Australian journalist and historian (Beersheba: A Journey Through Australia's Forgotten War (2009)), Paul Daley, has written an interesting essay for the Guardian Australia (31/10/16) website on the coming commemoration of the fall of Beersheba to Australian troops in 1917.
The title - Beersheba: we must keep an eye on how the story is told and interpreted - indicates that Daley, for one, realises that someone out there may have an interest in misrepresenting the historical record on this one. Hm... now who could that possibly be?
"It's 99 years today since soldiers of the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade took part in what is generally regarded as the last 'great' successful cavalry charge. So in a year we can expect the Australian - and Israeli - governments to go overboard on commemorating an event that has never received the considered national attention it warrants. The story of what happened at Beersheba in Palestine (today's rather inhospitable Israeli city of Be'er Sheva) has long been eclipsed by the intensive commemoration... of other Australian military events - most notably the failed invasion of Gallipoli in 1915 and dramatic, later, Australian casualties on the European western front. But the federal government is now cashed up (with some $600m). And, so, Beersheba will get its moment."
Now here's where he gets really interesting:
"It will pay to listen closely and to be wary about what you might hear from the Australian and Israeli governments. Israel? It didn't exist, of course, at the time of the charge, which took place in what was Ottoman Palestine. But Israel has gone to some lengths to claim what happened as something of a formative step in its establishment."
No surprises there, Paul, Israel has gone to some (nay, to extraordinary) lengths to claim all sorts of things - hence this blog which can barely keep up with them all.
Daley returns to the theme later in his piece:
"During the weeks and months I spent walking the Beersheba charge site and travelling from Gaza to Jordan, Damascus and Lebanon, tracing the mounted Australian battles, I realised how readily certain groups - not least Zionists, Christian Zionists and evangelicals, were appropriating the stories of the Australian Light Horse. I negotiated my share of eccentrics, including those dressed as light horsemen who insisted that the Australians were doing God's work in wresting Palestine from the infidel Turks so that a Jewish homeland might re-establish itself there. That the charge coincided with the British war cabinet's formulation of the Balfour Declaration - in support of a Jewish state in Palestine - is grist to the (Christian/Zionist) mythology... While some of the light horsemen did refer to the biblical names they passed through as they fought, few saw themselves as being guided by the hand of God, let alone working towards the reestablishment of a Jewish homeland. A small prelude to what we might expect next year came in 2013 with the joint release by Australia Post and Israel Post of stamps commemorating Beersheba. 'The capture of Beersheba allowed British empire forces to break the Ottoman line near Gaza and then advance into Palestine, a chain of events which eventually culminated in the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.' Some historians of the Middle East and Palestinian groups were, rightly, angry at the conflation. Beersheba, you can be certain, will be evoked next year as testimony to the 'special' Israel/Australia relationship... Well, they ain't seen nothing yet, I fear... I'll be writing a lot more here about Australians in the Middle East during world war one."
Although I have been justifiably critical of Daley's take on the contemporary Middle East (Just click on the label below), it's good to see that he has at least cottoned on to what the Zionist lobby in Australia is up to on this one. Two things in his piece, however, require correction: 1) The Sarafand (or Surafend, if you will) massacre should not be dressed up as a "less than noble act." A massacre is a massacre is a massacre; 2) Australian troops did not enter Damascus "before TE Lawrence 'of Arabia'." To begin with, the reference to Lawrence should be ditched. It was the forces of the Arab Revolt, led by the Emir Faisal, who entered Damascus first. (See my posts Daley of Damascus (13/12/11) and The Aussie Shirtfronter's Guide to History (29/7/16).)