Tuesday, 18 March 2008
60th Anniversary of the State of Israel
Thank you, Senator Mason—I agree that he was a great man. We enjoyed some time together just last week at the 60-year anniversary celebrations for Israel. Retired Major General Digger James will be travelling in this delegation with the Governor-General to Be’er-Sheva next month for this special announcement.
The charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade, or the battle of Beersheba, was a significant Australian military event, often described as ‘the last successful cavalry charge in British military history’. The battle involved 800 soldiers of the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade under Brigadier General William Grant. They charged with only horses, rifles and bayonets into the Turkish trenches, overrunning them and capturing the wells of Beersheba. Brigadier General William Grant, originally from Stawell in Victoria, transferred to command the 4th Light Horse Brigade on the eve of the battle. The next day, the Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Edmund Allenby, personally decorated Grant with a bar to his DSO.
The daring and the action of the Australian light-horsemen was vital not only in the supply of water for the Allied forces and troops but for turning around the whole Turkish flank in Palestine. The goal of our British partners was to drive the Turks north from Gaza, and it was an inspirational victory. The events at Beersheba were an inspiration for the 1987 Australian film The Lighthorsemen, which featured the tag line: ‘They did what they were told. They didn’t know it was impossible.’ I enjoyed watching that movie with my family only a month or so ago.
My wife Kate’s great-uncle George Henry Bramich was a member of the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade and her great-grandfather Oscar George Bramich trained in the Light Horse at Mona Vale in Tasmania. In fact, my wife’s Uncle George was from Mount Hicks in north-west Tasmania and trained for two years with the Light Horse before enlisting in June 1916. George Bramich was involved in the taking of Damascus and, as I said, was in the 3rd Light Horse Brigade. My wife’s great-grandfather Oscar George Bramich unfortunately became sick with a hernia and was unable to depart for the Middle East.
The success at Beersheba was the beginning of a significant chain of events in history—the capturing of Gaza and Jaffa, and the Ottoman Empire, the liberation of Jerusalem, and all of Palestine, the Balfour Declaration and, ultimately, the establishment of Israel in 1948. The battle for Beersheba is just one of many instances when Australians have served in the area that is now modern-day Israel, including the many soldiers who served during World War II. Since World War II, Australia has supported peace operations in the Middle East, and Australians continue to serve in the area to this day.
I noted an opinion piece by Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem, in the Australian newspaper this past weekend, where he said that:
Since achieving independence in 1948, Israel has risen from the horror and anguish of the Holocaust to be a vibrant, democratic nation fuelled by values of justice and the rule of law.
… … …
Israel’s founding fathers transformed a desert into the source of a viable agricultural industry, underpinning the dynamic Israeli economy. Israel thrived with the influx of Jewish refugees and survivors of the Holocaust, arriving from 100 countries and speaking 82 languages.
The Australian editorial on 12 March also noted the concerns that they had. The editorial reads:
We reject the view that the Israeli conflict lies at the root of all the problems in the Middle East and is the trigger for the rise of al-Qa’ida and, by extension, terrorist acts such as the 9/11 bombings.
The editor concludes by saying:
Against remarkable odds, Israel has prospered greatly over the past 60 years because of its commitment to democracy and the rule of law, which easily qualifies it for the enduring goodwill and support of friends such as Australia.
I commend and support those comments entirely and say that Australia and Israel are good friends. We admire each other and we work together. I believe that Israel and its people should be remembered for their enormous achievements in adversity. The Jewish community in Australia, I know, will be celebrating at this time in the full knowledge that Australia stands firm as a friend. (Time expired)