With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

USS Liberty: False Allegations of Anti-Semitism

I am writing this piece, myself being a religious Jew (with rabbinical ordination) and one who is very troubled not only by Israel’s attack of an American ship but also by the cover-up that ensued and the false accusations hurled at those who only want the truth to be known. Survivors of the attack have been slandered as being anti-semitic when this is not at all the case. I have seen this slander repeated in many a book review or article dealing with the Liberty. Some slander has also come from the Anti-Defamation League. This group in particular has been known to suppress any thought contrary to its agenda of the day. As a result it has become the scorn of many Jews. In this case the ADL repeatedly sought to block coverage of the Liberty incident and even raised objections to memorials in honor of the victims. The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, June 21, 1991, quotes one Howard Rosenburg as follows:

"The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith (ADL) has questioned the motivation behind a June 8 White House ceremony honoring surviving crew members of the USS Liberty, a naval intelligence ship bombed by Israel aircraft during the 1967 Six Day War. Thirty-four American seamen died in the episode.... ADL hopes that the reason for the White House reception was simply to honor the Liberty members, not to give a stamp of approval to those seeking to malign Israel."

As for the charge of anti-semitism, the fact is that retired Naval Officer Jim Ennes (himself a survivor of the attack and one who has faced some of the worst accusations as a result of his extensive work to uncover the truth surrounding it) was himself director of a local board against racism. Some"anti-semite"! I have been in contact with him as well as with many of the other survivors. They do not blame"Jews.," They know the attack had been deliberate on the part of Israel and this is where they lay the blame.

Let us examine what happened on that day, June 8, 1967. Throughout that entire morning Israeli planes continuously flew past the USS Liberty. As they passed by they would wave to the ship’s crew, the waves being reciprocated by those on deck. Both parties had recognized each other. Granted these were not the same planes as those which would later bomb the ship, but herein lies just one proof that the ship had been easily recognisable as an American vessel.

Early that fateful afternoon, about 1500 Liberty time, the first bombers flew above the ship. After the initial bombing Israeli torpedoes attacked from the sea. As the entire crew tried to man lifeboats in order to escape, the Israeli planes shot bullets upon them as they were escaping. The ship was also completely covered in napalm. The ship was easily identifiable as being an American vessel. Besides the fact that every Israeli plane that had flown above the ship that very day had easily recognized it as an American vessel, the Liberty flew a huge US flag on its deck that was impossible to miss. Furthermore, the Israelis claimed that no US markings were visible. This statement of theirs proves without a doubt that there was a cover-up. Many top officials have come forward. Admiral Thomas Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, has called the cover-up a preposterous lie and has tried to expose the attack for what it was. Secretary of State Dean Rusk also clearly stated that the attack was deliberate as did Clark Clifford, Counsel to LBJ and himself a staunch supporter of Israel.

Anyone who takes the time to investigate the attack quickly realizes that it was one launched deliberately. Yet the innocent Liberty men are repeatedly slandered and those who seek justice are accused of anti-semitism. Many Jews have come forward to challenge these ridiculous assertions but still not enough. Judaism demands loyalty to one’s country, not to a state of Jews half a world away. It is true that Jews have always defended each other, but only when the other is right and the case is just. Judaism does not support brutality and it is high time for American Jews to support the cause of these innocent men and to battle the constant slander they have now faced for decades.

It is also high time for Israel to admit what transpired and to come forth with the reason for the attack. There is absolutely no doubt that it was a purposeful one despite the amount of protest to the contrary. For those who still question the validity of this argument, they must make it their business to read up on the attack and the circumstances surrounding it. I have and therefore I see that there is no question, the attack was launched purposefully.

No one deserves to be labelled an anti-semite. Men who have served America well and who were brutally attacked as a result should definitely never have to face such slander. They served America and it is high time America stands with them and demands justice. They have suffered for years as a result of slander, as a result of being told to keep quiet and because Congress has to this day refused to investigate the issue. I sincerely hope that other Jews demand a congressional inquiry into the attack and that this inquiry will finally bring forth the truth that noble men who served nobly have waited for, for so long now. Our prayers must be with them and through our actions we must help them by demanding such an inquiry.