Monday, June 24, 2013

Norman Lets the Side Down

As the Australian Light Horse charged the Turkish trenches guarding Beersheba with the warcry For King Herzl and the Jewish State on their foam-flecked lips...

Just joking!

But if, as the usual suspects would have us believe, those two besties, Australia and Israel, go way back to the Battle of Beersheba in 1917; if that was indeed the start of a long and beautiful friendship, albeit belatedly recognised by the joint issue of commemorative stamps only in 2013, you'd probably expect a Zionist or two living chronologically closer to the event to have noticed, would you not?

He or she, of course, would have to have been not only a true-blue, dinky-di Zionist, but one intimately connected with the earliest stages of the Zionist project in Palestine, right? After all, the current Zionist push to conjure up a link between the ANZACS of 1917 and today's Israel isn't likely to accept the evidence of just any old scholar.

Well, I'd like to nominate Norman Bentwich (1883-1971) as our judge in this matter. How's this for credentials:

"Norman De Mattos Bentwich OBE MC was a British barrister and legal academic. He was the British-appointed attorney-general of Mandatory Palestine and a life-long Zionist." (Wikipedia)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but just how true-blue was this particular true-blue Zionist? Well, a true Zionist is reality averse. Was Bentwich reality averse? Was he what?!

His cheeky colleague, CR Ashbee, once tried to keep it real with Bentwich by quoting James George Frazer at him, as follows:

"It is the opinion of competent judges that the modern fellaheen or Arabic-speaking peasants of Palestine are descendents of the pagan tribes which dwelt there, before the Israelite invasion, and have clung to the soil ever since, being submerged but never destroyed by each successive wave of conquest which has swept over the land." (Folk Lore in the Old Testament, Vol. 1, p 17)

"When I put that statement of Frazer's up to Norman Bentwich one day as we were out riding together," wrote Ashbee, "he met it with a complete unbelief. The fact, if indeed it were a fact, did not touch him, he was dreaming of other things. His smile of childlike confidence in effect said: 'I don't believe it.' Facts have no value in the light of utter faith; they do not exist. Yet that fact is another answer to Zionism, perhaps the strongest of all." (A Palestine Notebook, 1923, p 111)


Now as if that were not enough to qualify Bentwich as judge & jury in the matter here before us, he also, as it happens, wrote a book called simply Palestine  - Zionists weren't as squeamish back then as they are these days of that word - the Foreword of which, by British historian H.A.L. Fisher, testifies to the man's eminent suitability for registering purely Zionist vibes:

"Optimism is pardonable in an Anglo-Jewish Professor of the new University of Jerusalem, who sets himself down to write the remarkable story of the first thirteen years of British rule in Palestine and has witnessed the realization of a dream cherished through so many centuries by his ancient race." (1934, p 5)

So, if something deep, meaningful, and worthy of commemoration through the issue of joint Australian-Israeli stamps, was forged on the Beersheba battlefield, Norman Bentwich would surely be the one to know about it, right?

OK, so let's see what he has to say about the matter in his book:

"After months of preparation the English attack on the Turkish front line from Gaza to Beersheba was launched at the end of October [1917]. The Turkish position was broken first at Beersheba and then by the sea; and their army was rolled back in rout over the Plain of Sharon on the one side and the hill country around Hebron on the other. General Allenby pressed the pursuit through the Judean hills, and rapidly occupied in turn Jaffa, Ramleh, Ludd, Hebron, and Bethlehem." (ibid, p 74-75)

Whaaat?  You mean, that's it?

No mention of Australians? No mention of adoring Jews chanting, Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!?

Can you believe it?


Anonymous said...

Don't tell me there has been another name change?
According to Sir Basil Liddell Hart the breakthrough of October through to November 1917 took place "into the plain of Philistia"

I wonder when it was changed to the plain of Sharon?

History of the First World War, p398.

MERC said...

Remember when the whole country - from the river to the sea - used to be called Palestine? Israel really is Palestine - occupied Palestine.

Anonymous said...

Israel is Occupied Palestine? Sir, I opened the Holy Koran, the Holy book of the Muslims, and find several dozens of times the word "Israel" and "Bane Israel (the people of Israel)". I didn't find the word "Falastin (Palestine)" even not one time.

Than, looking in the Hadith's (Islamic traditional holy scriptures)and, again, only the name Israel.

I hope Australian Muslims will confirm this information.

MERC said...

This is quite simply a colonial issue. It has nothing to do with religion.

Anonymous said...


Thank you very much for your reply.

I don't think it is a colonial issue only. Colonists occupied other territory that they have no connection with it, for instance France occupied Vietnam or GB occupied Kenya. In both cases, French and British peoples had nothing to do in these two (former)colonies.

In contrary, the Jewish people has a deep root to the land of Israel (or Palestine, if you prefer to call it. Only other name to same land, name that the Roman first used in order to erase the name Judea). I think that most Muslims will agree with me about this fact. In my humble opinion, you can't use the term "colonialism" to describe people that return their home.

Indeed, there is a long conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. But, please remember: BOTH PEOPLES, JEWS AND ARABS, ARE VICTIMS OF THIS CONFLICT!!!! This conflict must be solved by peace agreement between both peoples and not by erasing one entity.

Merc, look, the Palestinians will not disappear from this land as well as the Jews will not disappear. By declaring that all ISRAEL, from the river to the sea, is occupied Palestine, we only go far from peace and far from leaving together.

If today France and Germany are good allies and friends after 300 years of wars between them, there is no reason why Israel and Palestine will be the same.

In other comment, I will write you my opinions about the term "Israeli Apartheid" that you use many times in your blog.

God bless Palestine and Israel.

MERC said...

Can we please stick to the point - colonialism? "Zionist colonization... must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can, therefore, continue and develop under the protection of a force independent of the local population - an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs. To formulate it in any other way would be hypocrisy." (Vladimir Jabotinsky)

Mannie De Saxe said...

Norman Bentwich was closely related to Lizette Bentwitch - an Australian and my grandmother's first cousin - and she was a zionist from her earliest days. She was also Sir John Monash's mistress, so there were all sorts of connections to Palestine and zionism.

Also it would be helpful for some of your posters to read the books of Shlomo Sand: "The Invention of the Jewish People" and "The Invention of the Land of Israel" - both very enlightening!

Mannie De Saxe

MERC said...

Am in complete agreement re Sand's books, Mannie. Unfortunately, people like anon just will not read anything that challenges their preconceptions, prejudices, and false narratives indoctrinated in childhood. Even the above straight-from-the-horses-mouth quote of Jabotinsky's is like water off a duck's back with them (if you'll excuse the zoological figures of speech here). He also needs to read Ilan Pappe's 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine' and talk to the good folk at Zochrot in Tel Aviv. As Ashbee noted with Norman, 'he's dreaming of other things'.