During the Six Day War between Israel and her neighbours, there was an incident involving the spy ship USS Liberty which took place in the Gulf of Akaba, between Egypt and Israel.

On June 8th, 1967, Israeli torpedo boats and aircraft attacked this intelligence ship for 75 minutes, killing 34 Americans and wounding 171. Despite reports from Spain, Lebanon and Germany that Israeli pilots were aware that this ship was American, yet the attack went ahead; the United States has been extremely unwilling to investigate this attack, describing it as a "tragic case of misidentification". There is ongoing controversy over the issue.

According to Israeli sources, the Israeli High command received reports that El Arish was being fired upon from the sea, presumably by an Egyptian vessel. A few days prior to this, the US had announced in the UN that they had no naval vessels within 100 miles of the vicinity. However, due to some communication errors, the USS Liberty arrived in the area, and was not able to inform the Israelis. It was then assumed by the Israelis that this ship was that which had been shelling El Arish. It was therefore attacked with ferocity, due to the standing command to attack any unidentified vessels in the area (it has been suggested that, as the weather was calm, the US flags were drooped and indiscernable). Once aware of the "greivous error", the Israelis provided aid to the Americans to save the crew and salvage the ship.

The US Government has invariably supported the official Israeli view, although there have been dissenters such as former Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Among the American press there have also been suggestions of the attack being a deliberate one. These suggestions are reinforced by the reports by Israeli pilots that they knew the ship was American, not the Egyptian El-Qusier, as it had been suggested to be. The reluctance of the US Government to have any kind of investigation into the matter complicates things further. Recently, some journalists have suggested a conspiracy theory: that the US government requested the Israeli attack in order that the US government could claim it as an Egyptian attack, therefore the US could attack Egypt, removing President Gamel Abdel Nasser - a 'communist' in US eyes. There is considerable contextual support for this idea, but it is yet to be proven.

The survivors of the attack continue to lobby for a proper investigation into the incident, as they feel betrayed by their government for the lack of such action. This is yet to be achieved. Many critics suggest that the US government does not want to lose support of the US Jewish lobby, nor expose her own treachery.


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