Why, Really, Was The USS Liberty Attacked By Israel?
By Alan Hart
The following is my keynote address to the annual re-union dinner of the Liberty Veterans’ Association – Long Island, 12 June 2010.
I want to begin by saying that though I covered wars wherever they were taking place on Planet Earth in my television reporting days – it was in Vietnam as a very young correspondent that I first started to ask myself questions about why things are as they are in the world – I am an Englishman and one who didn’t serve in his country’s armed forces. (Not because I was a draft dodger. Conscription had ended). So it is both an honour and a privilege for me to be with you this evening. And please believe me, I really mean it. I’m not a politician just saying it.
We do, of course, have something in common, OUTRAGE that can’t be expressed adequately in polite words at the continued suppression here in America of the truth about a war crime – Israel’s attack on the U.S.S Liberty; an attack which, if it had gone completely according to plan, would have seen the sinking of the ship with the loss, the murder, of all hands on board. (Which means that some of you here tonight would not be here).
In my latest book, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, an epic journey in three volumes through the lies and truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel, I have a chapter titled The Liberty Affair, “Pure Murder” on a “Great Day”. (I’ll source those quoted comments later).
In that chapter I say the attack ought to have been a sensational, headline-grabbing news story, but beyond the fact that an “accident” had happened and that Israel had apologized, it did not get reported by America’s news organisations. It was too hot an issue for them to handle and pursue. If it had been an Arab or other Muslim attack on an American vessel it would have been an entirely different matter, of course. In that event there would have been saturation coverage with demands for retaliation including war, with columnists and commentators who are pro-Israel right or wrong setting the pace and tone.
I know that one of the prices Liberty survivors pay for telling the truth is vilification by supporters of Israel right or wrong. The message sent to James Ennes was no doubt typical of many. “You are an anti-Semitic, Nazi bastard. Drop dead.”
Those and similar other false and filthy charges come out of the mouths of people who have been brainwashed by Zionist propaganda and are beyond reason. I mean that they are not open to informed, honest and rational debate. And that, simply stated, is the reason why peace has not yet been possible in the Middle East and probably never will be.
In passing I’ll tell you what I have used as a shield against false and malicious charges of anti-Semitism.
I think I am probably the only person in the world who enjoyed intimate access to, and on the human level friendship with, arguably the two greatest opposites in all of history – Golda Meir, Mother Israel, and Yasser Arafat, Father Palestine. (She was called Mother Israel because without the $50 million dollars she raised in America in 1947, Ben-Gurion would not have been able to purchase the arms that enabled Israel to unilaterally declare its independence and impose its will on the Arabs).
One of my most treasured souvenirs from my television reporting days is a signed picture of Golda when she was prime minister. The inscription in her own hand is – “To a good friend, Alan Hart.” Because I am a goy (a non-Jew) that meant a lot to me. The picture is on my web site and it’s the first one in my latest book. In the late 1980’s when I lectured and debated coast-to-coast across America and Canada, I had the picture with me and sometimes used it as a shield. When I was accused of anti-Semitism, I would hold up the picture, read out Golda’s inscription, and say to my accuser – “Do you think that old lady was so stupid that she couldn’t have seen through me if I was anti-Jew!” That always won me the applause of the audience and its contempt for my accuser.
Now to my explanation of why, really, the Liberty was attacked. I’m going to follow this with some thoughts about why the truth has to be given its necessary context and handled with great care.
I’ll start by telling you where I was on Thursday 8 June 1967. I was in the Sinai desert. I was the first Western correspondent to the banks of the Suez Canal with the advancing Israelis. On reflection some years later, I realised that what I witnessed in the desert, well out of sight and sound of the attack on the Liberty, was a key to understanding why America’s most advanced and sophisticated spy-ship (perhaps I should say intelligence-gathering platform) was attacked. I’ll come to what I witnessed in a moment.
First, and to provide some context to assist complete understanding, I must summarise very briefly the whole truth about that particular war. By elements in the mainstream media which peddle Zionist propaganda, and other elements of it which are terrified of offending Zionism either too much or at all, the Western world was conditioned to believe that Israel went to war because it was in danger of annihilation – “the driving in the sea of its Jews”.
Zionism’s first assertion was that the Arabs started the war by attacking Israel. Zionism’s second story was that the Arabs were intending to attack and that in the name of self-defense, Israel had no option but to launch a pre-emptive strike because its very survival was at stake. Both those stories were big, fat, propaganda lies. The Arabs did not attack and were not intending to attack. It was a war of Israeli choice and aggression.
