29th Anniversary of Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty: Did Israel's Armed Forces Commit One War Crime to Hide Another?

By Ennes, James M., Jr. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 1996 | Go to article overview

29th Anniversary of Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty: Did Israel's Armed Forces Commit One War Crime to Hide Another?


Ennes, James M., Jr., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


29th Anniversary of Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty: Did Israel's Armed Forces Commit One War Crime to Hide Another?

By James M. Ennes, Jr.

Washington Report readers know the story well. In 1967 on the fourth day of the Six-Day War, the armed forces of Israel attacked the American intelligence ship USS Liberty for 90 minutes in international waters in broad daylight following several hours of close, low-level reconnaissance. Thirty-four men died, 171 were hurt, and the ship was so badly damaged that it had to be scrapped.

The government of Israel has lied about the circumstances ever since, telling a story markedly different from that told by American survivors. Congress has refused to question Israel's demonstrably false account, even though the State Department's own analysis finds the Israeli story to be untrue.

Yet the most pressing question remaining from that infamy is not whether the attack was deliberate. That was settled long ago for most reasonable people. The question is why Israel risked its cozy relationship with America by killing American seaman on the high seas.

Indeed, spokesmen for Israel use that question in Israel's defense. Why, they ask, would Israel risk alienating its American friends?

So why did Israel attack? Intelligence analysts and others have long supposed that Israel attacked to prevent the ship from reporting the impending invasion of the Golan Heights, then imminent despite cease-fire pleas by the United States. Israel's defenders reject that explanation.

Recent reports in the Israeli and Egyptian press suggest another powerful possibility.

According to eyewitness accounts by Israeli officers and journalists, the Israeli army--the army that claims to hold itself to a higher moral standard than other armies--executed as many as 1,000 Arab prisoners during the 1967 war.

Historian Gabby Bron wrote in the Yediot Ahronot in Israel that he witnessed Israeli troops executing Egyptian prisoners on the morning of June 8, 1967, in the Sinai town of El Arish.

Bron reported that he saw about 150 Egyptian POWs being held at the El Arish airport where they were sitting on the ground, densely crowded together with their hands held on the back of their necks. Every few minutes, Bron writes, Israeli soldiers would escort an Egyptian POW from the group to a hearing conducted by two men in Israeli army uniforms. Then the man would be taken away, given a spade, and forced to dig his own grave.

The USS Liberty was less than 13 miles from El Arish.

"I watched as [one] man dug a hole for about 15 minutes," Bron wrote. "Afterwards, the [Israeli military] policeman told him to throw the shovel away, and then one of them leveled an Uzi at him and shot two short bursts, each of three or four bullets."

Bron says he witnessed about ten such executions, until the grave was filled. Then an Israeli colonel threatened him with a revolver, forcing him to leave the area.

America's most sophisticated intelligence platform, the USS Liberty, was less than 13 miles from El Arish. We were close enough to see the town mosque with the naked eye. With binoculars we could make out individual buildings and might have seen the executions if we had looked in the right place.

Could our operators have heard voice radio messages revealing these killings? Did senior Israeli officers sanction the murders, or did they learn of them? How would they have reacted to the knowledge that USS Liberty was nearby and might have heard incriminating radio traffic? Would they have been desperate enough to attack an American ship?

The Liberty Attack Was a War Crime

The attack on the USS Liberty was itself a war crime. U.S. Navy Commander Walter Jacobsen, a navy legal officer then doing graduate work at George Washington University, conducted an extensive legal analysis of the attack.

His conclusion, reported in the Winter 1986 Naval Law Review, was that several aspects of the attack violated provisions of the Geneva Conventions--war crimes.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

29th Anniversary of Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty: Did Israel's Armed Forces Commit One War Crime to Hide Another?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.