Ed Hunt for Salem-News.com
The event will be observed at noon on Portland’s waterfront.
USS Liberty after being struck by Israel
(PORTLAND, Ore.) – A year after the bloody Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish humanitarian aid ship bound for Gaza, I am reminded of an earlier Israeli attack on another ship that took place several decades ago.
The 8th of June marks a little noticed anniversary date that should live in infamy in the annals of modern US history. It was the day, during the 1967 war, that the Israel attacked the US spy ship, the USS Liberty, off the coast of Egypt. Thirty four US servicemen were killed and one hundred seventy two were wounded in this well documented, unprovoked attack.
“Accidental” is what Israel, and her defenders proclaim. It was an Egyptian ship, they “mistakenly” thought. Specifically, an out-of-service Egyptian horse carrier, the Israeli government later explained, with the most ‘heartfelt regret.’ It’s their story and they’re sticking to it. How many Egyptian vessels were flying an oversized US flag (riddled with bullet holes from Israeli weapons fire) the Israelis are at a loss for words.
According to the ‘Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Attack on the USS Liberty’, this accidental air and naval attack lasted two hours “during which time unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on the Liberty’s bridge, and fired 30mm cannons and rockets, causing 821 holes, more than 100 of which were rocket size; survivors estimate 30 or more sorties were flown over the ship by a minimum of 12 attacking Israeli planes which were jamming all five American emergency radio channels.”
This ‘accident’ happened after only eight, yes eight, hours of aerial surveillance, on the Liberty, which had unmistakable American markings.
Amazingly, the response of the US government to this attack has been unprecedented. The Johnson White House recalled a Sixth Fleet military rescue en route toward the scene while the attack was still in progress. The victims, the survivors and their families were betrayed by their government. Surviving crew members were threatened with “court-martial, imprisonment or worse” if they revealed the truth, and the USS Liberty “incident” was the subject of an official cover-up by the Johnson administration. Every US administration since has given Israel a free pass on the attack and no standing administration, including the Obama administration, has even uttered a word publicly about it.
The truth about this attack and cover-up continues to be officially concealed from the American people, although many of those who have since retired from political, military and diplomatic circles have acknowledged it. However, to no ones surprise, the mainstream media to this day have largely maintained an unofficial blackout policy on the subject.
Now is the time for speaking truth to power. It is a very opportune moment to revive the issue. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to press the US government to come clean and to hold the Israeli government accountable.
Due to the influence of the pro-Israel lobby, the White House and/or the Congress, no matter which party is in charge, have continued to shield Israel, from any measure of accountability. Perhaps it’s time to turn up the volume, and turn on the spotlight, in a very public way.
We’ve armed Israel, provided billions of dollars in aid and shielded them diplomatically for decades. US taxpayers have been subsidizing the occupation of the Palestinian Territories since the beginning.
President Barack Obama’s statements about returning to the 1967 borders were dismissed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the recent AIPAC (American Israeli Public Action Committee) Convention. It seemed clear as always, that no voice in the US with the capability of speaking out will ever find the task of helping Palestine to be a simple one. In the meanwhile, Jerusalem continues to be the scene of ever expanding settlement construction.
I suspect that there is far greater diversity of opinion on the Israel-Palestine conflict among the US public than is tolerated in the US Congress. I would venture to predict that if the details of the USS Liberty case were be placed before the US public, we might see a drastic rise in opposition to the billions in US aid that Israel rakes in every year. It might be just what the Congress needs to find its backbone and the courage to snub the powerful pro-Israel interests that continue dictate US Middle East policy.
On this occasion of the 44rd Anniversary of the Israeli attack on the Liberty, I will be contacting my US Senators and my Congressperson. I will bring them up to speed on the Liberty case, so that they cannot claim lack of knowledge of this atrocity. I will make clear that their failure to support the re-opening of the Liberty case will be an affront to the memory of the victims of Israel’s murderous assault. Politicians love to posture as to how much they love the troops. With your help, we can break down what has seemed like an insurmountable obstacle: Israel’s untouchable status in US politics. In the process, perhaps we can get a little recognition and justice for the crew and families of the Liberty, as well as justice for the Palestinians, who have been denied a homeland for far too long.
Ed Hunt is a veteran labor activist who follows political developments in the Middle East and in international affairs. He has visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.