If that was only my Gentile view, it could be dismissed by supporters of Israel right or wrong as an alleged manifestation of anti-Semitism. But let me now tell you this. The forthcoming Volume 3 of my book begins with the longest chapter in the entire work. It’s titled America Takes Sides, War With Nasser Act II; and the Creation of a Greater Israel. In this chapter I name and quote a number of Israel’s political and military leaders of the time who, years after the war in most cases, admitted the truth. There isn’t time this evening for me to name and quote them all, but here to make the point are four:
- In an interview published in Le Monde on 28 February 1968, Israeli Chief of Staff Rabin said: “I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions which he sent into Sinai on 14 May would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.”
- On 14 April 1971, a report in the Israeli newspaper Al-Hamishmar contained the following statement by Mordecai Bentov, a member of the wartime national government. “The entire story of the danger of extermination was invented in every detail and exaggerated a posteriori to justify the annexation of new Arab territory.”
- In the spring of 1972, General Peled, Chief of Logistical Command during the war and one of 12 members of Israel’s General Staff, addressed a political literary club in Tel Aviv. He said: “The thesis according to which the danger of genocide hung over us in June 1967, and according to which Israel was fighting for her very physical survival, was nothing but a bluff which was born and bred after the war.” In a radio debate Peled said: “Israel was never in real danger and there was no evidence that Egypt had any intention of attacking Israel.” He added, “Israeli intelligence knew that Egypt was not prepared for war.”
- In 1982, Prime Minister Begin, arguably the world’s most successful terrorist leader, went even further. He said : “In June 1967 we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us, We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”
When I was writing the chapter on the 1967 war, I found myself saying to my readers that there were times, this was one of them, when I wanted to “cry out with the pain of knowing how much Israel’s Jews (not to mention the whole of the Western world) had been deceived, lied to, by their leaders“.
In passing I’ll tell you why I was well informed in my television reporting days about what was happening behind closed doors in Israel. One of my sources, my deep-throat, was General Chaim Herzog, a founding father of Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence. (He went on to become Israel’s ambassador to the UN and eventually the state’s president). On the second day of the war, when he was advising me on the best route into the Sinai to catch up with the advancing Israelis, he said to me: “If Nasser had not been stupid enough to give us a pretext to go to war, we would have created one within a year or 18 months.”
Another summary truth about what happened in June 1967 is that there would NOT have been a war if Israel’s prime minister, the much maligned Levi Eshkol, and his Chief of Staff, General Yitzhak Rabin, had had their way. After Eygpt’s President Nasser had closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, they wanted only a limited military operation – to satisfy Israeli public opinion and, most of all, to put pressure on America to lead the international community in delivering on a promise President Eisenhower had made – that in the event of Eygpt closing the Straits of Tiran, the “society of nations” would be mobilized to cause the Straits to be re-opened by all means short of war. That was what Nasser was hoping would happen. For reasons of face, he needed to be able to say to the Arab world, “I backed down because of international pressure.”
So why didn’t Prime Minister Eshkol and Chief of Staff Rabin have their way?
The short answer is that in Israel the week before the war there was what amounted to a MILITARY COUP in all but name and without a shot being fired.
The best journalists have their brains not up here in their heads, but down here in their guts. From early May, my gut instincts were telling me that war was inevitable, and I persuaded my editor-in-chief at ITN (Independent Television News) to let me go to Israel with a film crew to report on the countdown to it. In those weeks I witnessed Israel’s military and political hawks rubbishing Prime Minister Eshkol. They were painting him as indecisive, weak and frightened to confront Nasser. Their objective was to create a crisis of confidence in his leadership ,in the hope that he would be forced to resign. When that didn’t happen, the generals demanded that Eshkol, who was both PM and Defense Minister, surrender his Defense Portfolio and give it to Israel’s one-eyed warlord and master of deception, General Moshe Dayan. And that’s what happened on Thursday 1 June, when a government of National Unity came into being. It was then inevitable that Israel would go to war in a matter of days. I actually predicted that it would do so on the morning of Monday 5 June.
Defense Minister Dayan (whom I knew quite well) was a law unto himself and had plans that went far beyond the war aim on which all of Israel’s generals were agreed. It was the total destruction of Eygpt’s Soviet supplied military equipment – planes, missiles, artillery, tanks, the lot. (For further background I have to tell you that Nasser had not wanted to be armed by the Soviet Union. He wanted America to be his arms supplier, and it was only when America refused that he turned in despair to the Soviet Union. Also true is that Nasser didn’t want an upgraded military for the purpose of initiating war with Israel. He wanted Eygpt to be well enough armed to be able to demonstrate to Israel that attacking Eygpt to impose Zionism’s will on it would not be a cost free option).
