A regular feature of Anzac Day coverage in the Australian Jewish News of late has been the suggestion of a spiritual nexus between Australia and Israel forged by the charge of the Australian Light Horse against Turkish trenches defending the town of Beersheba in Palestine in 1917. This shameless appropriation of the Light Horse's exploits to cement the current Australia-Israel relationship continues in this week's issue with Peter Kohn's Our debt to the diggers:
"The Australian Light Horse Charge, the last cavalry charge ever, had enormous consequences. The Balfour Declaration, by British foreign secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour promising a Jewish homeland, was approved by the British parliament the very day Beersheva [sic] was charged, and was issued 2 days later."
Typically, in addition to the dishonest linking of two completely unrelated historical events, there are other problems with the above construction. Let me deal with them first.
The first is the false impression that the Balfour Declaration (the "most discreditable document to which a British Government has set its hand within memory," according to its chief interrogator JMN Jeffries) was authored exclusively by Lord Balfour. In fact, as Jeffries points out, it bore the ink-stained fingerprints of a bevy of senior British politicians and Zionist lobbyists, both British and American:
"This too memorable document is not so much a sentence of English as a verbal mosaic. Drafts for it travelled back and forth, within England or over the Ocean, to be scrutinized by some two score draftsmen half-cooperating, half competing with one another, who erased this phrase or adopted that after much thought. At long last, out of the store of their rejections and of their acceptances the final miscellany was chosen, ratified and fixed. There never has been a proclamation longer prepared, more carefully produced, more consciously worded."* (Palestine: The Reality, 1939, p 172)
The second is that the Balfour Declaration was approved and issued by the British war cabinet alone. Parliament played no part whatsoever in the process. This by-passing of Parliament was also true of the 1923 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine which acted as the declaration's Trojan Horse. Jeffries again:
"So the next few months saw some statements made about the Turkish Treaty and the Mandate which should have been collected together and placarded on walls and doors throughout the British Isles. Mr Bonar Law led off with the most startling statement of all. Asked in the House of Commons whether no definite acceptance would be undertaken without the assent of Parliament, he answered quite calmly, 'The assent of Parliament is not required for the acceptance of a Mandate'." (ibid, p 363)
And elsewhere: "The Mandate, in so far as it was a British creation, was only a Governmental creation. Parliament never examined and passed the terms of the Mandate as it examines and passes legislation. The House of Lords, owing to its more elastic procedure and its greater independence, was able to register its disapproval of the terms next year . The terms, though, were never presented to the Lords for acceptance or rejection, and as far as the Lords' vote was concerned, the Government simply ignored it..." (ibid, p 542)
While the Zionist fairytale that magically links the Balfour Declaration and the charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba cannot be taken seriously, it is regularly invoked, especially at this time of year, as the basis for a deep and lasting friendship between Australia and Israel. The iteration of this propaganda trope, although profoundly irritating, should at least prompt the historically-minded among us to critically consider the role and legacy of Australian troops in Palestine during World War I.
Following the end of the war, from 1918 to 1920, Palestine was ruled by a British military administration, the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (O.E.T.A.), which was required by international law to maintain the status quo in Palestine. This requirement, however, conflicted with the Zionist goal of transforming the country into a Jewish 'national home' (the then euphemism for a Jewish state) as speedily as possible. And so, even before a treaty had been signed with the Turks or a mandate officially conferred on Britain by the League of Nations, the Zionists began a successful agitation in Whitehall to terminate military rule in Palestine and replace it with what Jeffries called "the forged Mandatory Government of 1920."**
The significance of this coup was that, again in Jeffries words, "It was under the [draft] document entitled 'Mandate for Palestine' that between 1920 and 1923 the expropriation of the Arabs... from the proprietorial rights granted to them by nature and contract was thoroughly begun." (ibid, p 594)
In condemning the termination of OETA rule in 1920 as a profoundly illegal move, Jeffries was moved to reflect on the purpose for which British and Australian troops had fought and died in Palestine. His fine, passionate words, written back in the 1930s, must surely conjure in us (we who have the benefit of far greater historical hindsight) the sobering thought that, as these troops went about liberating Arab Palestine from Turkish domination, incurring thousands of deaths and woundings in the process, a cabal of Zionist ideologues and their British government dupes in Whitehall were plotting to give Palestine over to Zionist colonization preparatory to the establishment there of a Jewish supremacist state:
"Granted that the Palestine Administration of 1920-3 was illegal, is it not begging reality to harp upon this? Palestine had been conquered by the British Army, the blood of British and Australian soldiers had been shed profusely to win it, it would not have been torn from Turkish rule without these many lives so bravely sacrificed. Is it not begging reality to accuse a British Government of being illegitimate where the return of peace, the prospect of plenty and the whole existence of civilized government had depended upon British arms?
