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Inquiry Commission to Examine Grand Mufti Monday in Own Home

December 1, 1929
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry will on Monday remove its headquarters from the courthouse in the Russian compound to the house of Amin El Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and head of the Moslem Supreme Council. Claiming an ecclesiastical privilege the Grand Mufti refused to give his testimony on the recent riots in a public session. The same privilege will be accorded to Chief Rabbi A. J. Kook when he is called to testify.

Every day the Palestine Moslem and Christian Arabs are convinced of the desire of the Jews to get hold of the entire country in order to rebuild the Temple, said Haj Tewfik Hammad Moslem elder from Nablus, who has been mayor of Nablus, a member of the Turkish parliament, and vice-president of the Palestine-Arab Congress in testifying today before the Inquiry Commission.

This most distinguished of all the Arab witnesses that have thus fa### been called resembles a Turk more than an Arab, and still wears the peculiar Turkish fez and proudly describes himself as a member of the Arab delegation whose visit to London resulted in the White Paper. Ham mad mentioned his conversation with Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, who tried to persuade him that Palestine is capable of absorbing large numbers of immigrants but only succeeded in convincing him that the Jews intend to possess the largest part of the land by flooding the country with immigrants.

What Weizmann told him, he said, in replying to Aouni Bey Abbi Sadi, Arab counsel, was “deception,” as witnessed by the eviction of the Arabs at Emek and the present proceedings to drive off the Arab cultivators from Wadil Hawareh, the land bought by the Canadian Zionists. Declaring that the Moslems of Nablus were not fanatical, but merely true to their country and religion, Hammad said that the Zionists had accepted the White Paper but did not mean to adhere to it. Only (Continued on Page 10)

an agreement by the Jews to a parliament of responsible residents would convince him that the Jews did not intend to make Palestine as Jewish as England is English.

Commissioner Shaw interrupted him to ask: “What makes you think that the Zionists are not sincere?” Hammad replied that if the Zionists continued their present policy, the Jews were bound to possess the whole country. Commissioner Batterton asked the witness what, in his opinion, had caused the recent disturbances. Hammad raised a glass of water and said that the Wailing Wall was the drop causing the glass to overflow.

The witness said that “the country was anxious over its destiny and was becoming alarmed owing to “the well-known Jewish ambitions to rebuild Solomon’s Temple on the site of the Mosque of Aksa.” Aouni Bey Abbi Sadi, in examining the witness, asked whether the Zionists have designs on the Moslem Holy Places, to which Hammad replied “yes.” To the question “what makes you think so?” Hammad replied “many pictures with the Zionist flag over the dome rock.”

To Aouni’s question, “What do you understand by the Zionist flag?” Hammad said that “when the emblem is hoisted over a particular place it announces the possession of that place.” Here Aouni reintroduced the famous household pictures and cartoons from “Dos Yiddische Folk” of New York April 30, 1920, soon after the Sat Remo decision. The cartoon was end titled “A Dream Realized,” and accompanied by a poem written by Philip M. Raskin. “It Has Happened.”

The Jewish system of land purchase in Palestine was reviewed before the Commission yesterday by the witnesses called by the Arab Executive, although at a previous session this question had been challenged by the Commissioners as unrelated to the causes of the riots, the investigation of which is the Commission’s sole concern. The Arab counsel. Aouni Bey Abbi Sadi, informed the correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “Had the Commission not consented to hear the Arab case, we would have walked out of the court. We are uninterested in who started the fight, therefore we are indifferent to the immediate causes.”

With Farah, a Christian Arab agricultural expert on the witness stand, and Maughanam, a secretary of the Arab Executive, examining the Jewish acquisition of land in the Emek, the Jordan Valley. Plain of Sharon and the Haifa Bay region was the subject of attack. Using a Jewish National Fund map, showing in red the gradual patches of Jewish land acquisition, the witness pointed out wholesale evictions of Arab cultivators. A member of the effendi class, the son of a prominent land agent and a gentleman farmer living in Nazareth. Farah studied agriculture in the University of Illinois, and took a post-graduate course in Cornell University.

Farah charged the wholesale eviction of Arab cultition of Arab cultivators from eighteen villages in the Emek which the Jews had purchased from absentee owners, especially the Sursook family, which many years ago obtained title to the most fefrtile land in Palestine through bribing the Turkish Governor of Damascus.

