867N.01/1114

The Consul General at Jerusalem (Wadsworth) to the Secretary of State

No. 655

Subject: Tension and Terror in Palestine, July 1938.

Sir: I have the honor to confirm the text of my telegram of July 9, 1938, 10 a.m., in reply to the Department’s telegraphic enquiry of July 8, 5 p.m., regarding the recent disturbing happenings in this country, as follows:

[Here follows text of telegram printed supra.]

Since the despatch of this telegram, it has been officially announced that a third additional battalion of British troops is to proceed from Egypt for special service in this country, thus bringing total army strength to three brigades. And the cruiser, H.M.S. Emerald, whose arrival at Haifa on July 7 was reported in my telegram was yesterday replaced by the 32,000 ton battleship H.M.S. Repulse. The crew of the latter has taken over the patrolling of the town.

Since the incidents reported in my telegram, also, there have been several instances of Arab counter-reprisal at Haifa. As I write—and my fortnightly pouch closes tomorrow morning—no official record is available but from press and other sources I gather that yesterday one terrorist bombing and three stabbing or bludgeoning attacks resulted in four minor casualties and that three or four similar incidents—including the bombing of a Jewish autobus with eight casualties, none fatal—occurred today.

In Jerusalem there have been no serious incidents since the bomb-throwing of July 8. This was directed at an Arab autobus about to leave for Hebron from the Jaffa Gate of the Old City. The reaction in Hebron, always a fanatical Moslem center and where no Jews have ventured to live since the outbreak of the 1936 disturbances, was bitter; and the Jerusalem Chief of Police, Major W. F. Wainright, tells me it was seriously feared that rioters who had destroyed trees in the Jewish cemetery would proceed during the night to the desecration of Jewish graves.

This evening shortly before seven o’clock curfew, while sitting with a member of the Partition Commission on the garden terrace of the King David Hotel, I saw a shooting incident apparently directed at a group of young Jews a few hundred yards distant. There was no casualty, but the speed with which police units arrived on the scene and rounded-up all persons in the vicinity was effective testimony to the extraordinary precautionary security measures in force.

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Another instance of the urgent need for such measures was told me yesterday by Major Wainright when recounting the circumstances of the Jaffa Gate bomb-throwing. A police informer had brought in a rumor that trouble was brewing. Major Wainright sent immediately for a detachment of troops, stationing them in the nearby Citadel of David. They were there, he said, on the scene within two minutes of the explosion, threw a cordon around the district and, in his opinion, prevented a serious mass attack on the nearby Jewish Commercial Center, incidentally saving the lives of three Jews who had been attacked in the crowd.

In the provinces—to elaborate briefly the reference in my telegram—there have been further instances of Arab sabotage, sniping at Jewish settlements and minor brushes with security forces similar to those detailed in Consul Pinkerton’s current fortnightly report on “The Status of Public Security” (despatch No. 651 of July 7).49 If the casualties of these provincial incidents be added to those reported in my telegram as having occurred in the country’s three urban centers, totals for the last week are some 50 killed and 200 wounded.

On the important question as to whether the Jewish leaders will be able to reestablish among their followings confidence in their leadership and policy of restraint, nonretaliation and cooperation with the British authorities both here and in London (the so-called Weizmann policy) I have had numerous conversations during the last week. Apprehension on this score is, I find, general among British officials and influential Jews. Especially significant, I thought, was a story brought me by a leading Jewish-American journalist that “the comment among the people, when learning that Dr. Weizmann’s brother-in-law had been killed in the Haifa rioting, was that it would have been better had the Professor (Dr. Weizmann) stood at the time in his brother-in-law’s shoes”. And of this feeling the Consulate General’s Hebrew interpreter brings me clear confirmation. “Many Jews”, he reports, “when discussing this most serious incident of the week say that, had Dr. Weizmann been in Haifa at the time, he would have been shot, and not by an Arab bullet”.

That saner counsel may, however, prevail is the hope and expectation—with one reservation—of most leading Jews with whom I have talked. It would, they realize only too well, be, as one put it, “the virtual suicide of Zionism were the Yishuv (Jewish community) so to lose sight of its larger interests as to engage in general inter-racial strife with the Arabs.” The latter, I learn on British authority, would welcome such a development “if only so that the world might be convinced that its sympathy for the Jews is misplaced.” Today a large [Page 933]and representative conference of communal leaders is being held in Jerusalem under the auspices of the Jewish Agency and Vaad Leumi (National Council of Palestine Jews) to discuss and determine ways and means for reestablishing order and restraint.

The one reservation to this expectant hope that saner counsel may be made to prevail is with respect to the Revisionists. That they have determined on direct action is unquestioned. My same Jewish-American journalist informant, who is in touch with this movement, assures me he had it directly that the man who threw the bomb in the Old City on July 7 was one of their number, an Eastern Jew who could pass as an Arab, and that he had been spirited out of the city within 15 minutes after the incident. They were, my informant asserted, proud of their action and of the courage of their successful assassin. Major Wainright tells me: “We know the Revisionists are chiefly responsible, but to pin it on them is quite another matter.”

Some 40 suspects have been arrested, including Dr. E. Washitz, Chairman of the Jerusalem Revisionist Committee, an able and agreeable lawyer who has on occasion discussed with me and others, always in moderate vein, his party’s aspirations (see despatches Nos. 617 and 641 of May 27 and June 21, last50). That the rank and file of the party, however, is far from moderate in its present attitude will be seen from the enclosed translations of mimeographed circulars51 which were distributed clandestinely in Jerusalem, the first on the eve of Ben Yossef’s hanging (despatch No. 650 of July 751), the second on the following day and the third on July 7, i. e. after the first of the acts of Jewish reprisal of the last week.

These circulars bear careful reading, for they clearly reflect the warped ratiocination and tense emotionalism of their authors. They are anti-Arab, anti-British, anti-Agency, anti-restraint. They call for war “by thousands of armed bands, by barricades and fire”, for revenge for the hanging of their martyred colleague. I am impressed with their almost anarchistic character and would be interested to learn whether the Department’s Russian experts find in them a red which is more than blood; for the third ends: “Iron and Iron will Ring, and Blood will Forgive Blood.”

I have written thus fully in an endeavor to portray, without exaggeration if with some concession to the dramatic, the vivid impression of a situation tense to the point of major explosion which the untoward but not unfeared events of the last fortnight have precipitated. There are also enclosed, as a matter of record and to [Page 934]illustrate the radically divergent attitudes of the local Arab and Jewish press, two typical editorials,53 respectively from the strongly-nationalistic, pro-Mufti weekly Palestine and Trans-Jordan of July 9 and the Jewish-Agency-controlled daily Palestine Post of this morning.

Respectfully yours,

George Wadsworth
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