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Turnbull's Netanyahu-Beersheeba treacle

By Stuart Rees - posted Monday, 10 April 2017


In late February, at a luncheon to welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made a forgettable speech.

Lacquered with treacle, full of false claims, peppered with indifference to any concern about justice, Turnbull spoke as though he'd been briefed by Netanyahu's Cabinet.

As long as readers don't easily become nauseous, this speech is worth reading as a document which represents hypocrisy, develops fake news and endorses the idea that political gain can be made through deceit.

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He starts with Herculean thunder as in the claim that Australia and Israel have 'a relationship forged in the crucible of history.' Presumably that means that 1788 & 1948 were the same: Australia in 1788 an empty, uninhabited continent, Israel in 1948 'a land without a people for a people without a land', hence the justification for driving 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and quickly erasing 500 villages and towns from the surface of the earth ?

In Turnbull's account of history, Australia and Israel have vitality derived from the two young nations' optimism and enterprise. There's no mention of indifference to international law, to the scorn reserved for human rights coupled to complete indifference to the suffering of Palestinians.

Charge of the Light Brigade

At that point, jingoism takes over. The Australian Prime Minister sees himself on October 30th 1917 in the uniform of the Australia 4th light horse brigade in the attack on Beersheeba, known ironically as the third battle of Gaza. Instead of fighting the Turks, Turnbull deploys military imagery, presumably to deflect attention from hostile opinion polls.

In a manipulative version of history, Turnbull announces that he'll be commemorating the capture of Beersheeba from the Ottoman Turks nearly one hundred years ago, 'as one of the foundations of our relationship'. The charge of the light brigade contributed to the creation of the state of Israel ? This beggars belief.

The Balfour Declaration initiated British support for the idea of a Jewish homeland. The Declaration was contained in a November 2nd 1917 letter from the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, to Walter Rothschild, leader of the British Jewish community. Sent two days after the military success at Beersheeba, there's no way that Balfour could have known of the battle let alone link Beersheeba to his reference to a Jewish homeland.

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Freedom, Democracy, the Rule of Law

Undeterred, Turnbull galloped on. 'Our two nations share a commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law.'

There is little freedom for Palestinians. The people of Gaza are imprisoned. The millions marooned in refugee camps cannot return to their homes. Even to travel between one West Bank town and another means negotiating your way past numerous military check points.

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About the Author

Stuart Rees is Professor Emeritus of the University of Sydney and Founder of the Sydney Peace Foundation. He is the former Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation (1998-2011) and of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (1988-2008), and a Professor of Social Work (1978-2000) at the University of Sydney.

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All articles by Stuart Rees

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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