The key to understanding WHY Dayan ordered the attack on the Liberty is in President Johnson’s pre-war understanding with Israel’s generals. Probably through Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Johnson gave Israel’s generals the greenlight for war with Eygpt. But it was, effectively, a CONDITIONAL GREENLIGHT. On no account was Israel to widen the war the purpose of grabbing Jordanian and/or Syrian territory.
Dayan intended to do just that if and as the opportunity arose, but he had a problem. He knew, as all of Israel’s generals and politicians knew, that although they had Johnson’s greenlight to attack Eygpt, they would have only three or four days of complete freedom to act. Why? Because by the end of the third or fourth day, the Johnson administration would have to go along with a Security Council Resolution demanding an end to the fighting.
To guarantee that Israel could complete the job on the Egyptian front in a race against the diplomatic time clock, Dayan had to assign the bulk of Israel’s armour, including elements of it that would be needed for an extended war on the Jordanian and Syrian fronts, to the Sinai.
Now to the significance of what I witnessed in the Sinai on the afternoon of Thursday 8 June when (unknown to me at the time) the Liberty had been silenced…. Scores of Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers, which had blitzkrieged their way through the Sinai sand, were being loaded onto huge lorries with trailers for transportation to the north, and re-deployment to the Jordanian and Syrian fronts. The orders for this re-deployment were coming by radio from Dayan’s staff at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv.
This takes us to what the Liberty’s mission was.
It was assigned to listen to all of Israel’s military communications because some in the highest levels of American military and political decision-making did not trust the Israelis to keep their word about not extending the war to take chunks of Jordanian and Syrian territory, to create a Greater Israel of Zionism’s mad dream.
The biggest fear of those who didn’t trust Israel was the possible consequence of an Israeli attack on Syria, which had also been armed by the Soviet Union. The reasoning behind the fear went something like this. Soviet leaders almost certainly could and would live with the humiliating defeat of their Egyptian client, but for reasons of face they might not be able to live with the humiliating defeat of their Syrian client also. And that raised at least the possibility – if Israel attacked Syria – of Soviet military intervention, leading to the Cold War going Hot. (And this at a time when American forces were getting bogged down in an unwinnable war in Vietnam).
The idea behind the Liberty’s deployment was that if it picked up messages indicating that Israel was re-deploying from the Sinai to launch major offensives in the north, and against Syria in particular, the evidence of Israeli intent and duplicity would be passed to Johnson, and that he would then pick up the ‘phone to Prime Eshkol and say something like: “We know what your generals are up to. You must order them to stop, and if you don’t or can’t, I will.”
Simply stated, the Liberty was on station as the Johnson administration’s insurance policy. It’s main mission was to prevent Israel going to war with Syria and possibly provoking a U.S-Soviet confrontation.
Dayan ordered the attack on the Liberty to prevent it giving the Johnson administration early warning of his intentions to extend the war.
As it happened, Israel’s last land grab of the war – the taking for keeping of the Syrian Golan Heights – DID provoke the threat of Soviet military intervention. For some hours there was the prospect of a superpower confrontation and possibly World War III. But at the brink, catastrophe was averted by use of the White House-Kremlin hot line.
Of all the evidence indicating that Dayan didn’t want any of the Liberty’s crew to live to tell the story, the most compelling in my view is the use of NAPALM during the attack. In Vietnam I saw what napalm can do. It reduces targeted human bodies to small piles of squelchy, black pulp.
So far as I am aware, the only honest piece of reporting in the American media in the immediate aftermarth of the attack was on 19 June in Newsweek’s “Periscope” section. A small item in that read as follows:
“Although Israel’s apologies were officially accepted, some high Washington officials believe the Israelis knew the Liberty’s capabilities and suspect that the attack might not have been accidental. One top-level theory holds that someone in the Israeli armed forces ordered the Liberty sunk because he suspected it had taken down messages showing that Israel started the fighting.”
One could salute Newsweek’s brief moment of courage, but in one important respect the item was very wide of the mark. Everybody in Washington’s war-loop who needed to know did know that Israel had started the war and that President Johnson had given it the greenlight to do so.
For many years there has been speculation that an Israeli general opposed Dayan’s decision to attack the Liberty and said it would amount to “Pure murder“? Who was that general? I think I know.
