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April 04, 1980 - Image 41

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-04-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Friday, April 4, 1980 41


A Timely Telephone Call Stopped 1936 Jerusalem Pogrom


(Copyright 1980, JTA, Inc.)

to attack the Jews. This was
supposed to be a "Bloody
Friday" when the "Holy
War" against the Jews was
to take place.
The Hagana secret agent
also reported that the
Grand Mufti of Jerusalem
had sent agitators to or-
ganize the Jordanian lead-
ers, who were then to arouse
and inflame Jordanian
Arabs to carry out the pog-
rom on the streets of
Jerusalem. He revealed
further details of the pog-
rom which indicated that
the situation was very seri-
ous. Palestinian civilians
were not allowed to bear
weapons, but the Mandat-
ory Government did allow
Arabs in Jordan to carry
guns and other weapons on
the street.
In Jerusalem, there were
not enough British soldiers
to prevent armed bands of
Arabs from carrying out a
There wasn't much time
before Friday. At a secret
emergency meeting, the
leadership of the Jewish
Agency immediately re-
solved that Moshe Shertok
— then the political secre-
tary of the agency who was
later to become foreign
minister and premier of the
state of Israel and change
his name to Moshe Sharett
would call Dr. Chaim
Weizmann in London and
have him alarm the Colo-
nial Officer. He was to ask
that British military di-
visions be sent overnight
from Egypt to Jerusalem so
that the bloody catastrophe
would be avoided.

(Editor's note: This is
another chapter from
Boris Smolar's forthcom-
ing book, "In The Service
Of My People.")
It is no longer a secret and
can now be made public.
During the Arab riots,
which began in 1929 and re-
curred in 1936, the under-
ground Jewish defense
organization, the Hagana,
-+ up its own network of
s in the surrounding
Arab countries. For the
Je-:is in Palestine it was im-
portant to know how their
Arab neighbors were think-
Hagana members-who
spoke fluent Arabic and
looked like Arabs would don
traditional Arab clothing
and slip across the border
into Jordan, Syria and
Lebanon, and sound the
Arabs out. They mixed with
the Arabs at bazaars,
teahouses and mosques.
On one of those tense days
in 1936, one of these spies
hurried back from Jordan
with unsettling news. It was
Wednesday morning when
he reported that a large
group of armed Jordanian
Arabs were planning a
bloody pogrom. They were
ostensibly coming to
Jerusalem on Friday to pray
___ at the Great Mosque — the
second holiest spot in the
Moslem world — but under
their flowing robes they
were to carry the necessary
weapons for the pogrom.
The pogromists were sup-
posed to meet at the mosque
(which is next to the West-
ern Wall), say their Friday
* * *
prayers, hear an inflam-
matory harangue by the
Shertok and Weizmann
Grand Mufti, and then rush spoke in Russian, in the ex-
out of the mosque with pectation that even if some-
rifles, revolvers, and knives body was listening in, he
wouldn't understand their
conversation. It turned out,
however, that their conver-
• •

sation was heard by an Arab
— by a member of the
Nashashibi family who had
studied in Turkey and
learned Russian there! This
Arab also had an important
incumbent & experience
post in the Mandatory Gov-
A Jewish friend, who was
PR1L 10, 1980 —7:30 pm
an official in the Mandatory
10 M ile Jewish Community Center
Government, too, but had
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no contact with the Jewish



