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Thursday, 14 September 2017
Page: 10476

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (13:41): Next month is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, where on 31 October 1917 the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade conducted a mounted charge that helped capture Beersheba from the Ottoman defenders. Vital to the Palestine campaigns of the British empire were the local Arab troops, but their rebellion against the Ottomans was encouraged by the British and French, who promised the Arabs their right of self-determination should Britain and the allies win the war. However, the Arabs were betrayed through the Sykes-Picot Agreement, and the only place the Arabs were given free of foreign rulers was the Arabian desert. Moreover, the Palestinians did not achieve their independence then and they are still waiting 100 years later.

When the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition travel to Beersheba next month, I hope they recognise the sacrifice of the Arabs during this campaign and honour their Palestinian descendants. Moreover, as we approach these commemorations, the PM and opposition leader, along with everyone else, should be careful to avoid attributing misleading historical consequences to this battle. Remember we shared the dangers, the losses and the successes of the Palestinian campaign with the Arabs. The best way to commemorate this battle and the part the Australians played is to now recognise Palestine and work decisively towards its independence even if it is 100 years too late.