M’lud, the government of Israel, in connection with the charge of piracy on the high seas, asks for a previous offence to be taken into consideration:

The USS Liberty incident was an attack on a United States Navy technical research ship, USS Liberty, by Israeli jet fighter planes and motor torpedo boats, on June 8, 1967, during the ongoing Six-Day War. The combined air and sea attack killed 34 crew members (naval officers, seamen, two Marines, and a civilian), wounded 171 crew members, and severely damaged the ship. At the time, the ship was in international waters north of the Sinai Peninsula, about 25.5 nmi (29.3 mi; 47.2 km) northwest from the Egyptian city of Arish.

But hold on, wasn’t that all sorted out long ago?

The Liberty Veterans Association (composed of veterans from the ship) states that U.S. congressional investigations and other U.S. investigations were not actually investigations into the attack; but, rather, reports using evidence only from the U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry, or investigations unrelated to culpability that involved issues such as communications. In their view, the U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry is the only actual investigation on the incident to date. They claim it was hastily conducted, in only 10 days, even though the court’s president, Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd, said that it would take 6 months to conduct properly. The inquiry’s terms of reference were limited to whether any shortcomings on the part of the Liberty’s crew had contributed to the injuries and deaths that resulted from the attack. According to the Navy Court of Inquiry’s record of proceedings, four days were spent hearing testimony: two days for fourteen survivors of the attack and several U.S. Navy expert witnesses, and two partial days for two expert U.S. Navy witnesses. No testimony was heard from Israeli personnel involved.

And again:

Dean Rusk, U.S. Secretary of State at the time of the incident, wrote:

I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation. Their sustained attack to disable and sink Liberty precluded an assault by accident or some trigger-happy local commander. Through diplomatic channels we refused to accept their explanations. I didn’t believe them then, and I don’t believe them to this day. The attack was outrageous.

Retired naval Lieutenant Commander James Ennes, a junior officer (and off-going Officer of the Deck) on Liberty‘s bridge at the time of the attack, authored a book titled Assault on the Liberty (Random House, 1980; Ballantine Books 1986; Reintree Press 2004) describing the incident during the Six Day War in June 1967 and claiming, among other things, it was deliberate. Ennes and Joe Meadors, another survivor of the attack, run a website about the incident. Meadors states that the classification of the attack as deliberate is the official policy of the association, to which all known survivors belong. Other survivors run several additional websites. Citing Ennes’s book, Lenczowski notes: Liberty‘s personnel received firm orders not to say anything to anybody about the attack, and the naval inquiry was conducted in such a way as to earn it the name of “coverup”.

Indeed it was covered up by the Johnson administration, and survivors were ordered under military discipline not to talk about it. The incident should be well known, certainly much better than it is.

Well now. The Israeli government has previous on this sort of thing, and Flying Rodent nicely captures the sheer batshit belligerent insanity involved in the outrageous attack on the aid flotilla to Gaza. Is insanity too harsh a word? Note that a Turkish-flagged ship in international waters is legally Turkish territory, and thereby Israel has effectively declared war on a Nato member state, not to mention its main ally in the region. Then again, back in 1967 they did actually sink a US Navy ship without facing any repercussions. Imagine the reaction if Iran or China had done something like this.

That said, even the Berlusconi government in Italy, usually very close to Israel, has issued a condemnation. Even William Hague, a longstanding member of Conservative Friends of Israel, has called for the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. The White House, which has already had to put up with Netanyahu swaggering about Washington like an emperor surveying a vassal state, can’t be terribly pleased. Which again prompts the question – does Netanyahu think he can get away with literally anything? More to the point, is he right?

A dozen or more Rachel Corries created in one night, executed for the crime of trying to bring humanitarian aid to a population suffering a horrendous level of collective punishment because they elected the wrong government. Nice one, Bibi. If you wanted to prove that you don’t understand anything but sheer brutality, you’ve just done it.

And not a great day for the BBC, who I know don’t have access to those on the flotilla, but all the same, the “Have you anything more you’d like to say, Mr Regev?” atmosphere got to be a bit much. As luck would have it, their online report invites comments. (h/t)

Statements from the IPSC, Workers Party, Sinn Féin, éirígí, Socialist Party, SWP; and more at Cedar Lounge, amongst many other places.


