After a three-month voyage of 8,000 miles from Galveston, Texas sailor Larry Toenjes, his one-person crew and his 37-foot sailboat, the S/V (sailing vessel) Liberty arrived September 7, 2011 at 3pm local time, at the spot off the Egyptian coast that is the site of the June 7, 1967 Israeli attack on the US Naval vessel, the USS Liberty. The deliberate Israeli attack killed 34 US Navy sailors and wounded 174. Toenjes sailed all the way from Texas to bring attention to the deadly attack 44 years ago, and is conducting a memorial service for those killed at that spot.
Since he arrived in the Mediterranean Sea over a month ago, Toenjes has been in communication with Commander Robert Palm, the Naval Attache at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, about his concern that Israeli Navy commandos would attack him as they had attacked other vessels in international waters.
He had invited members of the US Embassy to join him to at the memorial ceremony to acknowledge the deaths of 34 Americans.
Embassy officials declined, saying there was no boat to take them to the site.
US Embassy attaches say there is "No Guarantee of Behavior of Sovereign Forces Operating in International waters"
As Toenjes arrived off the coast of Egypt, in a September 7, 2011 email, Commander Palm wrote Toenjes ...
"We have no indication that the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) would harass your vessel, based on your reported route to the point of interest and then onto El Arish.
"Your coordination with us has allowed us to share your intended path for the cognizance of regional maritime authorities.
"This however is no guarantee of their behavior as sovereign forces operating in international waters."
US Navy Sixth Fleet -- We cannot guarantee the security of S/V Liberty
Rather than joining in a memorial to one of its own ships and crew that were attacked 44 years ago, an email from an official of the Sixth Fleet to Commander Palm said "The Sixth Fleet cannot guarantee the security of S/V Liberty. Sixth Fleet recommends that if S/V Liberty is concerned about its safety and security that it should return to its point of origin."
It is not unreasonable for Americans to look to their own government for protection from forces that have acted with belligerence towards other Americans on the high seas on previous occasions
Toenjes responded by email to Commander Palm about the answer of the Sixth Fleet concerning his safety:
"I must say, I was a little taken aback by the response from the spokesperson for the 6th fleet. I don't think it is unreasonable for Americans to look to their own government for protection from forces that have acted with belligerence towards other Americans on the high seas on previous occasions.
"Do they take the same attitude towards American tankers passing through pirate-infested areas? If American weaponry is not to be used for the protection of Americans, then what is it for?
"My only concern for my personal safety derives from possible irrational behavior of the IDF.
"My hope was that there might have been a suggestion from one friend to another to lay off. Hopefully, concern for their own self-interest has had the same effect."
Should active duty sailors be concerned that no U.S. military salute is given to those killed on the USS Liberty?
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