Filmmaker Belfield has constructed a slick
documentary falsely condemning Israel
UPDATE: Additional repeat broadcasts of this “documentary” include Jan. 16, 2015 at 9 p.m., Jan. 17 at 12 midnight, Jan. 17 at 3 a.m., Jan. 17 at 3 p.m. (The initial broadcast was on Oct. 31, 2014 at 10 p.m.).
An Al-Jazeera America “documentary” with the inflammatory title, “The Day Israel Attacked America,” promotes the myth of a far-reaching conspiracy regarding what repeated investigations have determined was a tragic accident, Israel’s attack on the Navy’s U.S.S. Liberty during the 1967 Six-Day War. Al-Jazeera recycles discredited charges that Israeli pilots knew beforehand they were about to attack an American ship. In this video, as in previous such works, some former Liberty crewmen and like-minded conspiracists insist that the U.S. government, including the Pentagon, intelligence agencies and Congress, failed to investigate the attack. In reality, six separate inquiries determined the attack to have been a “fog of war” mistake:
• C.I.A. report – June 13, 1967 – No malice; attack a mistake.
• U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry – June 18, 1967 – Mistaken identity.
• Report by presidential advisor Clark Clifford – July 18, 1967 – No evidence ship was known to be American.
• Senate Select Committee on Intelligence – 1979/1981 – No merit to claims attack was intentional.
• National Security Agency – 1981 – Mistaken identity.
• House Armed Services Committee – 1991/1992 – No support for claims attack was intentional.
A previous Liberty conspiracy broadcast, produced by Tom Seligson, Andrew Rothstein and David Siegel and aired on the History Channel was debunked by a 2002 CAMERA report The History Channel’s Bogus “History” Cover Up: Attack on the USS Liberty
(March 16, 2002). CAMERA’s report highlighted the following findings:
• The USS Liberty
was steaming more than 10 miles off the coast of El Arish, Egypt
on June 8, 1967, the fourth day of the war, when Israeli jets, responding to reports of shelling from the sea, attacked the ship with cannon and napalm;
• Soon afterwards Israeli torpedo boats arrived at the scene and also attacked after first being fired upon by the Liberty
. The Israeli seamen later explained they mistook the Liberty
for an Egyptian ship, the El Quesir, but when they realized their target was a U.S.S.
ship, they ceased firing and offered assistance (which was rejected).
• Tragically, 34 American personnel were killed in the attack and another 171 wounded. The Liberty crew numbered approximately 360.
Citing a number of examples, CAMERA’s 2000 report points out that “friendly fire – mistaken attacks against allies or one’s own forces – are an unfortunate reality of war.” In one, in the First Persian Gulf War in August 1991, two American pilots air-launched Maverick missiles that turned a pair of British armored personnel carriers (APCs) into burning wrecks, killing nine British soldiers. How could the American pilots misidentify and attack British armored vehicles in broad daylight in the desert? Could they not tell the difference between APC’s of our British NATO allies and the Soviet-supplied ones used by Iraq? How could they have missed the special markers that identified the vehicles as British?
The answer, of course, is that in the fog of war the U.S. pilots missed the markers and misidentified the British armored vehicles, just like the Israelis who missed the American flag (which was hanging down in still air) of the U.S.S. Liberty and misidentified it as an Egyptian ship. Nowhere in Al-Jazeera America’s documentary, not only one-sided but also sloppy, is mention made of the CIA report that the Liberty could have been mistaken for the Egyptian ship El Quseir.
“The Day Israel Attacked America” was produced for Al-Jazeera America in early 2014 by Richard Belfield, British television producer/director, author and playwright. It aired first on October 31 at 10 p.m. with at least 11 repeats aired or scheduled to be aired during November including November 21 at 10 p.m. and November 22 at 1 and 4 a.m. Additionally, teaser clips for these broadcasts have been and are being aired frequently during the broadcast day.
