Jerusalem (Jul. 4)
The three British officers who have been held as hostages for seventeen days by the Irgun Zvai Leumi were freed tonight, it was announced here officially. They were dumped out of a truck on a main street of Tel Aviv.
Their release follows the action of High Commissioner Sir Alan G. Cunningham yesterday in commuting to life imprisonment the death sentences imposed upon two members of the Irgun, Joseph Simkhon and Itzchak Azbel. The officers, Capt. A.W. Taylor, Capt. H.K. Spencer and Capt. G.C. Warburton, were abducted on June 18 from an officers club in Tel Aviv.
The situation here continued tense today, with arrests continuing to be made in various parts of the country. A average of about 400 Jews daily are reported being brought to Latrun prison and the Athlit camp, at the same time that prisoners are shifted from there to the Raffa camp on the Egyptian border. Fifty persons were released from Raffa today and another 50 are to be released tomorrow. The military authorities have replaced all Jewish personnel of the three camps with Arabs.
HIGH COMMISSIONER WANTS COMMITTEE WITH WHICH TO CONDUCT NEGOTIATIONS
The High Commissioner is still pressing for “a person or committee” with which to conduct negotiations for calming the Jewish community, it is learned reliably. He is understood to have made that the chief point of discussion during a conference yesterday with members of the executive of the Jewish National Council, headed by Isaac Ben Zvi, Council president. He told them; “You will be responsible for further bloodshed, because you still have enough influence to prevent it.”
The Council members are reported to have replied that the only means of calming the Jews was to halt the arrests and raids and permit the immigration of 100,000 from Europe. Ben Zvi assured Sir Alan that “we want peace and cooperation with England–but that is in your hands.” He added that negotiations with the government can begin only after all those arrested are released and the Jewish institutions are functioning normally.
Well informed Jewish circles are not optimistic about the developments in the near future, particularly after the meeting with Cunningham. They are inclined to believe that the interview was a warning by the High Commissioner that the “second phase” of operations will soon start: an attempt to split the Jewish community and encourage any anti-Agency forces. These sources feel that Cunningham is ready to follow Bevin’s line of differentiating between Jews and Zionists.
Meanwhile, an emergency meeting of the central committee of the Histadruth voted in favor of a resolution urging breaking of all relations between the Jewish community and the government. The Histadruth earlier sent cables to the CIO, AFL, British Trades Union Congress and the British Labor Party, asking them to send delegations to Palestine to investigate the situation here.
It was reported from Haifa today that two Jewish veterans of the Czech army who had recently spent much time at the colony of Yagour, which is the scene of an intensive arms hunt by British troops, were kidnapped yesterday. Their beds and bedding were bloodstained. They are alleged to have turned informer and led troops to arms caches at Yagour.
The commanding officer in the Haifa district, who had been issuing strenuous denials that troops who raided Yagour had engaged in looting, has announced that a search of the soldiers’ effects had turned up many valuables seized at the colony. He said that where possible these objects would be returned to their owners, and compensation would be paid for valuables which were not recovered.
PROMISE TO IMPROVE CONDITIONS AT ATHLIT FOLLOWS HUNGER STRIKE BY 1,600
Lieut. Gen. Sir Evelyn Barker, British commander in Palestine, late yesterday promised to improve conditions at the Athlit camp, after a hunger strike by 1,600 prisoners. Following Sir Evelyn’s statement and a promise by the camp authorities that a committee of the detainees will be allowed to be present at all future interrogations of prisoners, the strike was called off. On Tuesday it was reported that many prisoners had been tortured before being questioned.
In a letter received by Chief Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel last night, Barker apologized for the arrest of Rabbi Judah L. Fishman on Saturday, explaining that Fishman was arrested not in his religious capacity, but as acting chairman of the Jewish Agency executive.
Hundreds of wives of the arrested men demonstrated before the district commissioner’s office in Tel Aviv today demanding information as to the whereabouts of their husbands, so that they might send them food and clothing.
Authoritative Jewish spokesmen said today that despite official announcements and press reports to the contrary, nothing incriminating could have been found in the Jewish Agency’s files, because the Agency was not involved in “incriminating activities.” The “top secret” army documents found there, they said, might have been communications from British Middle East headquarters sent during the war.
A board has been appointed to survey the damage done to the Agency’s building by raiding soldiers. The board, which started work today, is expected to complete its task within a week, after which the authorities will consider returning the building to the Agency.
CHIEF RABBINATE CALLS FOR NATION-WIDE DAY OF PRAYER ON MONDAY
The chief rabbinate announced today that Monday has been proclaimed a day of national prayer to inform the world of “Jewry’s dire plight.” The shofar will be blown in all Palestine synagogues at 6 p.m.
The Jerusalem district commissioner this morning visited the offices of the Women’s International Zionist Organization and offered to authorize payment of $2,000 for damages caused by troops on Saturday.
The censorship here has forbidden publication in the Palestine press of much of the American and British reaction to the present events. On Tuesday the censors killed JTA cables from New York reporting the protest meeting there. Other cables from New York and London have also been banned.