From the web site at: http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/pubs/20020822ftr.html



Report from a CPAP briefing by Alison Weir

On 8 June 1967, in the midst of combat between Israel and Egypt, the USS Liberty, an electronics intelligence ship -- popularly known as a "spy ship" -- was off the coast of the Gaza Strip patrolling the international waters of the Mediterranean when it came under attack from the United States' closest ally, Israel. Two Mirage planes fired on the Liberty killing 34 Americans and injuring 171. For more than two hours the Liberty endured an intense air and sea assault but the ship would not sink. Seeing that their plan had failed, Israel, according to Alison Weir, a freelance journalist who investigated and wrote extensively about the attack, offered support to the survivors.

The offer was refused, said Weir during a 21 August 2002 Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine (CPAP) briefing. Liberty limped into Malta, where 821 rocket, missile and bullet holes were counted.

Like the majority of Americans at the time, Weir had never heard of the assault. It never made it into newspapers, magazines, or news broadcasts. But despite the effort by U.S. politicians and Navy officials to cover-up the attack, much has been revealed by Liberty survivors -- including several Medal-of-Honor winners and high-ranking military officers -- who gave first-hand accounts of their experience.

The most compelling account came from Terry Halbadier, an electronics technician. Halbadier was on deck sunbathing when Israeli aircrafts circled the Liberty flying as low as 200 feet. Halbadier recalled being able to see the pilots and the plane's Israeli markings. Later, when the Mirage planes approached, the Liberty crew remained at ease knowing that the Arabs did not have Mirages, only their friend Israel. The Israelis took out the Liberty's transmission antennas, leaving one which had been disabled for repairs. Halbadier managed to send a distress call. However, explained Weir, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara ordered the Phantom jets and tankers launched to rescue the Liberty to return to base. Later, the Pentagon argued that the Israelis had acknowledged their "mistake" and the attack was over. The Israelis, the Pentagon explained, would assist the Liberty.

But why would Israel attack the Liberty? Some, like former Undersecretary of State George Ball, believed that Israel feared that the Liberty's advanced transmission interception capability would expose its plan to invade Syria and its execution of Egyptian prisoners of war.

The cover-up, and the United States' acceptance of Israel's explanation that it had mistaken the Liberty for an Egyptian ship -- although the Liberty was five times bigger than the Egyptian ship and was a clearly marked United States vessel in international water -- astonished Weir. "I could not believe that a peace-time attack on the U.S. military, by a supposed ally and largest recipient of U.S. aid, could go so unnoticed," Weir said.

Equally troubling to Weir was Congress's refusal to investigate the attack, although it had held hearings on every other peace-time attack on an American ship. "Could Israel be that powerful, our Congress that cowed, our leaders that negligent? Our citizens that under-informed?" Weir asked over and over again.

Weir argued that U.S. policies were not being promoted to benefit American citizens or U.S. interests. Instead, U.S. officials were promoting policies that would ensure their re-election. Weir argued that the United States' "special" relationship with Israel is one in which the United States is "steadily insulted, endangered, and damaged."

It is that relationship, argued Weir that has allowed Israel to perpetuate "horrors" against the Palestinian people. Weir again blamed the media for keeping the American people misinformed. Weir pointed out that coverage of violence in the current Palestinian intifada in which Israeli forces killed over 140 Palestinians before the first Jewish citizen was killed was underreported. She added that over 80 Palestinian children were killed -- most by gunfire to the head -- before the first Israeli child was killed. Not only have most of the facts gone unreported, Israel's brutality, explained Weir, is referred to as "retaliation" in the American media.

Weir and others are currently involved in an effort to get a Congressional hearing on the events surrounding the Liberty. Weir strongly believes that once Americans know the facts, they will act in the best interest of their country.

The above text is based on remarks delivered on 21 August 2002 by Alison Weir. The speaker's views do not necessarily reflect those of the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine (CPAP) or The Jerusalem Fund. This "For the Record" summary maybe used without permission but with proper attribution to CPAP. To contact Weir, write to alisonweir@yahoo.com.

This information first appeared in "For the Record" No. 127, 22 August 2002.

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Jim Ennes and Joe Meadors

USS Liberty