Bogus old claims
The video’s allegation that the Israeli boats first fired on the Liberty
is contradicted by the testimony of the Liberty’s commander, Captain William L. McGonagle, who ordered the Liberty
’s machine guns to cease fire (the U.S.
ship had fired first at the Israeli torpedo boats after the Israeli air strikes):
When the boats reached an approximate range of 2,000 yards, the center boat of the formation was signaling to us. Also, at this range, it appeared that they were flying an Israeli flag. This was later verified. It was not possible to read the signals from the center torpedo boat because of the intermittent blocking of view by smoke and flames. At this time I yelled to machine gun 51 to tell him to hold fire. I realized that there was a possibility of the aircraft having been Israeli and the attack had been conducted in error.” (Sworn testimony of Cdr. William L. McGonagle, June 14, 1967)
The video also falsely claims that the Israeli boats fired on life rafts containing Liberty crew members. This allegation is refuted in CAMERA’s 2002 report .
Alleged audio evidence mysteriously acquired by Al-Jazeera
In addition to numerous re-created grizzly scenes purporting to depict the events of June 8, 1967 on the Liberty, interspersed with 2014 testimonies of seven crew members, the video is peppered with screens containing largely unintelligible, garbled voices purporting to be those of Israeli pilots and control tower personnel (presumably speaking Hebrew) accompanied by captioned purported translations. Viewers – on nothing more than blind faith – are supposed to accept this material as legitimate. This supposed audio evidence of an intentional assault is claimed to have been “recorded in real time by the Israeli military during the assault” and “acquired by Al-Jazeera.” But nowhere does the video, or Al-Jazeera America elsewhere, explain how these audio recordings were acquired, from whom, and their veracity.
The inflammatory claims regarding these mysterious recordings are contradicted by official analyses of actual relevant recordings, as well as the explanation of events in the case. These have been made available
by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Also contradicting what must be considered Belfield’s bogus documentary, a comprehensive report on the U.S.S. Liberty case, including analysis of the actual Israeli recordings, is available in The Liberty Incident Revealed: The Definitive Account of the 1967 Israeli Attack on the U.S. Navy Spy Ship
by Captain A. Jay Cristol, USN (Ret.), a decorated Navy aviator and Navy lawyer.
Published by Naval Institute Press, The Liberty Incident Revealed has been endorsed by a former director of U.S. Naval Intelligence and by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Az), himself a former naval aviator. The senator said “I commend Judge Cristol for his thoroughness and fairness, and I commend this work.” Captain Cristol points out that the Israeli pilots and air controller recognized something was wrong after 10 to 12 minutes and terminated the attack – after “identifying Liberty as not being an Arab warship by her hull markings ‘GTR 5.'”
Voices are heard and a far-reaching conspiracy is alleged
The first of the screens in the Belfield video, supposedly presenting the actual voices of Israeli pilots and control tower operators, occurs at two minutes into the broadcast hour (which includes commercial breaks) and repeated at 18 minutes. It summarizes the alleged conspiracy supposedly covered up by both the American and Israeli governments.
The narrator claims that Israeli voices recorded prior to the attack prove it was intentional: “This audio tape, which has never been broadcast before, was recorded in real time by the Israeli military during the assault. The woman’s voice in the background is counting down the seconds. It proves that Israeli commanders knew all along that they were attacking an American ship.”
At this point, basically unintelligible voices are heard and captioned as: Pilot: What State does the ship belong to? Control Tower: American. (The word “American” is possibly discernable).
Narrator (alleging a far-reaching conspiracy): “For the first time, this and other evidence, allows us to reveal the true story of what happened that day. And what came after when a deadly assault by one ally on another was covered up, and an American president was manipulated by the secret agents of a foreign power – events that have shaped U.S.-Israeli relations ever since.”
But where’s the evidence?
In order to support this “secret agents of a foreign power” conspiracy theory, the video presents, on-screen, Thomas L. Hughes, then director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the State Department, who makes unsubstantiated claims: “The reason they [Israelis] attacked was that they thought this [the Liberty] was an intelligence ship that was intercepting Israeli communications.” And Hughes claims that this information was leaked off the record by President Lyndon B. Johnson to Newsweek magazine, which in turn leaked it to the Israeli embassy. The embassy then threatened Johnson that if he pursued this line he would be accused of a blood libel and gross antisemitism and that would end his political career. But no evidence is offered to support Hughes’ claim.
Such fantasies of outsized Israeli and Jewish power are characteristic of classical anti-Jewish conspiracy allegations such as those embedded in the infamous “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.” The Liberty attack conspiracy features such motifs, including covert manipulation for nefarious purposes by Jews, or Israelis, who despite their small numbers wield a virtually irresistible, malign influence over larger, more powerful peoples and countries. Furthermore the alleged Israeli motivation cited here for the attack is not plausible. At its location off El-Arish, Egypt, the Liberty was in no position to eavesdrop on communications regarding Israeli plans for future conduct of the war in the north, against Syria because such plans would not likely have been discussed over the Israeli communications net so far to the south of Israel.
