use them?"
"No. I was never trained."
"Has the Histadruth its own intelligence service?"
"Have you ever heard about the organization called Haganah?"
"Have they any arms?"
"I don’t know."
"Have you ever heard about an organization called Machneh?"
"Yes. The first time I heard of it was when the German army was at the doors of Palestine, and if the worst would have happened, the Machneh was supposed to have been ready for any assignment."
"Does this organization still exist?"
"I don’t know."
"Do you know that it is illegal?"
"I know that the authorities knew about its existence at the time when it was organized and that it was organized with the help of the British Army and for the above purpose only."
"Are there any members of the Histadruth in the ranks of the Haganah and the Machneh?"
"Possibly. There have been many attacks against Jews in this country. The entire Jewish community of Hebron was wiped out in 1929, and the Jewish communities in Safad and in Tiberias suffered severely in 1936. If we did not defend ourselves, no trace would be left of what we have created here. We are proud of the resistance shown by the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto and I think that they learned the spirit of resistance from the Jews in Palestine."
Asked about the recruiting activities of the Histadruth and of the Jewish Agency, Miss Meirson said: "We are deeply interested in this war. We have been at war with Hitler since 1933."