Australians Remember the Battle of Beersheba

Feb. 24 2017

At nearly every public appearance Benjamin Netanyahu has made during his visit to Australia, someone has referred to the charge of the Australian Light Brigade at the Negev city of Beersheba in 1917—a World War I event that every Australian schoolchild has heard of. Herb Keinon writes:

[As the Australian prime minister Malcolm] Turnbull put it during [a public event with Netanyahu], the “Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade captured the town of Beersheba from the Ottoman Turks in the fading daylight of the 31st of October 1917” in what proved a pivotal moment in the [British-led] Palestine campaign.

Netanyahu called it “the last great successful cavalry charge in history,” one that liberated Beersheba and led to the end of Ottoman control of the area. For Australians, the battle is remembered not for what it meant for Zionism, but what it meant for Australians as an independent people.

In fact, thousands of Australian tourists and World War I buffs are expected to [come to Israel for] ceremonies commemorating the battle’s [upcoming] centennial. For, as Australia’s ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma explained in a recent interview, that battle “has a lot of resonance for the Australian public” because it was a major Australian success in the First World War. . . . “While the Battle of Gallipoli was a military defeat, the Battle of Beersheba was seen as a great success, with the Australian horse brigade turning the tide.”

The Battle of Beersheba . . . was fought on the first day of the Palestine campaign. From there Australian troops went on to march into Jerusalem, capture Tiberias, go to Megiddo, and eventually take Damascus and Aleppo.

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More about: Austria, Benjamin Netanyahu, History & Ideas, Ottoman Empire, World War I

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East