The video also presents Adm. Bobby Ray Inman (USN, Ret.). In 1967, Inman was a Navy intelligence officer. From 1974 to 1976, he served as director of Naval Intelligence. Hi
s next job, in which he served only until 1977, was as vice director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. From 1977 to 1981 Inman served as director of the National Security Agency. His last major position was as the deputy director of Central Intelligence, a post he held from 1981 to 1982. He then retired at the rank of admiral. On-screen in this video, Inman provides support for anti-Israel “blackmail” allegations. With his many high ranking jobs, albeit some of short duration, ostensibly Inman would seem to be a credible witness.
But Inman may have had a long-standing anti-Israel animus. A 1994 New York Times article
reported: “His conviction that a ‘new McCarthyism’ had taken hold of the nation’s press led Bobby Ray Inman to withdraw from consideration as Defense Secretary, the former nominee said today. In an extraordinary hour long, rambling monologue, Mr. Inman described how his response to press coverage of his nomination evolved over a period of less than three weeks from ‘bemused detachment’ at the first unflattering references to the conclusion that accounts of his record were so unfair and distorted that there was no reason to ‘put up with that garbage’ after 30 years in public life. Several of his central assertions concerned writers and editors of The New York Times
, most notably William Safire, the columnist, whom Mr. Inman accused of vengeful hostility over some 13 years.”
“Mr. Safire said today that what evidently most angered Mr. Inman was ‘my criticism of his anti-Israel bias.’ In his Dec. 23 column, Mr. Safire recounted an incident he first reported in 1981, in which, he said, Mr. Inman ‘had planted a false story with a group of newsmen that Israel was the source of rumors that a Libyan hit squad was on its way to the U.S.’ In both his Dec. 1981 column and the column last month, Mr. Safire wrote that Mr. Inman was trying to make Israel appear to be provoking an American air strike against Libya.”
The final words in this malevolent “documentary” are spoken by the narrator in describing an opinion supposedly uttered by a high ranking official: “At the time, George Ball, the U.S. Undersecretary of State, noted that it seemed clearly to the Israelis that as American leaders did not have the courage to punish them for blatant murder of American citizens, they would let them get away with anything.” Typically, the problem with this claim by the video is that Ball’s alleged opinion (he was no friend of close U.S.-Israel ties) cannot be verified by any reputable source and Ball is not available to verify (or refute) it since he died in 1994.
Captain Cristol assessed the reality of the situation this way: “In the summer of 1967 the Israeli leadership considered American goodwill towards Israel to be its supreme political interest, second only to Israel’s existence [Cristol backs this up with a history lesson].” So, intentionally attacking an American ship for any reason would have been sheer lunacy and Israeli officials have not been known to be given to such suicidal lunacy.
What is Al-Jazeera America’s game plan?
The Al-Jazeera America television news network seems intent upon using this fraudulent video to inculcate its viewers with the false belief that Israel is an enemy of America. But in fact it is Al-Jazeera America, whose owner/operator, the government of Qatar is a major funder of Hamas, the terrorist Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, and past supporter of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, whose government was overthrown by the military after tens of millions of Egyptians had demanded the fundamentalists’ ouster, that is itself a problematic news source for American viewers. The network’s ongoing anti-Israel propaganda is contained in its technically high-quality presentations including numerous “news hour” style broadcasts. The network’s collaborators include National Public Radio (NPR) – partially supported by U.S. taxpayer dollars – which provides promotional endorsements during newscasts for Al-Jazeera America broadcasts. The propaganda has been extensively documented in CAMERA‘s Web feature
“Al-Jazeera America Watch.”
Al-Jazeera America isn’t much interested in profits, according to its CEO. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013: “Al Jazeera, which is backed by oil and gas-rich Qatar, says profits aren’t a priority. Interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi told The Wall Street Journal this summer: ‘That is the difference that will allow us to maintain our journalistic identity.'”
Translation: Unlike its commercial competitors (including ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and NBC), the network doesn’t care that much about viewer ratings. Rather, it’s in the game to influence the opinion makers – teachers, journalists, other “news junkie” public opinion molders and government officials.