Israel protests Aussie caricature critical of Battle of Beersheba memorials
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Israel protests Aussie caricature critical of Battle of Beersheba memorials

Canberra Times shows Netanyahu riding his Australian counterpart like a donkey, ignoring historic event's ostensibly negative consequences

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A caricature critical of memorial ceremonies held for the Battle of Beersheba in Israel, which appeared on page 19 of the Canberra Times, November 1, 2017
A caricature critical of memorial ceremonies held for the Battle of Beersheba in Israel, which appeared on page 19 of the Canberra Times, November 1, 2017

The Israeli Embassy in Australia on Wednesday protested a caricature published in the Canberra Times on Wednesday that shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu riding a donkey representing his Australian counterpart.

The caricature appears to criticize Netanyahu and Malcolm Turnbull for the way in which they commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, which paved the way for the British mandate and, eventually, Jewish statehood. Both leaders on Tuesday attended several events to mark the event’s centenary, hailing it as a milestone for the region that paved the way for Jewish statehood.

“We turned to the editor of the newspaper and expressed our protest over the derogatory manner in which the prime ministers are being portrayed, as well as over the derogatory way in which the Battle for Beersheba and its victims are being portrayed,” the spokesperson of Israel’s Australian embassy, Dorit Hershokowitz, wrote in a cable to Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem.

Israeli diplomats in Canberra also urged the local Jewish community and “other friends of Israel in politics and the media” to protest the caricature, according to Hershkowitz.

“It’s a pity that an important newspaper in Australia chose to publish a demeaning and distorted cartoon,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel. “The Beersheba battle will always remain a fundamental event in the history of our nations, long after this unfortunate cartoon will be forgotten.”

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (C), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R), and New Zealand Governor General Patsy Reddy (L) lay wreaths at the memorial for the fallen in the Battle of Beersheba during a ceremony in the British Cemetery in Beersheba on October 31, 2017, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / JIM HOLLANDER)

The caricature, on Page 19 of the Canberra Times, shows an Australian cavalryman at a crossroads. His horse appears to want to turn right, a direction a guidepost says leads to remembering the ostensibly negative “fallout” of the Battle, including “Arab Independence Betrayal,” “Sykes-Picot Carve-up,” “Middle East Partition,” “Palestine Partition,” “Israeli Occupation” and “Refugees.”

A sword-brandishing Netanyahu, however, is directing his “donkey” — Turnbull — modeled after the character Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, in the opposite direction, which, according to the guidepost, is limited to “Remembering the Fallen” and “Reenactment.”

On Tuesday, Netanyahu and Turnbull — the first Australian prime minister to visit Israel in 17 years — attended a series of events to commemorate the battle, which ended 400 years of Ottoman rule over the Holy Land.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at the 100th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Beersheba on October 31, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

“Nearly 4,000 years ago, Abraham came to Be’er Sheba, the City of Seven Wells. Exactly 100 years ago, brave ANZAC soldiers liberated Beersheba for the sons and daughters of Abraham and opened the gateway for the Jewish people to re-enter the stage of history,” Netanyahu said at memorial for Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fell during World War I.

Joined by other top dignitaries from Australia and New Zealand, Netanyahu and Turnbull also attended a reenactment of the battle, which is famous for being the last successful cavalry charge in history.

History enthusiasts and descendants of Australian Mounted Division and ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division) Mounted Division soldiers ride their horses during the reenactment of the Battle of Beersheba when British and ANZAC forces captured Beersheba from the Ottoman Empire during World War I, as part of the 100 year anniversary near Beersheba, southern Israel, October 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
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