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...
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 . 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?