Today is an important day to reflect on one of the most significant conflicts of the First World War and remember the truth behind the event, writes Peter Wicks.
“In war, truth is the first casualty.”
Today is Anzac Day.
It is a day where we honour the memories of those who fought and died in armed combat to defend both our country and our allies.
It is also a day where we make a solemn oath to not forget their names, their deeds and their motivations.
One of the most famous battles our diggers fought was the legendary Battle Of Beersheba.
Aussies are well known to fight hard for anything that has “beer” in its name, however, this particular battle was unique in its display of bravery by Anzac troops who risked all to oust the Turks for a valuable ally, Israel.
There is, however, a rather large problem with this version of history. This legendary battle took place on 31 October 1917, but Israel did not exist until 1948.
The fact is Australian troops were in that part of the Middle East to take control of Jerusalem for the British Empire and drive out the Ottoman Empire Forces (the Turks). Beersheba was a strategically vital part of the plan. This plan was the Southern Palestine Offensive.
Beersheba was vital as it was to be a source of water — quite important in a desert. It was also a valuable supply depot with access to the railway line and the Hebron Road, which led to Jerusalem. If it could be seized from the Turks, troops could be rapidly deployed to the north and west, cutting off the Turkish lines to Gaza.
It was the site of one of Australia’s most celebrated military campaigns, the Charge Of The 4th Light Horse Brigade. Anzac troops advanced on the Turkish trenches at a casual trot and at about three kilometres out, they charged. With the Brigade’s bayonets drawn, their horses charged head-on into machine gun fire and vaulted the trenches, leaving the Turks trapped inside to be killed or captured.
During the battle, 32 Australians were killed and another 36 injured.
What is offensive about the Southern Palestine Offensive is how history is being rewritten and how our political leaders and even our military leaders are doing nothing at all about it.
There are many war memorial monuments scattered around Australia that pay homage to the Australian troops who fought in Palestine, mentioning Palestine by name.
In 2017, a delegation of Australian politicians and assorted dignitaries headed to Beersheba to celebrate the 100th anniversary of this proud moment in both Australian and Palestinian history. However, the narrative from the host nation was distorted in order to turn the event into little more than a propaganda exercise for the current occupying Israeli Government.
The delegation was treated to a re-enactment of the charge of the light horse brigade. Temporary seating had been set up so that the invited guests had a birds-eye view of the great charge that was meant to be an accurate depiction of what had happened a century earlier.
Mounted troops charged towards the spectators with the thunderous sound of pounding hooves drowning out all other sounds. That is about where the realism ended and the propaganda began.
Many of the mounted troops didn’t carry rifles or bayonets; instead, they carried flags. Some carried the flag of Israel, a country that didn’t even exist at the time of the battle and, as such, had nothing at all to do with the battle. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Palestine – including Beersheba, who our troops fought for – has been forcibly occupied by Israel since the Nakbah that came 21 years later.
The Nakbah, which means catastrophe, was the 1948 Israeli ethnic cleansing offensive that left 15,000 Palestinians dead and 800,000 stranded as refugees while the Israeli forces went on the land grab which sees them occupy so much Palestinian territory to this day.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had downgraded our diggers' historic charge into some kind of nationalistic flag-waving ceremony. But alas, that was not even the worst of it.
In his address, Netanyahu told the crowd:
“We saw here in Be’er Sheva [the Israeli occupiers' name for Beersheba] 800 cavalry go against 4,000 embedded Turks with machine guns, with bunkers. The few won against the many. That’s the spirit of the army of Israel. It stands today.”
The Israeli army did not exist during the Battle of Beersheba to have any spirit, neither did Israel for that matter. I would also note that the reputation Israel’s army holds today is likely something many of our diggers would not want to be associated with. Particularly given many of the Palestinians our troops formed friendships with during the Southern Palestine Offensive were either massacred or driven off their land in the Nakbah 21 years later.
Netanyahu went on to talk up Israel’s foreign policy, stating:
“We set out a simple policy. We seek peace with all our neighbours but we will not tolerate any attacks on our sovereignty, on our people, on our land, whether from the air, from the sea, from the ground or below the ground.”
These words from Netanyahu were not just ironic but in the poorest of taste — intentionally omitting the Nakbah and the very reasons Israel now occupies the land upon which he was standing in order to paint the oppressed as the oppressor. Netanyahu talking of seeking peace with his Palestinian neighbours whose relatives Israeli forces massacred and whose land they continue to steal this day is an insult to anyone with an IQ that can’t be counted on one hand.
Canberra Times cartoonist David Pope wasn't falling for it. His cartoon about the travesty drew complaints from Israel's embassy which only shows that the Israeli Government doesn't believe in freedom of speech but are pro-censorship, in stark contrast to the values our military serve to protect.
As for the Israeli flags being displayed at a re-enactment and the spirit of the army of Israel’s apparent involvement, was it fortunate that we had so many of our politicians there to set the record straight?
Neither Malcolm Turnbull or Bill Shorten or any of the other MPs attending said a word about this distortion of events and a foreign leader using our veteran’s memories as a propaganda tool, or the fabrication of our diggers’ motivations and allegiances to suit a Zionist agenda. If our federal politicians weren’t there to represent Australian troops, who were they there to represent?
I wonder if we would put up with this distortion and misrepresentation of our troops’ memories at Gallipoli. Are the memories of our diggers at Beersheba somehow less valuable?
Last week, I emailed Minister for Veterans Affairs Darren Chester MP with some queries on the Government's position on this important day in both Australian and Palestinian history. At the time of publication, the only response was an acknowledgement the email had been received.
Each Anzac Day we say the words “Lest We Forget” to remind us that the bravery and courage of our troops and the reasons they risked their lives for Australia are things we should never forget.
Sadly, the diggers who fought at the Battle of Beersheba have now found themselves as pawns in a propaganda war for a Zionist ideology. Sadder still, in Australia, the government of the very country for which they fought seem totally unconcerned or completely complacent.
Today I will be keeping the promise we make each year to not forget these brave men and what they fought for.
Our politicians may be willing to sell their service out. I’m not.
Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.