Farah’s evidence illuminated not only the crooked methods of the Turksh rulers, but also threw light on the effendi class, to which he himself belongs. Championing before the Commission the pathetic case of the fellaheen, Farah neglected to mention how his father and others of his class had ground the faces of the fellaheen. Not lid he reveal his own part as a go-between in many of the transactions which resulted in the alleged hardships of the Arab cultivators. Mentioning by name several influential Arabs who acted as agents between the Zionist buyers and the absentee landlords. Come of whom work for the Sursook family at a monthly stipend of 100 sounds, Farah overlooked his own part is an agent, if not a part owner, of Cuskus, one of the eighteen villages which were transferred to the Jews.

With Maughanam as the examining attorney, the court was treated to the unusual spectacle of two effendis hithrto indifferent to their downtrodden enants, lamenting through figures and innuendo, the plight of the fellaheen, allegedly brought on by the Jews.

“Can you get me off this land, where under every stone I have an ancestor?” a Bedouin of the village Sobieh asked him, Farah alleged, when he came to work the village with modern machinery and ordered the Bedouins to move on.

“Is this not what every villager and Bedouin throughout Palestine will tell you?” asked Maughanah. “Yes,” answered the witness, and named all the villages from which Arab tenants and cultivators had been driven. “If the Esdraelon plain is a sheep, Afuleh is its fat tail,” Farah told the Commissioners in the native metaphor to illustrate the richness and fertility of the decrepit Arab village now in the process of becoming a Jewish town and the commercial center of the Emek. Nothing remains of the former settlers, Farah stated, except the foundation stones and the cemetery. The former dwellings have been replaced by “the cottages of Zionist immigrants from Eastern Europe.”

Farah’s testimony included the history of the Sursook family’s acquisition of the Emek. In the early eighties, he said, the Turkish government ordered the Emek peasants to register lands under cultivation. Fearing military service, forced labor and taxation, the peasants consulted the effendis of Nazareth, who advised them not to register lands under cultivation. Fearing military service, forced labor and taxation, the peasants consulted the effendis of Nazareth, who advised them not to register. Since the cultivators were too poor to pay their taxes, the Governor of Damascus ordered the villages auctioned privately, arranging that members of the Sursook family should purchase the villages at a thousand pounds each. Subsequently two villages were returned to the dispossessed cultivators by the purchasers.

At this point, R. Hopkin Morris interrupted to indicate to Farah that on he basis of his own testimony, the Zionists had paid from eight to forty-two pounds an acre for the same land, lepending on whether or not it was hear a spring.

Continuing, Farah asserted that the fellaheen always contested the title of the Sursook family, but that the owners did not take violent possession, being content with collecting part of he crop.

Maughanam contended that the eviction of the Arab tenants from the Valey of Esdraelon had adversely affected Nazareth, which was formerly a shopping center. Now, however, the Jewish colonists trade only in Afuleh. The wheat and the barley which made Esdraelon famous as a granary are no longer cultivated. Farah maintained, quoting the official reports of 1922 showing Palestine’s growing dependence on imported food and fodder. Farah quoted also from the report of Eliezer Vilkansky. Director of the Zionist Experiment Station, in which the latter described the hardships of the Jewish pioneers who are “untrained men and unprepared for the land and unfavorable conditions.” In the same report, Vilkansky wrote, Farah cited, “We spend like farmers, but we earn like fellaheen. Our agricultural population is therefore in a constant state of crisis.” Farah paraded these sentences, lifted from an exhaustive economic analysis, in an effort to show how improved Jewish methods and machinery had not increased productivity.

Under the cross-examination of Maughanam, Farah maintained that the decrease of government revenue in the Emek since the transfer of the land to the Jews indicates a decrease of productivity. He expressed the belief that this condition is general in all the transferred villages.

Citing the case of the village of Subieh, on the north slope of Mount Tabor, one of the few Bedouin villages outside of the Jordan Valley, Farah said that the three hundred families of the tribe, who earn a livelihood from stock breeding, using the lower land for grain raising, at the rate of forty dunams per capita, are so poor that they must supplement their incomes by laboring for near by Arab villages in the Emek.

Stating that the government had selected pieces of this land for the establishment of a Jewish Agricultural school with the funds of the Kadoorie legacy, Farah added: “This should be the last place in the country to select to establish a school because the land is poor and is unsuited to modern agriculture since it is not typical of normal farm land.”

The inhabitants protested against the government’s project, Farah asserted, (Continued on Page 11)

asking him to present a petition to the government. Despite this, however, the inhabitants informed him that two weeks ago the government notified them of its intention of carrying out the plan for the agricultural school.

The Arabs, he continued, generally accept compensation only because they are unable to fight their cases in the country. At any rate they are compensated only for the work put in during the current season on tilled land, and not for the value of the land.

