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February 14, 2003

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PAGE 16 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS FEBRUARY 14,; , judge says attack sinking S. ship was an After the attack, Photo courtesy of the USS Liberty arrives in a port in Malta. C~n'~ of Pmcelon ond O~nge .~ 0 ~ 2113 N. Orange Avenue Orlando, FL 32804 For Reservations/Information call 407-841-0083 www Sul~scnpm:~n Pockoges & Group fo~es Peffo ances February 21 - fVlcxch 15 Thursclay- SaflJrday 8:00 PM Surx:lay Motinee March 9, 2:30 PM Tickets ale $15.001S 12.00 {Seniors/Students) By Matthew E. Berger WASHINGTON, D.C. (JTA)--In the cramped confer- ence room of a Washington think tank, Judge A. Jay Cristol stares through glasses perched on the tip of his nose at a room full of skeptics. He proceeds to lay out a de- tailed argument of what he believes happened to the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, when it was sunk off the Sinai coast by Israeli planes and torpedo boats during the Six-Day War. But Cristol doesn't seem to care whether he convinces the skeptics. "It's a free country," Cristol says; you can believe him, or not. Israel always has said the attack, which killed 34 seamen and wounded 171, was a mis- take. But some in the United States, including a group of survivors of the attack, say it was intentional. Though they can find no motive for Israel to purposely attack the ship, they say the circumstances of the attack make it clear that Israel was targeting the United States. Israel and the United States have conducted numerous in- vestigations over the years, all determining that the attackwas accidental. Several U.S. federal investigations, including a Navy inquiry conducted by the father of Sen. John McCain (R- Ariz.), also say the attack was an accident. But some independent re- views, including a recent docu- mentary on the History Chan- nel, suggest a deliberate attack by Israel. Survivors are seeking a congressional investigation to resolve the matter once and for all. At a Middle East Institute forum in December, it didn't take long to realize that Cristol, Fly EL AL nonstop from JFK or Newark, stay at a top-value hotel for 5 nights and enjoy an Israeli buffet breakfast every day. Any companion can enjoy the same package. OR Fly EL AL nonstop from JFK or Newark to Israel. To upgrade to a deluxe hotel, add up to $200 for the 5 nights. Participating hotels include: the Dan Panorama, the Carlton / Inbal, the Crowne Plaza, the David Intercontinental / David Citadel and the Prima. These air and/or hotel packages are also available at a really low surcharge from other EL AL gateway cities: Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles. - For flights, call yotW. travel agent or EL AL at 800-223-6700 or 212-768-9200. For air/hotel packages, call 800-EL AL SUN. a Florida bankruptcy court judge, is in the accident camp. His new book, "The Liberty Incident," which will be re- leased in paperback later this month, is the culmination of 10 years of doctoral research Cristol did at the UniveBity of Miami, which included more than 500 interviews and 3,000 documents. Cristoi became interested in the topicwhen an acquaintance suggested that his range of ex- periences - as a naval aviator, Navy lawyer and federal judge- qualified him to research the topic. The issue then became almost an obsession, he says. Cristol's review of U.S. and Israeli investigations led to the conclusion that the attack was an accident, the result of blun- ders on both sides that led Is- rael to believe it was attacking an Egyptian ship. His book not only recounts the details of the attack - rely- ing on interviews, documenta- tion and testimony- it debunks many of the conspiracy theo- ries that have been raised in the ensuing decades. Among the theories is the claim that Israeli Defense Min- ister Moshe Dayan ordered the attack, a claim that Cristol says lacks credibility because it originated with an unidenti- fied informant and was never verified. As an example of Cristol's attention to detail, he shows a Life Magazine photo of Dayan taken on the day of the Liberty attack - when Dayan was out of communication - and notes that his wristwatch shows the photo was taken 17 minutes before the order to attack was given. Thus Dayan could not have given the order, Cristol concludes. Most of the conspiracy theo- ries are intended to create a rift between the United States and Israel, Cristol says. "It's just purely anti- Semitism and anti-Israel," Cristol told JTA. "They don't care what the facts are; they just want to present the idea that Israel did a dirty deed against the U.S." One book by a survivor of the attack, "Assault on the Liberty," says the Liberty's radio frequencieswere jammed and that the boat was attacked for a prolonged pe- riod at close range, so the Is- raelis must have seen the ship's flag and other markings that indicated it was American. The book, by James Ennes, has been sent to college librar- ies to promote anti-Israel sen- timent on campus, Cristol says. Cristol also takes aim at an- other argument of the con- spiracy crowd, who say the Liberty's commanding officer, Capt. William McGonagle, was given the Congressional Medal of Honor privately at the Wash- ington Navy Yard to avoid me- dia attention on the day that other men received their med- als at the White House. However, Cristol starts his talk with an overhead trans- parency showing a letter he received from McGonagle, ad- mitting that he misstated the day he received the medal. It seems like a minor point, but it sets the tone for Cristol's entire discussion: People make mistakes, people get informa- tion wrong. "Whether or not I will con- vince any of you distinguished gentlemen of anything here today, I am at least pleased to point out that I was able to convince the skipper of the Lib- ' of one of the event rael mi ing the United can'tl objective during the War was to fi tial attack, but after upset the United States ally. "Why United States eumstances does not Therefore, he only logical the attack was a As he steps back to address picture. Instead he by detail, theories that sa' deliberate. From the audience tions, it's apparent that how Cristol raelis he spoke to, who roborated the mistake were actually the attack. them at their word, the s way he took the his word when he: wce president national director of the suffice. veri to were partici says later. Meadors and some peers who on the Liberty say it have been an accident. was flying high and Israelis must have whom they were The History mentary, the in 2001. It backs the some survivors that federal probed the real cause Liberty attack. Cristol and others the video as Meadors was in recently to lobby Cristol says there the attack, but the Liberty remains military disaster that received a quiry. efforts, has cared enough issue to take the ing legislation inquiry. Detractors say chooses the tion because he is Cristol tries to Jewishness his for a strong gic relationship - bias accusations. "H sition and listened to that supported his who disagreewith him."d knows that his book close the Liberty hope, he says, is to "poison" of those who Israel of a deliberate His book "is th~ the poison," he says. fully, someone with mind will look at "and come to the ri sion."