US judge to IDF: Learn lessons of 'Liberty'

IDF still eager to learn from case of mistaken identity that resulted in IAF bombing of US warship.

liberty 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
liberty 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It happened more than 41 years ago, but the IDF is still eager to learn lessons from the case of mistaken identity that resulted in the Israel Air Force bombing the USS Liberty during the Six Day War. On June 8, 1967, the IAF bombed the US Navy technical research ship they believed to be an Egyptian military supply boat, killing thirty-four sailors and injuring over 150. At the request of OC Navy V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom, Judge A. Jay Cristol, who sits on the US federal bench in Florida, this week addressed several hundred Israeli naval officers on the lessons that can be drawn from the incident. Seventy-nine-year-old Cristol, himself an enthusiastic pilot, is the author of The Liberty Incident, a 2002 book on the disaster. In the book, Cristol concludes that the bombing was accidental and Israel had mistakenly identified the Liberty as an Egyptian ship. His findings are disputed by some who claim that Israel knew the ship was American and bombed it nevertheless. Since the publication of his book, Cristol has come under fire from anti-Israel Web sites and media outlets that, he said, use the Liberty incident as part of a propaganda campaign aimed at souring Israeli-US relations. He has concluded that Saudi Arabia is funding the campaign. In his lectures in Ashdod and Haifa this week, Cristol recounted the events leading up to the tragic mistake and asked his audience to learn the right lessons in order to prevent further foul-ups. "By reviewing the blunders in the tragic friendly-fire incident they can avoid shooting at their own forces or attacking a friend in the future," he said. "The main problems were with communication and identification. This has happened in every war in Israeli history." Marom is not the only senior IDF official to have recently referred the Liberty mistake, which is still an open wound in Israeli military circles. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi discussed the incident with the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen during his visit to Tel Aviv last month. The attack on the Liberty was cited by the two as the type of incident that needed to be avoided in any future military operations in the region.