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Jerusalem Executive Ends Controversy over Question of Mutilations

September 24, 1929
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

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The ominous controversy which followed the Hebron massacre as to whether or not the Arab attackers perpetrated mutilations on their victims was closed with the issuance of statements by the Palestine authorities and by the Zionist Executive in Jerusalem, with the result that Arab leaders assert that their honor was saved, British doctors declare mutilations were not established and Jewish physicians insist that because of the advanced stage of decay of the bodies when the exhumation took place, proper examination was impossible.

The government statement regarding the mutilation question quotes the Hebron police officer, Cafferata as saying: “I was present at Hebron all day Saturday, August 24, and was an eyewitness of the killing which took place.” Senior medical officer Mac-Queen is quoted as follows: “I arrived at Hebron after the mob had been dis-

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persed and during the day dealt with 59 wounded Jews and inspected 56 corpses.”

Both declare that they saw no case of mutilation of a sexual or other nature or of rape. The official statement announces that another report by the director of the Health Department will be made on “fatal and other cases of wounding in Palestine in the course of the recent disturbances.” The official report further quotes the reports of Dr. Stuart Orr-Ewing and Dr. Strathearn, nominated by Sir John Chancellor, the High Commissioner, to be present at the exhumation of the bodies of the Jewish victims on September 11. “Under the terms of reference, we were instructed to interpret mutilation as the word is commonly used in connection with murderous assault in the sense of an act of mutilation of the body not necessary to the commission of the crime and indicative of ferocity or abnormal cruelty.” Twenty bodies were exhumed and examined by the Jewish representatives, who alleged mutilation of the first corpse where the left eye was gouged out, but we were unable to satisfy ourselves it was a deliberate mutilation. The remainder of the bodies being in a more advanced state of decomposition, the Jewish representatives concluded that the question of mutilation or otherwise could not be proved and requested that further exhumation not be proceeded with. Two dismembered left hands had been separately buried, but the bodies to which they belonged were not exhumed. They may have been cut off whilst guarding the head against a blow from a sword. But the Jewish representatives preferred no claim with regard to these hands.

“In view of these facts, the committee is of the opinion that the charge of mutilations has not been established.”

The Zionist Executive, making public the report of the Jewish commission, consisting of Dr. Garrey and Professor Getsowa, a woman pathologist of the Hadassah Hospital, and attorney Levanon, declared that from the outset the Zionist Executive deplored the controversy around the question whether the members of the Jewish community of Hebron, who were done to death on August 24, were the victims not only of murder with violence of an appalling ferocity, but also of deliberate mutilation by their murderers. “Clearly no comprehensive conclusion is establishable from the exhumation which took place on September 11, when the condition of the decay of the bodies led to the abandonment of the examination after only one-third of the bodies were exhumed.

“On the other hand, the atrocious character of the massacre at Hebron, which was never doubted, is confirmed by the report submitted to the Executive by Dr. Garrey, chief surgeon of the Shaare Zedek Hospital, regarding the survivors of the Hebron massacre, whom he has examined and treated. He reports that of 42 cases, four present mutilations of their upper extremities, such as a left hand chopped off at the wrist, another, three fingers of the right hand, a third, two fingers of the right hand, a fourth, mutilation of one finger of the left hand. In fifty per cent of the cases, three wounds were inflicted upon the victims, in an appreciable number from eleven to eighteen wounds were inflicted in vital parts of the body, produced in a most brutal way by rudimentary instruments, such as clubs, hatchets and scythes. Head injuries predominated in seventy per cent of the cases. Forty-five per cent of the wounded were women and nineteen per cent were children between the ages of one and ten. A considerable number of sexes were over sixty.”

Concluding, the Zionist Executive states: “The public communications issued by the Arab Executive on the subject of the exhumation of the bodies of the Hebron victims, indicates their opinion that the refutation they

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claim for the charge of mutilation vindicates the Arabs from any reflection on their ‘dignity and honor’ in relation to what was done at Hebron when the entirely defenseless Jewish minority was literally decimated with unspeakable savagery. The only redeeming feature of this terrible event is the action of certain Arabs who, sometimes at the risk of their lives, sought to protect the Jews who had been living among them against the fury of the mob incited to acts of barbarity by deliberately false statements circulated among them by their leaders. To those Arabs of Hebron who thus sought to live up to the traditions of Arab hospitality, the Executive takes this opportunity of expressing its appreciation.”

The political correspondent of the “Palestine Bulletin,” commenting on the documents concerning the mutilation question, declares that of all the incredible documents ever issued in Palestine, there is not another one more unbelievably maladroit than the one signed by the police officer Cafferata, who “claimed he was an eyewitness to the killing.” Presumably, he was there to see that fair play was observed in the murders, the correspondent writes. “Had an Arab attempted rape, he would have rushed in and saved the situation. We fail to appreciate why, if he, as a police officer, present apparently at several places at once, did not, even at the risk of his own life, do something to prevent the murders. The administration of Palestine is not at the moment held in, such high esteem in the country that it can afford to become the laughing stock of the world. This document should never have been written or published,” the correspondent declares.

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