Despite the fact that in his own memoirs he went along with the fiction that Israeli pilots failed to identify the Liberty as a U.S. ship and that the attack was a tragic mistake, I think it was, very probably, Chief of Staff Rabin – the Israeli leader who, many years later as prime minister, was stopped from advancing the peace process with Arafat and his PLO by a Zionist assassin. In the time available to me this evening, I’ll give you just one reason of several why I’m convinced it was Rabin who opposed Dayan.
When the Liberty was being attacked, the insider gossip in Israel was that Rabin had “lost his nerve… cracked under the pressure… was drinking heavily… was under the table… a disgrace.” I first heard this gossip from Israeli friends I knew to be very, very close to Dayan. It was then former DMI Herzog who confirmed to me that such rumours were rife. In retrospect I think the gossip was inspired by Dayan to give him scope to discredit Rabin if the need arose – if he so much as hinted to anybody outside the command circle that he had tried to prevent the attack on the Liberty. (Could it not be said that the idea of attacking the Liberty was enough to drive any rational human being, even an Israeli general, to drink?) The idea that Rabin might have been tempted to make trouble for Dayan was not unthinkable if he shared – and he probably did – Eshkol’s private view of Israel’s one-eyed warlord.
When the prime minister learned that Dayan had ordered the attack on Syria without consulting or informing himself or Chief of Staff Rabin, he thought about cancelling the order and said of Dayan, to his aide-de-camp, “What a vile man.” (That quotation was unearthed by Avi Shlaim, one of Israel’s leading “revisionist”, which means honest, historians). What could have made Eshkol resort to such extraordinary language? My guess is that use of the adjective “vile” reflected most of all the prime minister’s horror at Dayan’s ordering of the attack on the Liberty.
Who was it who described Thursday 8 June 1967 as a “Great Day“?
That evening Egypt’s President sent the following message to his Syrian counterpart:
“I believe that Israel is about to concentrate all of its forces against Syria in order to destroy the Syrian army, and regard for the common cause obliges me to advise you to agree to the ending of hostilities and to inform U Thant (UN Secretary General) immediately, in order to preserve Syria’s great army. We have lost this battle. May God help us in the future. Your brother, Gamal Abdul Nasser.”
That Nasser message, no doubt like all others, was intercepted by Israeli military intelligence. In the margin of a copy of it, Dayan scribbled the following note:
1. In my opinion this cable obliges us to capture maximal military lines.
2. Yesterday I did not think Egypt and Syria would collapse in this way and give up the continuation of the campaign. But since this is the situation, it must be exploited to the full.
A GREAT DAY. Moshe Dayan.”
The Syrian leadership took Nasser’s advice and announced its acceptance of the cease-fire. It came into effect at 0520 hours the following morning, Friday 9 June. So far as the Arabs and the organised international community represented by the UN were concerned, the war was over…. Six hours and ten minutes later, the IDF invaded Syria. Dayan had postponed the attack to allow for the redeployment of IDF units from Sinai – a redeployment that might not have been possible, Dayan had believed, if the Liberty was allowed to go on listening to IDF movement orders.
I end my chapter on this Israeli war crime with this sentence:
The lesson of the cold-blooded attack on the Liberty was that there is nothing the Zionist state might not do, to its friends as well as its enemies, in order to get its own way.
Now to my explanation of why the truth needs its necessary context and must be handled with great care.
The problem with the truth, not only the truth about Israel’s attack on the Liberty but its ethnic cleansing of Palestine and many other manifestation’s of its arrogance of power and contempt for international law, is that it’s pregnant with extreme danger because it could provoke anti-Semitism throughout the Western world where most Jews live as citizens of many nations. There is, however, a way to exorcise this extreme danger. It is by explaining the difference between Judaism and Zionism. I believe that knowledge of this difference is THE key to understanding.
JUDAISM is the religion of Jews, not “the” Jews because not all Jews are religious. Like Christianity and Islam, Judaism has at its core a set of moral values and ethical principles.
ZIONISM as Jewish nationalism is a sectarian, colonial ideology-and-enterprise which, in the process of creating in the Arab heartland a state for some Jews – mainly by terrorism and ethnic cleansing – made a mockery of, and demonstrated contempt for, Judaism’s moral values and ethical principles.
