May 8th marked the 63rd anniversary of Israel's birth as an independent nation state. While 63 is not a traditionally significant anniversary, it is always cause for celebration among many, particularly those who see the birth of Israel as a sacred historical event.
A cursory stroll through the blogosphere will show enthusiastic well wishes to Israel on May 8th, almost all from 1 of 3 groups: 1) Israelis and Jews throughout the world 2) politicians and finally, 3) Christian Zionists, who are usually the most profuse in praise and admiration of the Jewish state. It is this last group that always comes to mind on another anniversary; June 8th 1967.
At 2 p.m. on the 8th of June, 1967, the Israeli Navy and Air Force attacked the USS Liberty in international waters, off the coast of Egypt. The attack was preceded by several Israeli aircraft, fitted with radio jamming equipment, circling the ship to block any outgoing help signals before the attack proceeded
Over the past 10 years, I have studied the USS liberty attack exhaustively and one piece of the story has always struck me in a strange and horrifying way: As the Israeli navy made passes over the ship all morning, US sailors were on deck, tanning themselves in lawn chairs and waving to the pilots.
The smiling sailors on deck that day are something of a metaphor for the relationship between Israel and American Christian Zionists.
Liberty survivors often speak of how comforted they were by the Israeli aircraft. The star of David on the side of the jets had put them all at ease. America had not officially declared sides in this war but were in all respects, entirely behind Israel. LBJ had given a green light for the initial attacks and much of the equipment the IDF was using had been made in the US.
The sailors on deck had been raised in post WW2 America. They had gone to church on Sundays and heard stories of the biblical holy lands. Throughout America, support for Israel was high and there was a sense of spiritual kinship among Americans, who were 95% Christian at the time, and the burgeoning state of Israel. Since 1967 this sense of devotion to the Jewish state has grown, fueled in large part by carefully chosen, pro-Zionist Christian pastors who dominate the American airwaves. What American Christians are sheepishly oblivious too, as were the USS liberty sailors, is the contempt in which they are held by the overwhelming majority of Israelis. Prior to the Mirage jets moving into attack position and opening up machine gun fire onto the hapless and surprised US sailors, they had felt completely safe. It seemed inconceivable to them that Israel would attack, so much so that the ship remained in the most prostrate and defenseless position possible. Survivors describe having felt no different about the Israeli jets than if they had been given air cover by US pilots. They were safe. They were surrounded by friends and allies, or so it seemed until the guns started blazing.
It was an unprovoked attack on a reconnaissance ship, traveling at 5 knots and without any offensive weaponry at all. 34 sailor were killed and 174 wounded in the incident. It was a coordinated attack, orchestrated by the combined forces of the Israeli navy and air force on a clearly marked American ship, flying an American flag. The ship was repeatedly strafed, killing American sailors on deck. Soon thereafter, Israeli torpedo boats fired 5 torpedoes, one of which directly struck the ship, killing or injuring dozens of American sailors below deck. As the ship started to sink, American sailors lofted another American flag, still finding it impossible to believe that the defense forces of Israel, a country the US was actively supporting in the 6 day war, could have attacked them. As they abandoned ship, the Israeli navy then opened fire on the fleeing life boats. There is no reason to imagine that if a radio signal had not gotten through, the attack would have stopped before the entire crew was slaughtered.
The fog of war is often confusing and can lead men to do odd things but the sheer cold-bloodlessness of this attack should give one pause. As a 12 year veteran of the US military, I can say with absolute certainty that if an order was given to sink an Israeli ship and strafe the deck, where waving, sunbathing Israeli sailors were enjoying themselves, many American pilots would refuse the order. Even more certain is the fact that if such a mission was followed through with, it would be leaked to the press, as horrified American soldiers and sailors would be overcome with guilt at either having participated in such an event or not having done enough to stop it. Such an action would be simply unimaginable.
In contrast, not only was Israel sure that it could pull off such an attack with impunity, but it was equally sure that of the several hundred soldiers, sailors and staff officers involved in carrying out and authorizing the attack, not a single one would talk; not a single one would leak the true story of what took place. Israel has so thoroughly inundated it's citizens with a sense of “us vs the world” that they recognize no allies. To the people of Israel, the non-Jews of the world are either enemies or tools to be used and then disposed of.
Just as the waving sailors aboard the USS liberty thought they were in good hands, so too does the American Christian Zionist community think they are in alliance with a group of people who actually hate them more than any other group on the planet. Hatred for Christians in Israel is so high that the + sign in mathematical text books has been replaced with something that looks like an upside down T. Christians are regularly mocked on Israeli TV in ways that would cause protests, boycotts and mob violence, were Jews on American TV to receive similar treatment. Christian churches in Bethlehem and the rest of Israel have been attacked by Israelis while the protests of Orthodox and Catholic priests in the area have been ignored in press reports and are never mentioned in the pulpits of Christian Zionist boot-licking pastors. It is a truly disgusting relationship. The prostrate, spiritless submission of America, fueled by these ignorant Christian Zionists is so thorough that it breeds contempt among Israelis and why shouldn't it?
Doubtless, before the attack was authorized, there were Israelis who feared disastrous repercussions and said so. The military decision makers who assured one and all that any problems could be quickly covered up by their US collaborators were proved correct. When, in the aftermath, it was decided Israel's official story would be that nobody knew it was an American ship, surely some voices in the Israeli government worried about the absurdity of such a narrative. Nobody would believe that after spending the entire morning monitoring a ship that could not possibly have been Egyptian, not a single member of the Israeli Air Force or Navy noticed the 13 foot by 8 foot American flag that was replaced by a second one when the original was blown to shreds by Israeli aircraft. It must have seemed impossible, to some Israelis, that America would swallow such a story and yet, through their press censorship and control of the US government, that is exactly what happened. Not a peep was made. Aside from the survivors and their families, to whom Israel paid appx $100,000 per killed sailor and $18,000 per injured sailor (after much negotiating) hardly a noise was made. Those folks in the Israeli government, who assured one and all that their control over the US and the devout loyalty they had among tens of millions of American Christians was so complete that they could do as they wished, with no fear of consequences, proved to be right.
What do such docile, ignorant and stupid creatures deserve if not contempt? What do people who do exactly as they are told, 100% of the time deserve? When our president can call for a halt to the unambiguously imperialist west bank settlements, and the next week, under Israeli pressure, veto a UN resolution declaring the same, what do you we expect if not contempt? When the Israeli PM demands from the country it relies on for support, massive amounts of money and military hardware, simply to stop rubbing the US nose in the dirt, it makes me shudder to think how weak the US must seem. It must seem to Israel that the tiger they have by the tail is not much of a tiger at all but a feeble, dying and stupid creature. As the US continues to serve as a tool for Israel, and as our absolute subservience to their demands grows, so too does their contempt for us and the doggish loyalty of Christians, their most hated enemies, who loudly demand this subservience and who will one day soon wake up to reality and realize that their allies are simply preparing them for the kill.