SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Revelations of a massacre in a Bedouin village in Palestine in 1918 has tarnished one of Australia’s greatest military victories.
A new book revealed that Australians joined New Zealand soldiers in the massacre of dozens of Bedouin shortly after the end of World War I.
The claim was corroborated in a audio recording of an Australian soldier, Ted O’Brien, found by Australian journalist Paul Daley at the Australian War Memorial.
In his book "Beersheba," Daley recounted O’Brien’s recollection of the massacre of between 40 and 200 Bedouin residents of Surafend in 1918 in what was then Palestine. He said about 200 Australian and New Zealand troops, including some from the famed Australian Light Horse Brigades, murdered the locals.
The incident, which barely rates a mention in the official record, tarnishes one of Australia’s greatest military victories — the charge of the Light Horse Brigades at Beersheba in 1917, a near death-defying assault on the Turks that allowed the Allies to advance north to Jerusalem and Damascus.
Last year Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Australian counterpart, Michael Jeffery, opened the Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheba commemorating Australians who fought and died in the Middle East.
The Surafend massacre was a revenge attack for the murder of a Kiwi soldier by a Bedouin on Dec. 9, 1918. No one was charged but in 1921, Australia paid compensation to the British for the destruction of the Bedouin village.
A spokesman for the Australian War Memorial told Fairfax media on Saturday: "The Anzac legend is an uplifting one but, like all legends, there are some unfortunate aspects. But this doesn’t detract from acts of heroism and bravery."