From the folk that brought us such golden oldies as Driving the Jews into the Sea (1948-2008), The Great Palestinian Moonlight Flit (1948), The Greatest Existential Threat Ever Told (1967), Hey Yasser, Have I Got a Deal for You! (2000), and the current chart topper, Wiping Israel Off the Map, comes a little number written exclusively for Australian consumption: The Charge of the Australian Zionist Horse Brigade. At the moment it's literally charging up the Australian charts faster than an Israel lobbyist can get on the blower to a news editor. Just check out these variations and spin-offs:-
"The ties that bind Jerusalem and Canberra were further cemented with the commemoration last November of the 90th anniversary of the Charge of the Light Horse brigade [31/10/08], when brave Aussie Diggers trounced the Turks at Be'er Sheva, paving the way for the capture of Jerusalem...And it is in Be'er Sheva that Richard Pratt is ploughing funds to build the Park of the Australian Soldier - a permanent memorial to those who died in battle for the Jewish state." (Editorial by Dan Goldberg, Rhapsody: Linking Culture between Israel & Australia, Jan-Mar 2008)
"Ninety-one years after the Australian Light Horse captured Be'er Sheva, a group of descendants, veterans, representatives from the Australian Defence Forces and dignitaries will travel to Israel to unveil a monument commemorating the legendary charge. It is likely to be an emotional trip for the 200 men and women who make the journey, not only because of their close links to the battle of Be'er Sheva, but also because the result of the famous victory was the emergence of a thriving, democratic and vibrant nation... just 2 days after Be'er Sheva was taken, another historic event occurred. The first decree which identified the need for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, the Balfour Declaration, was signed at a British cabinet meeting. While the two events weren't strategically linked, history has demonstrated that they were both integral to the conception of a Jewish state... The Be'er Sheva monument honouring the Australian Light Horse [by Australian sculptor Peter Corlett] has been erected in the newly built Park of the Australian soldier. The project was undertaken by the Pratt Foundation, which has also worked closely with the Israel Travel Centre to locate and send 60 descendents of the legendary regiments to Israel for the unveiling." (Charge! Memories of the Light Horse, Adam Kamien, Australian Jewish News, 25/4/08)
"The battle claimed 31 Australian lives but opened the road to Jerusalem and, eventually, Damascus, for the Allies and precipitated the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Two days after the battle, Britain pledged a homeland for the Jews... it was [Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Alan] Griffin's predecessor, Bruce Billson, who put the victory into context when he spoke at the launch of the Park of the Australian Soldier in May last year. 'The Australian victory at Beersheba in 1917 set in train some remarkable events - the liberation of Jerusalem, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate in Palestine and, ultimately, the establishment of the state of Israel'." (Charge of Beersheba, Dan Goldberg, editor of Rhapsody, The Sun-Herald, 27/4/08)
"Australia's Jewish community can be proud the unique Australia-Israel relationship has been an important dimension of Israel's remarkable story. This relationship began in World War I at Gallipoli, where Jewish Zionist volunteers from what was not yet called Palestine fought alongside Australian diggers." (The time for peace has come, Colin Rubenstein, executive-director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), SMH, 29/4/08)
"The park, named the Park of the Australian Soldier, was opened by Governor-General Michael Jeffery and Israeli President Shimon Peres. Five years in the planning, the park is an initiative of the Melbourne-based Pratt Foundation, which has worked with the City of Beersheba council in an effort to produce a facility that taps into the legacy of the Australian campaign and builds on what Mr Peres described as a bilateral relationship 'without any bad weather'." (Light Horseman takes a stand in Beersheba, Martin Chulov, The Australian, 29/4/08)
"The Pratt Foundation set out some 5 years ago to pay tribute to their courage, and to commemorate the ties of war and peace which have linked Australia with Jewish and Zionist history. We chose Be'er Sheva because this is where the Australian Light Horse won a remarkable victory - and this is where the gallant 800 changed Jewish history, and the history of the Middle East. The Australian capture of Be'er Sheva marked the beginning of the end of Ottoman rule in Palestine. And as a moment in history which should command our attention, on the same afternoon of October 31st, that the Light Horse rode towards the Turkish guns and wells, the British War Cabinet signed off on the Balfour Declaration, a critical milestone along the path to Israel's establishment." (Speech by Sam Lipski [of the Pratt Foundation] at the dedication ceremony for the Park of the Australian Soldier, http://www.ajn.com.au/, 29/4/08)
Not everybody is quite in tune of course. Dan for one is all over the place. In his Rhapsody rap, he's got the Australian Zionist Horse literally dying for Israel (see my April post Anzac Day Special: Diggers Die for Israel), whereas in his rendition for The Sun-Herald he's got them dying for Israel, but retrospectively. Then there's a slight question of timing. Adam's got the Balfour Declaration signed off by the Britz 2 days after the charge of the Zionist Horse, but the others reckon that that's when it was issued. And Sam's contradicting Adam, saying it was signed off on the same day as the Light Zionist charge. These guys are all over the place! But worse than all that was that closet Arab-lover Martin who called Be'er Sheva Beersheba! And bloody silly Dan, all over the place as I said, after first calling it by its correct name, Be'er Sheva, goes on to call it Beersheba too! And Colin, what can we say about Colin? Off on a frolic all his own to Gallipoli of all places! So typical of that AIJAC mob.
