James Scott writes a painfully vivid account of what is now known about the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967. I emphasize the word “attack” because “friendly fire” incidents don’t occur over an hour with rockets, napalm, and cannon on a lightly defended ship with an American ensign waving in the afternoon sky.
The heroism of the crew is rightly legendary, if not highlighted in American naval history in the manner the bravery and ingenuity of other recent crews on the USS Cole & USS Stark has been considered. Scott handles these particulars as well as he unfolds the aftermath, weaving together opinions from the Israeli Ambassador to the US about the need for accountability and apology to the sailors and their families and the stifled indignation of many an American government official of the time at soft-pedaling Israel’s responsibility and never letting the truth put the issue to rest.
Scott steps into a minefield of lies, distortions and murky agendas without falling prey to undue recriminations or relatively baseless accusations. He lays calm, clear fire at several people in the government who (given the evidence available now after several vital pieces of evidence were declassified) appear to be the most culpable in hiding the truth both from the public and the sailors whose lives were irrecoverably changed on that dark day.
In an era where an Israeli attack on Iran’s hostile nuclear sites could provoke a lethal response from the Islamic Republic and its proxies that take the lives of hundreds of Americans in the days and weeks afterward, clearing up the USS Liberty attack via an investigation by an independent commission empowered by the government to view all relevant evidence and clear up this the lies and deceptions inherent in the official account of the murder of dozens of US sailors by our ally.
A few links help answer the following questions or points raised in response to discussion of the attack:
(A) this is all in the past, why bring it up? (B) its only fodder for anti-Semites and other opponents (C) this will further imperil US-Israeli relations
Our sailors richly deserve for the government to stop lying to them. The dead are entitled to be honored for valor in combat, not in a “friendly fire” accident. The nation deserves to have justice for the needless shedding of its defenders’ blood, in the form of at least an official accounting and apology from the Israeli government as well as our own. To do otherwise in the face of mounting evidence is to disgrace the sailors who endured an unwarranted assault and saved their ship with as many of their shipmates as possible.
The Obama Administration has decided that a total freeze on settlements in the conflagration zones of disputed Israeli living spaces on Palestinian land is in the interests of Middle East peace (whatever the hell that is).
Pres. Obama should be careful what he wishes for:
Israel’s prime minister on Monday rejected the U.S. demand for a settlement freeze as unreasonable, moving closer to a collision with the Obama administration, while mobs of Jewish settlers attacked Palestinian laborers and burned West Bank fields.
Six Palestinians were injured in the stone-throwing attacks, meant to protest the removal of several tiny settler squatter camps by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Monday’s events highlighted Netanyahu’s increasingly difficult balancing act. The hard-line leader is trying to keep his pro-settler ruling coalition together by rejecting President Barack Obama’s call for a halt to all settlement activity, at the risk of hurting Israel’s all-important relationship with the U.S.
Settlers have vowed to respond with attacks on Palestinians and their property to any attempt to remove even the tiniest enclave _ a tactic known as “price tag.”
“We will do everything we can to oppose this,” said Yehuda Shimon, a resident of the Havat Gilad outpost in the northern West Bank.
This blog and many others have noted in the past the extremist views of the modern settler movement in Israel. A substantial minority of them are not only virulently racist and law-breaking, but treasonous to boot, ready and willing to employ violence against their own Israeli soldiers and police, not to mention the innocent Palestinians who have the misfortune of living beside them.
If Obama pushes too hard against the Israeli government on the settlement issue, he risks not only emboldening the settlers and their supporters into an open confrontation that could expose fault lines within the Israel-US relationship, but toppling the likely best government Israel is going to have for the next few years. The Israeli moderates and leftists are weak and disorganized, and the responsible Israeli right has ceded power to its extremist fellow travelers. While Israeli democracy remains strong and commitment to Israeli democratic principles remains significant, the odds of an extremist Israeli government taking office are not as improbable as they once were.
Combine a weakened US-Israel relationship in the short term with strong paranoia over the Iranian nuclear threat and you have the ingredients for a terrible disaster unfolding late this year or next in the form of a strident Israeli attitude towards festering Palestinian problems (the incompetent restraint of the IDF in the Gaza campaign reverting back to a no-holds barred Operation Galilee attitude) and the safety of Iranian civilians in the cross hairs of IDF jets bombing nuclear targets.
Curzon of Coming Anarchy had a rather blistering post about Obama’s incompetence thus far in office on the foreign policy front. While I disagree with him (each president is usually handed a retched pile of policy mistakes and consequences by his predecessor) in many ways, I acknowledge that Curzon is right in one respect: Obama’s mismanagement (whether out of incompetence, ideology or good intentions) of key alliances could come back to haunt us in a significant way in the short to mid-term. How he aligns relationships with Brazil, India, Turkey, Indonesia and other key states will perhaps dull the negative impact of such mismanagement, but its likely they won’t be enough to help us now when we may need it on important initatives.
In addition to continuing to have no “Grand Strategy” for its operations against enemies it incubated in the past as rivals to its enemies then, Israel has taken two fatalistic key steps towards long-term defeat unless it figures out how it wants to fight and build its future.
First, it rewards what have been increasingly successful US efforts to train, equip and recast Palestinian security forces in the West Bank by… taking more West Bank land to extend its illegal settlements. This Israeli habit of ruining a potentially good thing has its recent parallels.
To wit, after years of ignoring a promising peace proposal (with credible backroom promises of troops and funding) from the Saudis,
pursuing hackneyed political strategies to boost Fatah by outside measures irrelevant to Palestinian realities in such a disastrous fashion that it boosted Hamas to power instead and
ravaging the budding Palestinian economy in Gaza with a blockade that achieved little tactically,
Israel now votes into a position of power and influence a party that promises to rip asunder Israeli society from within by destroying the civil peace between Israeli Jews and Arab Israelis.
After decades of pointless but damaging discrimination against them in economic, education and political sectors that they ignored while remaining loyal to Israel, Arab Israelis are now being considered a “fifth column” for Israel’s enemies by prominent Israelis. This behavior has “convenient scapegoat” written all over it, in addition to the growing realization among Israelis that they will not know peace in their lifetime, without recognition of their leadership’s culpability for this tragic state of affairs.
Zakaria sums up what is at stake:
It’s a dangerous spiral: the worse the distrust gets, the less loyalty Israel’s Arabs feel toward their country—and vice versa. Last week’s election has brought the issue into the open. Its resolution will define the future of Israel as a country, as a Jewish state, and as a democracy.
God forbid what happens when/if an Israeli Arab youth blows himself up in a shopping mall or corner market. What kind of response will America have to an Israeli attempt to deport tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs for “disloyalty” as the Russian immigrant extremists amongst the nativist parties clamor for? Even without potential homegrown terrorism, Lieberman and his ilk will only increase in influence as war continues abroad for Israel. There will come a point when Israel must choose what kind of country it will be and whether its democracy and constitution will surive that choice is very much up in the air.