One of the major news stories this Memorial Day originated in international waters on the Mediterranean Sea. The Israeli military struck at 4:30 AM. Before they were finished commandeering the ships carrying relief supplies for Gaza, ten people were dead and dozens wounded. The relief flotilla was attempting to break through the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians have been crowded into a virtual ghetto, and are at the mercy of the Israeli Government for food, water, medicine, and building materials.
The Gaza population is under collective punishment in retaliation for the actions of the militants who fire an occasional rocket into the Israeli land adjacent to Gaza. In early 2009 some 1,400 Palestinians, mostly innocent civilians, were killed by the Israeli incursion into Gaza. Less than 20 Israeli soldiers were killed.
To the people on the relief vessels it was no different from piracy. The Israeli government says that they are acting in self-defense. I’d say the primary responsibility for loss of life lies with the side with the most power. If history is any lesson, there will be no accountability for this action.
The fact that this story comes to us on Memorial Day brings up a memory of another incident. As we remember and honor the Americans in uniform who have lost their lives in service to our country, we should not forget the deaths of 34 of our fellow citizens on the USS Liberty.
The Liberty was on the Mediterranean during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. On June 8, 1967 while clearly flying the US flag, the Liberty came under fire by rockets from Israeli jets. When the rockets were all fired, more jets returned with rockets, cannons, and napalm. It was reported that lifeboats were strafed by Israeli machine guns. Later Israeli torpedo boats fired five torpedoes at the Liberty with one striking the ship, killing most of the 34 Americans who died from the assault. 173 more Americans were wounded.
One of the Israeli pilots saw they were attacking Americans and refused to fire on them. He returned to base and was arrested upon arrival.
This horrible incident was to become a major cover-up by the US Government. The Johnson Administration was quick to call it all an accident.
On June 8, 2005 the USS Liberty Veterans Association submitted a report of war crimes to the Department of Defense.
According to the USS Liberty Veterans Association:
The Department of Defense has unilaterally waived its obligation under the Department of Defense Law of War Program by refusing to investigate the allegations contained in the War Crimes Report. The Department of Defense has also refused to provide a speaker to address the crew of the USS Liberty and explain their actions with regard to the War Crimes Report.
On this and every Memorial Day I would ask my fellow Americans to do two things: Honor the service, memory, and lives of those who have been killed and wounded. And I also implore each of us to ask one question.