Supporters of Israel right or wrong conflate Judaism and Zionism because the assertion that they are one and the same enables them to claim that criticism of Israel is a manifestation of anti-Semitism.Often, almost always these days, the accusation that criticism of Israel IS anti-Semitic is a form of blackmail, intended to silence criticism of, and suppress informed and honest debate about, the Zionist (not Jewish) state and its policies. The reality is that Judaism and Zionism as Jewish nationalism are total opposites, and knowledge of the difference is the key to understanding two things:
1. Why it is perfectly possible, with good reason on the basis of all the facts, to be passionately anti-Zionist (opposed to Zionism’s on-going colonial enterprise) without being, in any way, shape or form anti-Semitic.
2. Why it is wrong to blame ALL Jews everywhere for the crimes of the hardest core Zionist few in Palestine that became little Israel, and then Greater Israel.
Though it is not well known, even by many Jews today, the fact is that prior to the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, Zionism’s colonial enterprise was of no interest to more than a tiny minority of the Jews of the world and was OPPOSED by many of them. For example: On 5 March 1919, the New York Times revealed that 30 of the most prominent and outstanding Jewish Americans had signed a petition to President Wilson, warning him against any U.S. commitment “now or in the future to Jewish territorial sovereignty in Palestine.” One of the 30 signatures was that of Adolph S. Ochs, the Jewish-American of German origin who was then the owner and publisher of the paper. In 1943, when the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism was formed, the then owner and publisher of the New York Times, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, was a member of it.
The many Jews who opposed Zionism’s colonial enterprise, including the early owners and publishers of the New York Times, knew it was morally wrong. They also believed it would lead to unending conflict with the Arabs. Most of all they feared that if Zionism was allowed by the big powers to have its way, it would one day provoke anti-Semitism.
That fear was given a fresh airing in 1986 by Israel’s longest serving Director of Military Intelligence, Yehoshafat Harkabi. In a remarkable book, Israel’s Fateful Hour, he wrote this:
“Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it. Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli conduct, which initially is cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed into empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.”
Today there is almost a case for saying that Israel’s “misconduct”- in my view it sometimes amounts to naked state terrorism – has become not only “a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism” but the prime factor. I said “almost” a case because what we are witnessing today as a consequence of Israel’s policies and actions is NOT the rise of anti-Semitism, not prejudice against and hatred of all Jews everywhere just because they are Jews.
What we are witnessing today in many nations, where more and more citizens are beginning to see an arrogant and insufferably self-righteous Israel as the obstacle to peace, is anti-Israelism, which is more accurately described as anti-Zionism. But as Harkabi warned, the danger is that what starts out as anti-Israelism could be transformed into anti-Semitism. My own view, which I know is shared in private by a growing number of eminent Jews, is that this will happen – I mean that there will be another great turning against the Jews, possibly starting here in America
- IF Israel stays on its present course;
- IF the Jews of the world do not then distance themselves from the Zionist state’s criminal behaviour and its denial of justice for the Palestinians; and
- IF Americans and Europeans among whom most Jews of the world live remain ignorant of the difference between Judaism and Zionism… And that is why I say the truth has to handled with great care and given its necessary context.
As some but perhaps not all of you will know, it was your first ever Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, and General George C. Marshall when he was serving as Secretary of State, who took the lead in trying to persuade President Truman that support for Zionism’s colonial enterprise was not in America’s own best interests. Their views were shared by all of your relevant intelligence agencies of the time. In my book I offer explanations of why a deeply troubled President Truman did not take their advice.
In that historical light I think it’s not uninteresting that a serving American General of our time, General David H. Petraeus, has dared to say that continuing American support for Israel right or wrong is not in America’s best interests and is even damaging them. The Epilogue to the forthcoming Volume 3 of my book is titled Is Peace Possible? In it I ask this question:
Could it be that the stage is being set for a titanic struggle in which President Obama, after the mid-term elections, will have to chose between doing what the Zionist lobby and its stooges in Congress want and what America’s top military men know to be necessary if America’s own interests are to be best protected?
And I add this comment:
If they could speak from their graves, I imagine the two most senior executives who advised President Truman not to support Zionism’s colonial enterprise – Defense Secretary Forrestal and Secretary of State Marshall – would say, “Let’s hope so and that this time reason will prevail.”
I’ll end my remarks to you this evening by quoting a line from the Dear America introduction to Volume 1 of the American edition of my book. It’s a sort of open letter in which I am speaking directly to readers. In the very first sentence I say that if all of our children, wherever they live, are to have the prospect of a future worth having, the world needs America’s BEST..
Only the truth can bring out the best of America, and there’s no better place to start than with the truth about Israel’s attack on the U.S.S. Liberty. I salute your efforts to make this truth known, If you can assist my efforts to promote it and other related truths, it might be possible to bring out the best of America before it’s too late for us all.