Discussing Nahalal, Farah asserted that the villages had protested against the sale and that he in their behalf had prepared petitions. After a long fight the peasants who improved the land and built themselves houses received two thousand dunams of land. The others were offered three thousand dunams on a six-year lease at the rate of three pounds annually per dunam. Having no other alternative the peasants had accepted, but they were unable to take advantage of the option to purchase three thousand dunams because they were too poor.

Farah further asserted that the ordinance prohibiting the dispossession of a farmer unless he has some other place in which to live had not been enforced in connection with the purchases of 1921. He added that the tradition of the country which allows Bedouins to pasture their herds on any land after the harvest had been discontinued since the Jews took over the land. “The average Bedouin does not know this until he tries to do it once and is fined. Then he knows.”

Merriman found his first difficult task in the cross-examination of Farah, because the matter dealt with was other than the immediate cause of the riots. Farah, equipped with numerous documents, constantly argued with Merriman and Assistant Attorney General Drayton, delivering a lecture on agricultural questions and made so many queries that Drayton replied: “You are under cross-examination, not I.”

Merriman read a government document which disclosed that the arrangement for the establishment of the Kadoorie School had been amicable, the Arabs giving five hundred acres for the school and receiving in exchange freehold title to seventeen hundred acres. “Did you ever see this report?” Merriman asked Farah. “No,” replied Farah, adding that the settlement signed by the notables was displeasing to the tribe.

Attempting to refute the argument that the Jews were less productive than the Arabs, Merriman drew from Farah the admission that the production of grain throughout the country-side has increased. Farah maintained, however, that this was as a result of the post-war recuperation of the Arabs.

The agricultural discussion was interrupted by R. Hopkin Morris, who stated: “I don’t see how this concerns the Jews. If there is a grievance, it is really against the government, but it is being put up against the Zionists.” Merriman agreed with this appraisal. Preedy said the grievances must be proven.

Answering a question, Farah said he was not aware that Sir Gilbert Clayton, then Civil Secretary of the Palestine Government, had personally negotiated the agreement for the compensation of the tenants of Afuleh. To the question, “Do you know that the tenants of Afuleh accepted the compensation except for a few who were incited by people from Jerusalem?” Farah answered: “If they accepted, they did the most foolish thing of their lives.” Continuing, Merriman asked: “Do you know that after the disturbance in Afuleh in 1925, the government authorized Jewish ploughing to proceed?” “Perhaps the peasants were forced off, but if you hang a man on a government order, he dies just the same,” was the answer.

Farah’s figures on the population transferred from the villages were challenged by Merriman, who stated he would submit more correct figures.

Assistant Atorney-General Drayton who cross-examined Farah, tried to show that the government had loaned the peasants more than the taxes collected for the purpose of an agricultural bank. Farah’s reply was: “But it was almost all paid back, and we are not getting the full benefit.”

Farah was preceded on the witness stand by Abdul Raschied, a translator of the Arab Executive, and formerly on the staff of “El Jamia Arabia,” organ of the Moslem Supreme Council; a Moroccan Arab who acted as the muezzin on August 15; and Miss Frances Newton, a resident in Palestine since 1899 and described as a woman of independent means and a friend of the Arabs.

The fancy-colored prints, such as the Jews customarily hang on their east walls, again figured in the hearing when the Arab Executive called on Raschied as an “expert” to show that this kind of Sunday School art inflames Moslem opinion against the Jews.

Raschied divulged that these prewar souvenirs from a Jerusalem Talmud Torah accompanied the delegation of the Moslem Supreme Council on its visit to Hedjaz in 1925 to enlist the aid of ex-King Hussein against Zionism.

Merriman repeatedly inquired of the witness how passages from the Jewish prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, predicting the redemption of Zion, is offensive to the Moslems. Raschied stubbornly replied: “Every Moslem hearing the Jews wish to return to Palestine, whether or not the return is based on a prophecy, suspects Jewish aggression.” Discussing the Arab charge that the Zionist flag on the border of certain pictures excites hostility because it surrounds a photograph of the Mosque, Merriman asked: “Do the pictures of carrier pigeons, flying in the direction of the Mosque and carrying letters, also necessarily turn the Mosque into a post office?” Merriman’s question offered comic relief and vitiated all further evidence of the banefulness of the illustrations, which Merriman pointed out, no Arab need ever have seen if the Mufti had not bought up all he could find in Jewish shops.

Raschied described the Jewish youth procession to the Wailing Wall on Tisha B’Ab as armed with sticks and iron bars, but he could not remember how many were thus armed, whether one or two, or fifty or sixty.

The Commission has become so deeply involved in Hebrew terminology, that a glossary of Hebrew words cropping up in the proceedings has been supplied by Merriman.

