Friday, 21 July 2017

When Israel Attacked USS Liberty

There was a fiftieth anniversary on the eighth of last month which I missed, having been occupied with an election at the time. On the 8th June 1967, an Israeli jet and torpedo boats attacked a US warship in the eastern Mediterranean. US naval survivors attested that the pilot could have been in no doubt of the nationality of their ship, as related in Anthony Pearson's 1979 book on the subject, Conspiracy of Silence. Pearson came to no firm conclusion as to the reason for the attack. A common theory was that the Liberty was believed to have picked up Israeli signal communications which indicated military action contrary to international law and in contradiction to Israeli government official statements.

publication in May this year promises to reopen the controversy, using documents released by the Israeli state archives since the Pearson book. The new thesis is that the US president himself was complicit in the attack, which stretches credulity to the limits. It seems to me that, beyond confirming that the Israeli pilot and his immediate operational commander knew that the target was a US ship, the new book adds nothing certain. We shall probably never know the reason.

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