Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Has Paul Daley Dropped the Ball on Beersheba?

Today, of course, marks the centenary of the Battle for Beersheba, about which I have posted much under the label 'AIF'.

I will be dealing more with the politics of its Israeli/Australian 'commemoration' this week.

For now, however, let me recall the following words by Guardian columnist and historian Paul Daley (Beersheba: A Journey Through Australia's Forgotten War, 2009), written on this very day last year (See my 2/11/16 post Keep Your Eye on Beersheba):

"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 [...] I realised how readily certain groups - not least Zionists, Christian Zionists and evangelicals, were appropriating the stories of the Australian Light Horse [...] 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." (Beersheba: we must keep an eye on how the story is told & interpreted, theguardian.com, 31/10/16)

Is it just me, or is the take-home message here: I know what the Zionists and their camp followers are up to here. I'm on their case, and I'll be keeping a watching brief on their distortions in the lead-up to the Beersheba centenary, and reporting back on same?

In fact, to my knowledge, Daley has written nothing since on the subject of Beersheba... until yesterday that is, and even then most of its content consisted of military minutiae. Buried in said minutiae was this faint echo of last year's fighting words:

"For decade after decade the critical Australian role in the Beersheba victory was little more than a footnote in military history... But such is the politics of remembrance that the centenary of the battle of Beersheba, which falls at the end of the third year of Australia's $600 million-plus world war one commemoration extravaganza, will finally have its moment. Politicians, of course, are wont to commemorate significant moments in military history for many reasons, not least to justify participation in contemporary conflicts. Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull... and Labor leader Bill Shorten are due to attend Beersheba commemorations in Israel this week where the battle - and especially the charge - will be invoked as defining a special relationship between Canberra and Tel Aviv. The events will be marked with Australian flags and those of Israel, the modern Jewish state that did not actually exist until 1948." (Beersheba centenary: let's remember that story is not the same as history, theguardian.com, 30/10/17)

Again, is it me, or has Daley squibbed it? And why?


Vacy said...

Yes, he has quipped it... I was shocked when I heard him on ABC radio yesterday morning nuancing the connection between Israel and ANZAC sacrifice. Not surprised if there's a perk in there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Truly apalling was the comment by Jonathon King, author of a book about the charge, who was interviewed by Fran Kelly on Tuesday 31st (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/100th-anniversary-of-battle-for-beersheba/9102122).

When asked by Kelly a vacuous question as to whether the Palestinians had a right to feel agrieved by the Balfour Declaration he said yes, but he had never seen any visible signs of protest. He hastened to point out, however, that the biggest betrayal was by Allenby of Lawrence of Arabia (~7:30 into the interview). WTF