The next witness was a young Morrocan Arab, an assistant to the sheik of a small Moslem chapel near the Wailing Wall, who acted as muezzin on the day of the Jewish procession on Tisha B’Ab.

This witness testified that he heard the Jewish demonstrators shouting, Down with our opponents. The Wall is ours. Let us take it!” Under cross-examination by Viscount Erleigh, he admitted that he was in the country only eight months and that he did not know that it is customary for the Jews so throng to the Wall on Tisha B’Ab and to sit on the ground as a symbol of mourning. He charged that a Jew shouted at him, “Donkey,” and another exclaimed, “Curse your religion,” and spat at him. Under cross-examination he conceded that the Jew who allegedly spat on him was at least fifty feet away from him when the supposed incident occurred at a time when he was acting as muezzin on the high Mosque wall overlooking the pavement of the Wailing Wall. Later he admitted that what he saw was an offensive gesture, not actual expectoration.

Miss Frances Newton, who followed the Arab, occupied the stand for three hours, offering conflicting testimony, in the course of which she betrayed that the military administration under Sir Louis Bols, in 1920, had divulged secret information to her intended for communication to the Arabs in order to satisfy them of British intentions. She led the Commission to infer that it was she who supplied much of the material for the articles of the “Daily Mail” correspondent Jeffries, which later appeared in a book entitled “The Palestine Deception.”

Included in the confidential information presumably supplied to Jeffries, was a private despatch addressed by Sir Louis Bols to the Headquarters in Egypt, alleging the hardneckedness of the Zionist Commission. This revelation proved embarrassing to the Commissioners and to Government counsel Preedy, who demanded which officer had been her informant. After some difficulty, Preedy extracted the statement that not Bols, but the Military (Continued on Page 12)

Governor of Haifa had been her informant.

Miss Newton stated that prior to 1914, she had never heard of trouble between the Jews and the Arabs, although some agitation had occurred over land purchases. In 1919, when she returned to Palestine, she discovered that the Arabs were excited, believing the country was being given over to the Jews. The Jews often given over to the Jews. The Jews often gave the Arabs cause to believe that they thought themselves masters of the country, she asserted. Their general demeanor was offensive, she said. She herself had often been jostled by Jews, she asserted with an embarrassed laugh.

Her Arab friends prevented trouble in Haifa in April, 1920, when the riots broke out in Jerusalem, she stated, asserting that leading British officials showed her important documents in the belief that she could help keep the Arabs quiet by explaining the government’s difficulty. She acted as a quasiconfidential agent and tried to interpret the English to the Arabs, who felt they were becoming underdogs. She tried to explain the laws generally, and help the Arabs and the administration to keep in harmony.

She admitted her authority on the land disputes in Kabarra and Afuleh, where one Arab was killed in 1925, was the notorious agitator Wadia Bustania. In connection with the purchase of land in Afuleh, she produced a government communique stating “no portion of the land Jews have recently acquired is owned by the villagers or their forebears,” a communique which she obviously considered unfair.

She stated that some dozen families of Afuleh had refused compensation for the land, which the Jews paid to other families. Difficulty in gaining possession was therefore created, she asserted, because the law provides that all occupants must be satisfied before the land transfer can be authorized.

Preedy challenged her to say that the government authorized the land transfers without sufficent inquiry as to the titles.

Hopkin Morris interposed that the compensation the Jews paid was really ex gratia (good will). Stoker maintained, however, that the tenants were leaseholders, while Miss Newton insisted that the land courts gave the Jews title although some of the Arab claims remained unsatisfied.

Following her evidence, Miss Newton delivered an address in which she voiced not only the Arab grievances, but her deep gratitude to the British administration for the improvements in education, health and justice.

Merriman, under cross-examination, made her admit the truth about the Kabarra concession differs from the story Bustani told her. After reading a long extract from the government report to the seventh session of the Mandates Commission about the Kabarra concession, Merriman indignantly protested that the witness came to court to air grievanes and meet publicity without knowing the basic facts.

Preedy resented the charge of breach of confidence by British officials. He showed Miss Newton official documents and gave her an opportunity to withdraw her remark. She did not do so; instead she asked to be shown what she had said, declaring: “I can’t answer questions on the spur of the moment. I want time to think over what I have said.”

Preedy made her admit that British officials, though mare expensive than Arabs, were worth the difference. This followed an earlier statement to the effect that the Arabs complain that but for the Zionist policy, all government jobs would be filled by Arabs.

When Preedy asked her how the Turkish administration compared with he British administration, she laughed nervously and said: “How absurd. Of course there is no comparison.”

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