March 12th 2005

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: The media elites versus the public

CANBERRA OBSERVED: American-style workplace relations for Australia?

SCHOOLS: Teacher training at the mercy of politics

HUMAN CLONING: UN victory's implications for Australia

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Gallop Labor Government returned to power

EDITORIAL: Debt tsunami moves closer

AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY: The economy that will confront the next generation

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Reserve Bank governor defends his record

ENERGY: Ethanol - Australia being left behind

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Visas for sale / Kyoto hot air convention / Europe, China and the US-Japan alliance / Edge of the abyss

ASIA: Japan, India and China - new strategic alliance?

VIETNAM: Hanoi's abysmal human rights record

A response to Babette Francis (letter)

Turkish massacre of the Armenians (letter)

Putin - can a leopard change his spots? (letter)

Abortion's hidden wounds (letter)

BOOKS: MICHAEL MOORE is a Big Fat Stupid White Man

BOOKS: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Putting Every Household at Risk

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response to Babette Francis (letter)

by Mark Braham

News Weekly, March 12, 2005

Babette Francis ("The tsunami of bias", News Weekly, February 26, 2005) writes that "the British empire in India did end suttee (the Hindu burning of widows on their husbands' funeral pyres)".

What, to my knowledge, has not been recognised, was the difference in behaviour in World War II between British-led Muslim soldiers and those who were not.

The British 8th Army during the Italian campaign 1943-45, contained several Muslim units in the British-officered 8th Indian Division, in which I served. These excellent solders were never, to my knowledge, accused of other than civilised behaviour with respect to both civilians and prisoners; they observed the Geneva conventions.

Contrast this with what we all knew of the behaviour of the French-led Muslim North African forces of the French Expeditionary Corps. In his masterly Rome '44 (Secker & Warburg, London 1981), Raleigh Trevelyan writes:

"There was a rumour that the Goums buggered their prisoners, then went in with the bayonet. A report about the Goums reached the Badoglio government a week later. It appeared that the people of Spigno and Esperia had escaped to the scrub woods during the fighting. As the Goums approached and the Germans withdrew, they came out 'convinced they were meeting liberators, convinced that their days of tragedy were over at last'.

"'We suffered more during the twenty-four hours of contact with the Moroccans than in the eight months under the Germans. The Germans took away our goats, sheep and food, but they respected our women and our meagre savings. The Moroccans flung themselves upon us like unchained demons. They violated, threatening with machine-guns, children, women, young men, following each other like beasts in rotation; they took our money from us, they followed us into the village and carried off every bundle, our linen, our shoes. Even those of their officers who tried to intervene in our defence came under their threats'."

The suggestion that there be a "full and free discussion of religion and religious differences" would, I am sure, be welcomed by the rabbis. This would correct the age-old error that the Pentateuch can be read as a book of Jewish law when, in fact, it is no more than what can be described as "lecture notes".

It is the Oral Law that is indispensable because without it the Written Law cannot be explained. Rabbi Dr Charles B. Chavel has written that the Oral Law, given to Moses at Sinai, "was not written down during the entire period of ancient Jewish history, ending about 125 years after the destruction of the Second Temple." (Encyclopedia of Jewish Thoughts).

He added, "It was handed down from master to disciple, by word of mouth. In the era of Rabbeinu Hakodesh, due to the forced exodus of Jews from the Land of Israel, and the fear that in the lands of exile the Oral Torah might be forgotten, the Mishnah, comprising the essentials of the Oral Torah, were written down."

Mark Braham,
Rose Bay, NSW

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