  1. Tim Johnston said,

    May 31, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    “a population suffering a horrendous level of collective punishment because they elected the wrong government”
    that was true of Germany in 1944, too. The Allies invaded. The Israelis instigated a blockade (in the hope of deterring rocket attacks). Which response would you prefer?

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      May 31, 2010 at 7:51 pm

      Blimey, it didn’t take long for Godwin’s Law to kick in.

      Anyway, wasn’t Gaza invaded already? That whole Cast Lead business?

    • Ramzi Nohra 1 said,

      May 31, 2010 at 8:12 pm

      i thought the blockade was as soon as Hamas was elected. It was in response to that, not to any attacks on their territory (although that certainly reduced the Israeli’s motivation to end the blockade)

  2. FlyingRodent said,

    May 31, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    I’m horrified by the number of people who condemn Israel’s unalienable right to attack whoever it likes, wherever it likes, as violently as it likes. Only racists would forbid the Israelis from perpetrating acts of war against their allies.

    Loving Aaro’s take on this, by the way – Israel is very naughty, but why are people not protesting against terrorist attacks? Nice one.

  3. earwicga said,

    May 31, 2010 at 5:36 pm

  4. neilcaff said,

    May 31, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Press conference with Danny Ayalon. The utter ludicrusness of this mans defence is jaw dropping. I mean are these people really running a nuclear armed state? Kim Jong Il’s got nothing on these people when it comes to living on a different planet!


  5. Duncan said,

    May 31, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Israel is very naughty, but why are people not protesting against terrorist attacks?

    Don’t look at this, look at that!

    This transparent manoeuvre could be called: Aren’t bad things happening in the Congo?

  6. robert said,

    May 31, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Imposing a blockade on the civilian population of Gaza is an act of war and meand that every rocket fired by Hamas is legitimate. The problem is not Hamas. The problem is that Hamas doesn’t have good enough rockets.

    If Palestine was better armed Israel would be forced to make a meaningful offer of peace. As it is they know perfectly well they can kill Palestinians with impunity as long as the Zionist lobby provides Uncle Sam as a sugar daddy.

    • Ciaran O'Brien said,

      May 31, 2010 at 9:07 pm

      Hows that war going from your armchair? You happy to see Israel’s Arab population get hit by Hamas rockets? Or Israeli’s who don’t support their government? Any insights on the nature of Israeli society, class and ethnic division, the left-the right etc? And of course its the magic Zionist lobby in America…
      I speak as someone who actually knows a few Palestinians and people who have worked in Gaza.

  7. June 1, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    This shit just got real; even the Dalliance for Workers’ Liberty have got the hump!

  8. robert said,

    June 2, 2010 at 12:39 am

    A word on the legal position, which is very plain. To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.

    Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean however that international law is the only applicable law. The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody’s territorial waters), the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

    There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

    Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

    Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

    In brief, if Israel and Turkey are not at war, then it is Turkish law which is applicable to what happened on the ship. It is for Turkey, not Israel, to carry out any inquiry or investigation into events and to initiate any prosecutions. Israel is obliged to hand over indicted personnel for prosecution.

    • Stephen Hero said,

      June 2, 2010 at 10:15 am

      That’s Craig Murray, yeah?

      There seems to be some dispute about this and it all seems to hinge on whether the siege of Gaza is legal or not. The thankful upshot of this dreadful incident will hopefully be to focus the world’s attention on Gaza to the extent that it is finally recognised throughout the world that the siege is illegal.

      If the siege is legal (which, I stress, I don’t think it is) the boarding of the Mavi Marmara would apparently be legal as well.

      Douglas Guilfoyle in the Times.


  9. neilcaff said,

    June 3, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Socialist Party MEP attacks American Ambassador over support for Israel

  10. robert said,

    June 3, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    More from Craig Murray on why Israel’s actions are illegal

  11. June 13, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Lord Trimble will act as a neutral observer in the Israeli investigation. Well, he does have a Nobel Peace Prize…


    • harry monro said,

      June 14, 2010 at 12:33 pm

      good point, they could get Kissenger to help him

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