Seriously though, it's time for a reality check. Try as I might, I can find nothing on the charge of the Australian(?) Light Horse in any of the reputable histories I've consulted. Naomi Shepherd's Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine 1917-1948 - 0. Jill Hamilton's God, Guns & Israel: Britain, the First World War and the Jews in the Holy Land - 0. Sami Hadawi's The Palestine Diary Volume 1, 1914-1945 - 0. George Antonius' The Arab Awakening - 0. I hate to spoil the festive mood, but could it be that the taking of Beersheba by 800 Australians was just a sideshow? That Gaza was actually the main military game?
Here's Hamilton: "While [the British cabinet] sat at No.10 Downing Street [General] Allenby's massive army of over 100,000 men, 50,000 horses and squadrons of aircraft was breaking through the Beersheba/Gaza fortifications. As well as ammunition they had a new weapon, asphyxiating gas... Allenby unleashed the contents of 10,000 shells to float across the formidable trench system and barriers at the third battle of Gaza on 1-2 November 1917... After taking Gaza, Allenby broke through the Turkish lines and on 4 November started up the coast to Jaffa."(p 143)
Could it be that it was the Arab Revolt and their capture of Aqaba that turned the tide against the Turks in Palestine? Here's Antonius: "In its military implications, the move to 'Aqaba caused serious embarrassment to the Turco-German command in Syria at a time when every available man and gun were needed to oppose the British advance on Jerusalem. But its political consequences... were more damaging still. 'Aqaba became the tangible embodiment of the Revolt and a base for the political undermining as well as the military undoing of the Turkish power in Syria." (p 225) And this: "The political action manifested itself in a variety of ways, all of them tending to weaken Turkey by winning the Arabs of Syria over to the Allied side. The principle weapon of propaganda employed was that, thanks to the agreement concluded between Sir Henry McMahon and the Sharif (now King) Husain, the Allied cause had become identical with the cause of Arab independence; and that the triumph of allied arms would bring freedom to the Arab peoples... Colonel A C Parker... invited Shaikh Furaih abu Meddain, the paramount chief of the Beersheba tribes, to a conference at al-'Arish and handed him an autograph letter from King Husain calling upon all Arabs to aid the efforts of the British forces who were working for Arab liberation. Aeroplanes flew over the Turkish lines and rained copies of King Husein's letter, on the back of which was printed an appeal from the British command asking Arab officers and men in the Turkish army to desert... The tribes in the Beersheba district who had fought on the Turkish side... melted away... and re-appeared further south on the right flank of the British forces advancing on Gaza... the British forces advancing towards Jerusalem found themselves fighting in a friendly country, while the Turks... found themselves fighting in the midst of a decidedly hostile population." (p225-227)
Despite the myth-making and re-writing of history by the hasbara merchants in Israeli PR, the dirty truth is that the diplomatic front was where political Zionism got its foot in the door of Palestine. Israel came with the fall of No. 10 Downing Street to the Zionists. Nothing heroic about it, just a grubby exercise in realpolitik. Behind the closed doors of No. 10, a Christian Zionist in a top hat committed to the handing over of the land of Palestine to the smooth-talking salesman of a European national movement, political Zionism.
And the natives who had been conned by British promises of independence? Lord Balfour wasn't talking through his top hat when he wrote: "Do we mean, in the case of Syria, to consult principally the wishes of the inhabitants? We mean nothing of the kind... The contradiction between the letter of the Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the 'independent nation' of Palestine than in that of the 'independent nation' of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country... The Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land... In short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate." (Quoted in David Hirst, The Gun & the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, pp 41-42)
No wonder the Israelis and their boosters in this country want to gull us with fairytales.