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Agency, secretly informed
me that Shertok and Weiz-
mann's conversation had
been overheard and also
gave me the substance of
their talks. I telephoned
Shertok immediately. I was
a friend of his and we were
on a first-name basis.
"Moshe!," I said to him
quickly on the telephone. "I
must see you urgently about
your call today!" I did not
tell him on the telephone
that' meant his call to Lon-
don, but he immediately
understood what I meant.
"Come over right away.
But come quickly because
the curfew begins in an hour
and you won't be able to go
out on the street."
I explained that I had a
curfew pass that allowed me
to be on the street at any
hour. Every member of the
Jewish Agency Executive
had such a pass too, but he
asked me to come over right
away. I sensed the uneasi-
ness in his voice.
When I arrived at the
Jewish Agency building, I
found that not only Shertok
was waiting for me, but the
entire Executive of the
Jewish Agency, headed by
David Ben-Gurion.
I gave those present the
substance of the tele-
phone call as I had re-
ceived it myself and then
added: "I am not asking
you whether such a call
was actually made. The
story that such a call was
made will not go out be-
cause I =don't want to
cause a panic in the
Jewish world at large
and certainly not among
the Jews of Jerusalem. I
only felt it necessary to
inform you that your
most secret telephone
conversations are being
bugged, no matter what
language you speak. Per-
sonally I am sure that the
call was made — and
bugged — because the in-
formation comes from a
very reliable source."
When I had finished, the
members of the Executive
remained seated around the
table in a deadly silence.
The first to break the si-
lence was Shertok.
"I want you to know," he
said to me, "that every word
you quoted from my conver-
sation with Dr. Weizmann
was actually uttered. I also
want to thank you on behalf
of the entire Executive for
your sense of responsibility
in assuring us that this
news will not leak out as
long as we keep the entire

matter a secret. I also want
to thank you for telling us
that we have been bugged
by the Arabs. We suspected
this, but we did now know
all the details as you gave
them to us!"
Shertok finished and then
Ben-Gurion turned to me.
"Moshe has already ex-
pressed our thanks for your
action," he said. "Now I
would like to ask you a few
questions. First, would
like to know whether the
man who gave you this in-
formation, and who appears
to be well-informed, is a
Jew, Arab, or British?"
"He is Jewish and holds a
post in the Mandatory Gov-
ernment. He is not close to
the Jewish Agency, how-
ever," I replied.
"Did he give you this in-
formation so that you would
tell us that our conversation
was overheard?" Ben-
Gurion was curious to
"No! . . . He gave me the
story as a friend who wants
to help me in my work as a
correspondent. He did not
tell me what to do with the
story and I decided not to
use it, but to report to you
"Do you pay him for such
"No! . . . He often gives me
important stories, but never
for money . . . He does it
only out of a feeling of
friendship! . . ."
"Do you think he would be
willing to meet me and talk
to me? . ."
"I'm not sure . . . . But I'll
ask. If he agrees, I would be
only too happy to bring you
two together! . ."
"Do you think we have to
lodge a complaint with the
Mandatory Government
that our telephone calls are
being overheard? . ."
"I don't think such a com-
plaint should be lodged. You
would only make the Man-

Sect Attacks
Holocaust Unit

fanatical Neturei Karta Or-
thodox sect has issued a
-press release denouncing
President Carter's Commis-
sion on the Holocaust and
its chairman, author Elie
The Neturei Karta called
the commission "highly
commercialized" and
labeled Wiesel an atheist,
"a denier of those very val-
ues he pretends to encour-
age everyone else to re-

Jewish Teachers
Honor Katsh

NEW YORK — Prof. Ab-
raham I. Katsh, president
emeritus of Dropsie Univer-
sity, received the Jewish
Teacher's Association 1980
Avodah Award at a recent
dinner in his honor.
In 1933 at New York
University Katsh intro-
duced the first course in
modern Hebrew in any uni-
versity in America. Many of
Katsh's former students
attended the award dinner.

datory Government suspect
innocent Jewish people who
work for the telephone com-
pany. They could be sus-
pected of being in contact
with you and this could only
lead to their dismissal,
which you certainly don't
want. I didn't get my infor-
mation from someone who
works at the telephone
After a few more ques-
tions, Ben-Gurion assured
me that he appreciated ev-
erything I had done. "You
could have sent the story
abroad without even asking
us!" he said as we parted.
* * *

From that time on the
Jewish Agency never used
the telephone in com-
municating with London.
Another communications
system was set up for con-
tacting people abroad — a
system that neither the
Mandatory Government
nor the Arabs could bug.
The Jerusalem pogrom
did not take place because
at Dr. Weizmann's request,
the British governmeri+ ur-


gently sent military units to
Jerusalem. They came
overnight, in time to be on
the streets Friday morning.




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