Anyone doubting that the Mufti of Jerusalem is responsible for the Hebron massacre of August 24, should have been in the Criminal Court here today when the trial of Sheik Taleb Markah, chief instigator of the Hebron attack, was opened, and heard a young Jewish woman whose father and brother were killed and two brothers were wounded giving unshakeable evidence that she heard the sheik incite the crowd, exhorting them “In the name of the Prophet and the Mufti to come to Jerusalem, but to slay the Jews here first, take their women and do anything with them you like.” As he thus addressed the crowd, the sheik, according to the witness, brandished what he claimed was a telegram from the Mufti declaring that the Jews were killing the Moslems in Jerusalem and adding that anyone could proceed to the capital since free transportation would be provided.
This witness, Mazal Mizrachi, an olive-complexed, dark-eyed woman, was quick to retort in fluent, voluble Arabic. A simple woman of about thrity-five, she held her ground against Advocate Sales, one of the counsel for the defense, conducting the cross-examination in English, but who extracted only the statement that a Moslem had saved hers and her husband’s lives and that she bears no grudge against the Moslems, considering the massacre an act of God.
The next witness also was named Mazal Mizrachi, a middle-aged, typically dressed Sephardic woman. With simple, Oriental Jewish grace she gave another version of Sheik Taleb’s incitement.
Leib Schneerson, a young Ashkenazi, son of a hotelkeeper, fortified the evidence, also testifying in Arabic that he heard Taleb harangue the crowd.
“Thousands of Moslems have been killed in Jerusalem. We must avenge their blood with the blood of the Hebron Jews. Then let us go to our brethren in Jerusalem.” This was on Friday. The next morning at eight o’clock, Taleb paid Schneerson’s father a social call, drank tea with him and assured him that he need not be afraid. “Don’t close your doors. Nothing will happen.” An hour later Schneerson saw Taleb in front of the Slonim house and heard him urging the mob to break in. “Don’t hesitate here. Slonim is sheltering forty Yeshiva men including the secretary of the Yeshiva who has been bringing these foreigners here. They are rich men’s sons who have plenty of money and here you will also find sweet girls.”
Lowering his voice, Schneerson continued that from a hiding place in a Moslem house, he heard Taleb in the hotel shouting, “There were thirty or forty Jews here before. Where did they get to?”
“And what happened to Slonim?” asked the prosecutor.
“He was killed,” replied Schneerson, who had been a lifelong friend of young Slonim.
“Did you see him dead?”
“Yes,” he answered, “I was one of the nine Jews allowed at the funeral.” Schneerson would have launched into a description of the massacre and the funeral, but the prosecutor stopped him.
The same version, if under different circumstances was given by Chaim Bejayo, a Mizrachi school teacher, who heard Taleb on Friday afternoon incite the crowd, “Allah and Mohammed call upon you to avenge the Moslem blood spilt in Jerusalem.”
The only non-Jewish witness, the first to be called, was Cafferatta, Assistant District Superintendent of police, who saw Taleb in the center of a crowd which he evidently controlled and heard him say a sentence which the crowd took up and repeated in unison. Although he could not hear the words, Cafferatta is certain that they were inflammatary, judging by the sticks and swords raised above their heads at each refrain.
The counsel for the defense tried hard, but vainly, to wring from Cafferatta an admission that Taleb’s words were intended to pacify the crowd. “Supposing, for the sake of argument, that the Sheik was endeavoring to pacify the crowd, would you know the difference?” asked the counsel.
“Yes.” replied Caffaratta, “but from his actions I should say he was inciting. This is not my opinion, it is what I saw.”
In a long black overcoat reaching almost to his ankles, European trousers and vest of the same sombre color, a brightly striped shirt, collarless and tieless, with a rusty collar button showing-thus ceremoniously dressed. Sheik Taleb Markah, medium-sized, a black beard shot through with white, his large mouth nearly always open and a long pouch hanging from his chin, which at first sight resembles a goitre, but is probably a cancerous growth, appeared in the court this morning on trial for his life. A white fez proclaimed the dignity of rank of the man who, according to today’s evidence, shares with the Mufti of Jerusalem the responsibility for the destruction of more than three score Jewish lives, the maiming of an equal number and the annihilation for the present, the Yishub of one of Eretz Israel’s four holy cities.
The Mufti’s trusted Hebron agent, the sheik, is a paid attendant at the Mosque at the Cave of the Machpelah, a prominent member of the Moslem Supreme Council and an active political agitator with a suspended sentence (Continued on Page 4)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.