By establishing a record of hearing eighteen witnesses in a single day, the Inquiry Commission now sitting in Palestine, yesterday heard the last of the evidence on the August riots, thus enabling Sir Boyd Merriman, chief of the counsel for the Jews, to begin his final summing up before Christmas.
All sides called final witnesses yesterday in order to clear up the outstanding points. The witnesses for the Jews included Barshed, a hotel keeper and acting mayor of Safed. Early in August, he testified, Subhi Khadra came with a large party and toured the countryside intensively. Aryah Wagner was the next witness. By August 22nd he stated, Amman buzzed with rumor, that Jews had killed Arabs in Jerusalem and testified that as a waiter at the officers’ mess in the Transjordanian capital, he heard these rumors discussed freely.
That the Jews forty years ago had been allowed to repair the much-discussed pavement near the Wailing Wall, was brought out in yesterday’s hearing of the Palestine Inquiry Commission, when 70-year-old Yosel Kives testified that he himself had helped lay the stones following the Turkish Pasha’s consent to the repairs.
The chief witness before the Commission, Abdul Kardus, district officer of Hebron, a Christian Arab, preceded two Jews both of whom had signed petitions to Sir John Chancollor High Commissioner, demanding Kardus’s dismissal. Denying, under examination by Preedy, government counsel, that he had neglected his duties, as charged, he told how he had faced a mob of 400 Arabs who were trying to break into the house of Rabbi Epstein, dean of Slabodka Yeshiva. Kardus stated that he told the mob he would be killed before he allowed them to raid the house. Preedy introduced into the record a letter from the rabbi written in October in which he thanked Kardus for saving 20 lives. Kardus contended that all the leaders had assured him nothing would occur in the way of disturbances.
Even the late Eliezer Slonim, whom, the witness stated, he visited on the Thursday before the riots, reassured him. Those rumors which the Rabbis Slonim and Franko communicated to him were indefinite, he insisted.
Under cross-examination by Viscoupt Erleigh, for the Jews, the witnesses seemed somewhat uncertain and contradicted the former witness, Cafferata’s statement, that Kardus had not informed him of Jewish warnings.
The witness stated that the Saturday following the first riots leaders from various quarters of Hebron had promised to keep peace, at a meeting held in his office. “With what success we already know,” remarked Erleigh.
Kardus also stated that he had no faith in the Moslem notables but had preferred to deal with responsible Mukhtars or headmen. His evidence lost much of its weight when Rabbi Meier Franko took the stand. He remembered much that Kardus forgot and stated that he and Rabbi Slonim had (Continued on Page 4)
told the former witness that the Yeshiva was endangered by rowdies who were spying on it. Rabbi Slonim testified that they communicated with the district officer, giving specific reports about incitement, including a rumored letter from the Mufti calling Hebron Arabs to come to Jerusalem.
In cross examination. Silley for the Arabs, tried to make the patriarch say he was not a Zionist but Rabbi Slonim insisted that “we all are Zionists, in our prayers twice daily we mention Zion and its rebuilding.”
Haim Bajayo, Sephardic teacher of the Mizrachi School and whose family has lived in Palestine for 400 years, gave evidence regarding the incitement. He stated that the sheiks told the mobs of Arabs on August 16th not to touch the Jews that day but to wait until the following Friday.
The former beadle of a burial society Yosel Kives, added much circumstantial detail to his story of the repairs made by Jews to the Wailing Wall pavement forty years ago. This had been allowed, he said, because the municipality had dug a sewage canal in the centre of the pavement. This statement was used to refute the Moslem’s claim to the pavement as sanctified and having no Jewish claim.
Kalman Greenfield and Baruch Cohen, Safed chauffeurs, gave detailed stories of their trips a fortnight before the outbreak in Safed when Subhi Khadra and other Arab agitators journeyed to many northern villages. Meetings were held and the chauffeurs, the witnesses stated, were forced to remain a few hundred yards away from the villages while these occurred, even though formerly they were guests in the house.
To fix the time when the first Jewish dead were brought to hospitals in Jerusalem, the Jewish counsel called the head nurse of the Hadassah hospital, Miss Sherrowitzky, and Dr. Agyiss, interne at the Rotschild hospital. Dr. Sternberg, of the government hospital also testified, the evidence of the three contradicting that of Arab witnesses who stated that the first casualty was an Arab. It was brought out by Joseph Winograd, orderly at the Government hospital that the first Arab was not brought in until one forty-five and that Jewish dead preceded him.
Preedy stated that the government health department, denied having, on the eve of the riots, ordered the Hadassah hospital to prepare extra beds. Merriman then offered to bring Dr. Levantin of that hospital to testify to the contrary if the Commission accepted this statement.
Maughanam, for the Jews, tried to blacken the reputation of Kawar. Arab witness for the Jews who disappered during the testimony giving. He did not, however, contradict that witness’s statement that the Jewish cultivation of the land in Emek and other places was superior to the Arab.
Kingsley Heath, police officer and British constable Kelly refuted Jewish evidence of brutality during the baton charging which occurred at the Mitzrachi boy’s funeral. Two Arab policemen flatly denied telling the people of Gedud Avodah about the Mufti’s call for Arabs to come to Jerusalem.
Subhi Khadra, who insisted that his itinerary for his vacation included the places where he was said to have been engaged in riot-inciting, attempted to show the commissioners that his activities throughout were no more subversive than plaiting daisies would have been.
That Arabs ploughed and sowed the cemetery at Hebron just near the place where Jewish martyrs lay buried was the testimony given by the Jewish side, closing their case. Hebron refugees wept when they learned of it and informed the Zionist Executive which made complaints to the Government.
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.