Them’s Fightin’ Words: LBJ and the Liberty Incident

[WARNING: I am aware that the Liberty Incident is a very sensitive subject which often leads to raised passions. So I’m saying right now: All comments for this post must be on topic and civil. Any and all comments which appear to me to be anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic will be deleted immediately. You have been warned. Avi/AIWAC]

Long-time readers of this blog will be familiar with the work of Dr. Orna Katz-Atar, who argued that Israel was given a tacit “green light” for a first strike by the US, 4 days before the beginning of the Six-Day War. Now Katz-Atar has an article out in the latest Cathedra (Hebrew) which will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows. Here’s a translation of the synopsis (Scroll down the essay until you get to Orna Katz-Atar):

“…On the 8th of June, 1967, on the fourth day of the Six-Day War, the IDF mistakenly attacked the American Spy ship (‘the Liberty’). Israeli and American Commissions of Inquiry unequivocally established that the attack was the result of a series of human errors and not a deliberate strike (IE, with the knowledge it was an American ship – AIWAC), and this determination was buttressed by later researchers and historians of the incident. Nevertheless, the myth that the Israeli attack was deliberate grew by leaps and bounds.

The author wishes to prove that the White House and its head, Lyndon B. Johnson, were the ones who created the myth. The White House decided to cynically take advantage of the tragedy in order to bash Israel and its supporters. This was done from the understanding that repairing relations with the Arab world and finding a permanent (political) solution for the Middle East would require a degree of distancing from Israel and applying political pressure on the country. Accusing Israel of a deliberate attack on the ship was a golden opportunity for the White House to achieve these goals”


Hi, my name is Avi Woolf. I'm an American-Israeli MO Jew living in Israel. I have a background in Israeli (as in Land of Israel) and Jewish History and an insatiable need for knowledge. I also have professional experience as an editor, translator and indexer. Enjoy the ride! If you are interested in using my services or just want to drop me a line, contact me at:
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6 Responses to Them’s Fightin’ Words: LBJ and the Liberty Incident

  1. fred says:

    have you read ‘the prime ministers’?

  2. fred says:

    the relationship between lbj and levi eshkol [an underrated figure in israeli history]. i too didnt find it too impressive, tho i did like many of the vignettes.

  3. fred says:

    his holiness the israeli ambassador to the us michael oren wrote an article recently in azure where he points out the greatness of eshkol.

    • AIWAC says:

      I happen to greatly respect Oren’s scholarship. Oren’s support of Eshkol’s accomplishments is supported by the research of other students of the period. If you read Hebrew fluently, then I suggest you read Prof. Yossi Goldstein’s bio of him.

      That doesn’t mean Eshkol was flawless, but he was certainly not the nebbish people thought he was.

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