"This argument has been put forward by some who have not thought much before they spoke, and by others who have masked a good deal of subtlety with a covering of bluff patriotism. The underlying assumption of it is that the soldiers who fell in Palestine fell fighting to provide there that form of government which Mr Lloyd George installed. The 5th Norfolks, the 8th Hampshires bled so that the Sevres Treaty might not die: the men of the 53rd Division left 600 casualties on the Samson Ridge so that the 9 subterfuges of the Balfour Declaration might pass unchallenged: the Australian Light Horse charged crying, 'Advance the National Home!'
"Was anything further from the truth? We know why our soldiers died - in loyalty to their country. Some of them too will have reflected as they marched to battle that they were going to redeem the land of their Saviour: all of them will have had some consciousness of this side of their empire. If there was anything for which they did not die, it was that a British Government should use their bones as the foundation of a quibbling State unable to disclose its beginnings or avow its ends. It was for no such State in Palestine, nor for any political nostrum or thesis that they fought, and least of all in order that through their faithfulness their rulers should have ample opportunities for infidelity.
"They expected of course to inaugurate some kind of British rule, in their soldiers' way, as part of the campaign; but they looked no further. If they thought of the matter at all, they thought of a coming military Government by their chiefs. This was what they died to establish, if you will: and who disestablished it? Is it maintained that the fallen men of the British Army in Palestine cried out from their graves that the survivors of the British Army must cease in 1920 to govern the land in which they lay, or else their own sacrifice was in vain?
"If there is one plea in the world that will not do, it is this one that because of the Army's victory and for the sake of the dead lying on the battlefields, the tricks and the perfidies of statesmen must be condoned. More than in any other place it is intolerable in Palestine, where the Administration formed by the leaders and the comrades of the dead was ejected by these very statesmen. In 1920 there was no necessity for O.E.T.A. [Occupied Enemy Territory Administration] to come to an end. It was the legitimate vehicle of rule under the conditions of armistace. All that could be said against it was that it was lasting a long while and that it cost money. But both of these things were disadvantages such as might be expected to spring from a great war: neither had the faintest pretension to rank as a lawful reason for ending the regime. Whatever the expense, too, of continuing O.E.T.A., on a restricted scale, physically and morally, would have been more apt for the country. Nothing, in fine, permitted the termination of the Military Government in order that the pseudo-Mandatory Administration might replace it." (pp 402-4)
For those who wish to explore further the idea that British and Australian blood was needlessly spilled in Palestine in 1917, and I suggest you do - especially today - see my 13/12/10 post Diggers Who Died for Israel? I should add here that it is unlikely that Jeffries would have been aware of the Morgenthau Mission at the time he was writing Palestine: The Reality.
To return to Kohn's feature, the following extract reveals clearly the direction in which Zionist exploitation of Australian military history is leading:
"On the 90th anniversary of the charge, in October 2007, 70 members of the Australian Light Horse Association staged a re-enactment from Allenby's Hill into Beersheva. Less a charge with divots hurtling from thundering horses' hooves than a controlled ride, the restaging nonetheless enthralled crowds of Israelis. The visiting horsemen took part in Beersheva Day at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery, after liaising with the Society for the Preservation of World War I History, an Israeli organisation. 'We feel this is a very special place', Queenslander Barry Rodgers, the re-enactment's co-ordinator, told The AJN at the time. 'There are 12,000 young Australians lying buried here over both world wars and it's given us a special bond and a special friendship with the Israeli people. They need to know that they're not alone. We're standing with them, even in their present conflict'."
Barry Rodgers may well be an expert in the military minutiae of the period and the place, but when it comes to the bigger political picture, he's sadly and unwittingly allowed himself to be sucked in by the political heirs of the authors of the Balfour Declaration and its vehicle, the British Mandate for Palestine.
Lest we forget indeed.
[*See my 3/4/12 post The Balfour Deception 1;**See my 26/12/11 post Zionism in the Dock.]