Back in 2009, in Houston Texas, Mimi Adams, a distinguished Palestinian solidarity & human rights activist, gave me a present: a USS Liberty baseball cap. She put it on my head and said,
“Gilad, in the next two weeks, make sure you have it on your head everywhere you go in America. You will see what happens.”
It was around midnight, I was tired and jet-lagged, I couldn’t really understand the significance of the baseball cap, I just wanted make my way to my hotel room and catch some sleep. At 7 AM in the airport on my way to the gate with a USS Liberty baseball cap on my head, just before boarding on a flight to San Francisco, I noticed an older guy chasing me. He was breathless and agitated.
“Sorry to bother you, were you on the USS Liberty,” he asked.
“No” I said, “I was actually four years old in 1967.” Amused, I admitted that the baseball cap was given to me by a friend in a Palestinian solidarity gathering just a few hours ago. I asked him what did he know about the USS Liberty.
“I was a 6th Navy’s pilot” he said. “We were deployed to the Mediterranean Sea. On that day in June 1967, we heard it all, the sailors on board of the Liberty, they were begging for help, it was a real agony, we were fuming, we wanted to get on the planes, we were about 10-12 minutes away, we wanted to save our brothers, but they didn’t let us onto the deck.”
On June 8, 1967 USS Liberty, an American auxiliary technical research ship, a military vessel specialised in gathering intelligence, was attacked by the Israeli forces. It was subject to an 18 hours combined air and sea raids that left 34 American crew-members dead (naval officers, seamen, two Marines, and one civilian) and 170 injured. The attack also severely damaged the ship. Like the Mavi Marmara, at the time of the attack, the ship was in international waters, north of the Sinai Peninsula, about 50 km northwest from the Egyptian City of El Arish.
Phil Tourney is a USS Liberty Survivor, and like many of his friends who were lucky enough to survive that hot day in June 1967, the event changed his life. I met Phil in Aspen last March. I spent some good hours together with the great man and his lovely wife. We shared our personal stories and thoughts about Israel, America, and the Jewish Lobby with a few friends and listeners. When it was time to depart Phillip left me with What I Saw That Day, a devastating biographical account written by Phil and the courageous truth teller journalist Mark Glenn.
The book is the life story of a man who survived a murderous Israeli aggression, but it is also the story of a man who has witnessed four decades of deceit. The event, which Phil ‘saw that day’ is something most of us have failed to see for decades.
What I Saw That Day is a story of America turning its back on its servicemen. It is a story about Israelis slaughtering in cold blood American sailors on the high sea. But it is also a story about a man who battles with wounds and scars that have refused to heal for forty five years. It is a book about the American serviceman being deceived and neglected by American political and military elite. What I Saw That Day is also a personal painful account of the tragic consequences of Israeli and Jewish lobby domination in America.
The survival of the USS Liberty was nothing but a miracle. The ship was an old WWII ‘one goer’ that was converted into a military intelligence vessel. It wasn’t built to stand a combat, it wasn’t structured to take any penalty. And yet, it somehow survived hours of heavy Israeli raids. It was hit by napalm bombs and torpedoes, by the end of that horrid day it was soaked with young American blood, but it refused to go down. It didn’t sink. The USS Liberty is there to remind us, our leaders, the Israelis and their lobbies that the memory of this massacre is not going to sink either. Like the Nakba and the Holodomour, USS Liberty bounced back. Seemingly, injustice cannot be suppressed, it always wait patiently for humanity to transform history into a moral lesson.
This horrendous story has been silenced for decades, but not anymore. What Phillip Tourney saw that day was just a glimpse into the magnitude of Western immorality and barbarism. Since then many Americans soldiers lost their life in Zionist global wars. Millions of Muslims and Arabs have been slaughtered in wicked interventionist conflicts.
To save our homes, families, friends, dignity and the world as we know it — is to stand up for the truth and to call a spade a spade.