“There was an indiscriminate massacre by Arabs last night at Tiberias, in which 19 Jews [21 in some sources] were killed, including three women and 10 children, a slaughter unequalled since the Arabs attacked the Jews of Hebron and Safed in 1929,” The Times of London reported on 4 October 1938, quoting its correspondent writing on 3 October. The attack was premeditated, well-planned, and merciless.
“At 9 p.m. a large band of armed Arabs, after having cut all the telephone wires, made a concerted attack on Tiberias,” the report went on.
“They entered the town in two detachments, one from the north, the other from the south. Five minutes later, when the invaders were in place, a whistle was heard from the hills above the town and firing began. It was directed chiefly at the district offices, the police station, and the billets of the British police. Simultaneously fires broke out in the district offices and the synagogue, and six houses in the Akiva quarter, which lies on the hillside above the Old Town, were entered, set on fire, and the inmates – men, women and children – massacred. The police turned out immediately, and within 25 minutes were reinforced by the Transjordan Frontier Force, from Samakh, which fought its way past an ambush at a road obstruction near the hot springs to the south of Tiberias. After the arrival of the troops fighting in the town lasted for two hours before the raiders were driven out. A curfew was enforced about 11 p.m. Most of the Jewish casualties occurred in three wooden houses.”
Killed in one of those houses were Joshua and Shoshanah Ben-Arieh and their two little boys. The couple, with son Arieh, were stabbed and left to burn to death; the other son, Moshe, an eighteen-month-old toddler, was shot dead. Also stabbed and burned to death at the house were three visiting children: Chaim Leimer aged twelve, his sister Rivka, aged ten, and brother Ezra, aged eight. Their mother Hanka, aged 37, was badly wounded.
In another of those houses an American citizen, Menachem Kabni (as the American Jewish Outlook, 7 October 1938 names him) – The Times report says merely “Mr Kalpin” – was stabbed and burned to death along with his a female relative; another female relative escaped. (According to The Times the female survivor was his wife; according to the American Jewish Outlook, his sister.)
And in the third house 26-year-old Rachel Mizrachi was home alone with her five children – her husband Shimon Yochanan Mizrachi was on guard duty elsewhere in Tiberias. She too was brutally murdered, together with Ezra (aged twelve), Miriam (five), Yocheved (three), Samuel (two) and Hephzibah (one).
Ezekiel Katz (or perhaps Saltz) , aged forty-two, died when the synagogue of which he was gubbai was set ablaze. Two Jewish constables, Israel Bookman and Zvi Chatzkelovitz, lost their lives, and also killed was Jacob Gross. Rahamin Halevy and Hanna Sabach were slightly injured.
(See http://myrightword.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/looking-for-kabni.html for other accounts of the victims’ names.)
Next day, 5 October, The Times carried a report of Arab unrest and near anarchy in some parts of Palestine, so much so that it seemed that Britain might have to fight to conquer Palestine all over again. “Rebel activities from a nuisance have become a threat to orderly government,” it observed. “Rebel attacks have for months so endangered traffic on the inter-urban roads that Government has had to declare a night curfew on all roads outside the towns and villages…. The telephone and telegraph system has been so frequently sabotaged that communication is uncertain, and even Jerusalem is cut off at times. The landing of airborne mails at Tiberias has been given up because it is unsafe to carry mails from Galilee to Jerusalem. Outside the large towns it is almost impossible to collect taxes except as collective fines…. Ordinary police patrolling and crime detection have been given up… The administration of the villages through the mukhtars (headmen) has stopped because the mukhtars obey orders of the [Arab] bands. The schools may soon reopen, but this means little as the Government schoolmasters are Arab propagandists and are subservient to the Arabs’ wishes… Because issuing arms to the Arab police often means supplying arms to the bands, they have been disarmed in many places, and may soon be entirely dismissed .…”
In a telegram to Malcolm MacDonald, British Secretary of State for the Dominions and Colonies, the Sephardi and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis of Palestine, Yaakov Meir (who died the following year aged 83) and Yitzhak Herzog, declared: “Palestine Jewry is deeply horrified at the Tiberias massacre and sacrilege. In God’s name, we appeal to you to end the terror.” [http://www.jta.org/1938/10/04/archive/21-jews-slain-in-tiberias-massacre-worst-since-29-synagogue-homes-razed]
The following month, on 24 November in the House of Commons, MacDonald made a speech which foreshadowed his White Paper of 1939, predicated on a fear of a full scale Arab rebellion necessitating huge British military commitments in Palestine at a time of impending war in Europe, and which, in attempting to appease the Arabs, was seen by Jewish and non-Jewish Zionists as a betrayal.
In that speech (The Times, 25 November 1938) MacDonald maintained, inter alia:
“No one could justly say that Great Britain had not been fulfilling her obligation to facilitate the migration of Jews to Palestine. Since 1922 more than 250,000 Jews had entered Palestine and settled there.… The Jews were in Palestine not on sufferance but by right and today, under the lash of persecution in Europe, their eagerness to return to their own homeland was multiplied an hundredfold. The tragedy of a people who had no country had never been so deep as it was this week…. But he had hoped that we were not going to allow our horror at the plight into which these people had been thrown to warp our cool and just judgment on the difficult problem of Palestine today…. When we promised to facilitate the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine we never anticipated this fierce persecution in Europe….”
You may correctly anticipate the rest.
“In 1933 30,000 Jews came into Palestine; in 1934 42, 000; and in 1935 … 61,000…. If he were an Arab he would be alarmed…. The House of Commons … ought to recognise that many in the Palestinian Arab movement were motivated by a genuine patriotism…. [T]hey were thinking … of their freedom, and they were afraid that if this process went on at last they would have to surrender to the political overlordship of the enterprising, hard-working, ever-increasing citizens of the Jewish national home. We, the British people, should be the last people in the world not to understand the feelings of the Arabs in this matter because we, too, would sacrifice our material advantages if we thought that our freedom was at stake.” (What he meant by “freedom” for the Arabs seems puzzling, since Mandate Palestine was in effect a British colony and since the Arabs were ruled by clan heads and had little concept of freedom in the western sense.)
Nevertheless, MacDonald, aware that “a great many people regarded this agitation as the mere protest of a gang of bandits,” conceded that “many Arabs who had taken part most eagerly in the troubles were cutthroats of the worst type. Their massacre of the innocents at Tiberias, and on a score of other miserable battlefields, had disgraced their cause. It was true also that many of those who were associated with them had been terrorized into that association.”
Moreover, when the Balfour Declaration was promulgated “there were already living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea more than 600,000 Arabs…. The Jews brought with them money, and development work provided extra means of livelihood. Modern health services, which were extended not only to Jews but to Arabs, gave the individual a further lease and security of life. Since 1922 the Arab population in Palestine had, scarcely at all by migration from outside and almost entirely by natural increase, gone up from something over 600,000 to 990,000 persons. It was calculated that the total of 990,000 Arabs in Palestine today would have become 1,500,000 within 20 years…. The Arabs could not say that the Jews were driving them out of the country. If not a single Jew had gone into Palestine after 1918 he believed that the Arab population in Palestine today would still have been about 600,000. It was not only the Jews who had benefitted from the Balfour Declaration. They could deny it as much as they like, but, materially, the Arabs had gained very greatly from the Balfour Declaration. It was useless to present that argument to most Arabs. They were dead to the argument; they were blind to the spectacle of a gradually improving spectacle of life for their people…”
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