Stewart Mills (NSW) writes to Australia Post re Australia-Israel joint issue stamps 28Jun13 June 28, 2013

Australia Post

Dear Chairperson

I am writing to make a complaint about the joint issue by Australia Post and Israel Post of the commemorative issue of two stamps that marked the Battle of Beersheba that were released on 10 May 2013.

I have no issue with a commemorative issue between Australia Post and Israel Post.  Israel is a sovereign nation.  A joint issue acknowledging the Holocaust/Shoah may be a worthy commemorative issue.

However, I do take issue, as the subject matter chosen in this release was highly offensive, especially to the people of Palestine and to Palestinian Australians and is inconsistent with Australia’s obligations under international human rights law.

The explanatory text for the joint issue states:

“The capture of Beersheba allowed British Empire forces to break the Ottoman line near Gaza and then advance into Palestine, a chain of events which eventually culminated in the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.” (emphasis added)[1] <>

At best this is a one-sided view of historical events and at worst is an example of whitewashing the Palestinian people out of the historical narrative.

This explanatory text fails to identify:

  • ·     The Palestinian Arab liberation movement from Ottoman rule[2] <>

  • ·     The Arab nationalist movement and desire for independence from Ottoman rule[3] <>

  • ·     British promises to Arab nationals that in turn for fighting for the British they would be liberated and have self-rule (e.g. the McMahon-Hussein letters 1915-16)

  • ·     The ‘Arab Revolt’ as captured the popular imagination by T. E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

  • ·     According to T.E Lawrence “without Arab help England could not pay the price of winning its Turkish sector” [i.e could not defeat the Ottomans in the Middle East (Seven Pillars of Wisdom).[4] <>

This text overstates Israel’s place in relation to the Battle of Beersheba, for example:

  • ·     there was no promise to Zionist Jews for a homeland in Palestine (i.e. the Balfour Declaration) until 2 November 1917, i.e. 3 days prior to the Battle of Beersheba.

  • ·     The Jewish community in Palestine in 1917 was less than ten per cent of the total population and 66 years before was less than 4% of the total population (which was a majority of Arab Muslim with a minority of Christian Arabs, Druze and Jewish)[5] <>

  • ·     The British Government in 1922 rejected the notion that a Jewish Homeland (as identified in the Balfour Declaration) was synonymous with a State

  • ·     Beersheba was a part of the proposed Palestinian Arab state according to the UN Partition Plan 1947 and not to the proposed Jewish State.[6] <>

Australia Post obligations (in accordance with s 25 Australian Postal Corporations Act 1989) include:
(b) its community service obligations under section 27;
(c) its general governmental obligations under section 28.

General governmental obligations includes, that Australia Post shall perform its functions in a way consistent with:
(c) Australia’s obligations under any convention.

A “convention” means a convention to which Australia is a party or an agreement or arrangement between Australia and a foreign country.

Australia has agreed to be bound by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Fourth Geneva Convention[7] <> .

Israel’s actions with the decades long occupation of Palestine (i.e. West Bank and Gaza) continue to be a cause of international concern for human rights bodies.[8] <>   Any joint issues by Australia Post and Israel Post need to be sensitive to these allegations of human rights abuses of Palestinians and of the danger of historical revisionism.

As such in the interest of presenting a balanced historical narrative which serves the public interest I ask that the explanatory text for the commemorative stamps be amended as follows:

As part of The World Stamp Expo 2013 (10 – 15 May), Australia Post and Israel Post marked the Battle of Beersheba through the release of a commemorative issue of two stamps.[9] <>

The 60c base-rate stamp features the statue of an Australian Light Horseman in the Park of the Australian Soldier at Beersheva (Be’er Sheva) in Israel. The statue is the work of Australian sculptor Peter Corlett. The $2.60 stamp features contemporary images of Australian Light Horsemen. The battle scene, once considered to be a photograph of the actual Battle of Beersheba, is now accepted to be a re-enactment made the following year.

The Battle of Beersheba took place on 31 October 1917 and was part of a wider British offensive known as the third Battle of Gaza during World War I. The final phase of this day-long battle was the famous mounted charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade, widely considered to be the last great mounted charge in military history. Thirty-one Australian Light Horsemen were killed in the charge and 36 were wounded. The capture of Beersheba allowed British Empire forces to break the Ottoman line near Gaza and then advance into Palestine, a chain of events which eventually led to the liberation of Arab states and indirectly the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.[10] <>   The state of Palestine (i.e. West Bank and Gaza) whilst recognized by the majority of members of the United Nations[11] <> remains under Israeli military occupation[12] <> .

Furthermore, I ask that Australia Post amend its policy on joint issue of stamps to ensure that some consultation be given to affected communities.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

Stewart Mills

[2]  Abdelaziz A . Ayyad, Arab Nationalism and the Palestinians 1850-1939, PASSIA, the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International
Affairs, December 1999
Australia in Palestine
[5]  McCarthy, Justin, The Population of Palestine: Population Statistics of the late Ottoman Period and the Mandate, Columbia University Press, 1990; See also <>
[6]  United Nations General Assembly Partition Plan, November 1947
[8]  The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Human Rights Committee, 105th Session , July 2012

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