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1 of 2 – PRESS RELEASE: Ken O’Keefe Aboard the Mavi Marmara, Personal Statement & Photos

Hello all,

I write to inform you about Ken O’Keefe, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was stormed by the Israeli military in the early hours of Monday 31st May, towed to Ashdod Port in Israel and all its passengers detained.

Just a brief background on Ken: He was born and raised in California and served in the US Marine Corps, being deployed to Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. After many years spent working in the field of marine conservation and green sea turtle rescues (funded by his scuba diving operation, Deep Ecology) and Hawaiian Sovereignty, he left the US shortly after the events of 911 and renounced his US citizenship, entering into the political asylum process in Holland. In 2003 he initiated and led the Human Shield Action to Iraq during the invasion. In 2008 he served as a captain and 1st mate with the Free Gaza Movement, which ended the 41 year siege of Gaza by sailing two boats into Gaza. He is currently the director of Aloha Palestine, a company he co-founded to establish a lawful passenger and cargo shipping service between Cyprus and Gaza. He joined the Freedom Flotilla to meet with the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, exporters and others in relation to Aloha Palestine. However, while on board he took on the role of defending the ship.

Ken has appeared on a number of news programs and live news broadcasts as a political analyst since 2008.

Ken was transferred to Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday and was due to be deported by the Israeli authorities to Istanbul, then repatriated to Dublin by the Irish officials. He refused deportation and demanded that he be sent to Gaza, or the Occupied Palestinian Territories, using his Palestinian travel documents (he was awarded Palestinian citizenship when he captained one of the two Free Gaza boats into Gaza in August 2008). The Israelis acknowledged that he is a Palestinian citizen, but refused his demand on the basis that his passport was invalid since it had not been registered.

The general atmosphere in the airport on Wednesday was quite chaotic, and a scuffle broke out. Ken was bashed on the forehead and then badly beaten by the Israeli officials/police. He sustaineds a large bloody gash on his head, and some bruised ribs. When I spoke with him he had a hoarse, croaky voice. He had been put in a head lock until he nearly passed out. His aggressor released Ken at the last possible moment. Ken refused medical attention because he was not allowed access to a lawyer, nor was he being allowed to make phone calls.

On Thursday Ken’s case went before a judge who ruled that he be detained pending deportation (Ken wanted to be released without charge).

Having already been complaining of dizziness following his first beating by Israeli police, Ken was beaten again that night in his cell. Again, he has refused treatment for his injuries. Ken was unable to eat for a few days as his throat was sore following being held in a head lock on Wednesday.

He wanted to appeal his deportation and go to Gaza, but his solicitor advised him that for his own safety he should leave Israel. The longer he stayed, the greater the detriment to his health. On Friday morning he signed his Emergency Travel Documents provided to him by the Irish Consulate and was booked onto a flight to Istanbul.

Israeli officials asked him to clean himself up as his face was bloody and he was quite dishevelled. He refused, as he wanted the world to see what had happened to him. The officials threatened to keep him in custody unless he co-operated, but he called their bluff, and was allowed to board his flight to Istanbul as he was. He was met by Irish Embassy staff and a press conference. He also gave an interview with Turkish newspaper the Hurriyet, which was featured on the front page. Prior to the press conference he had issued the following statement:

“I want to discuss my role in defending the ship and disarming two Israeli commandos along with conditions and treatment while in Israeli custody, including two beatings at the hands of Israeli agents.”

Ken will depart Istanbul on Wednesday 9th June for Dublin, where he will stay for two days before returning home to his wife and baby son on Friday 11th June.

Please find attached a personal statement written by Ken in Istanbul, and below are photographs taken on his arrival to Istanbul.

O'Keefe

O'Keefe
o'keefe

Press conferences are being arranged in Dublin and London. Please contact me if you would like to interview Ken.

Best wishes,

Fadwa Dajani
(Mrs O’Keefe)

Aloha Palestine

Ken O’Keefe: ‘We, the defenders of the Mavi Marmara, are the modern example of Gandhi’s essence’

Official Statement of Ken O’Keefe


I have for many years understood that we, people of conscience, are the true holders of power in this world. Frustratingly however we have largely relinquished that power and failed to reach our full potential.  Our potential to create a better world, a just world.  Nonetheless I have conspired with others of like mind to reveal and exercise our true power.  In 2002 I initiated the TJP Human Shield Action to Iraq because I knew that the invasion of Iraq had been planned well in advance, that it was part of a ‘Global Spectrum Dominance’ agenda as laid out by the Project For A New American Century.

I knew that protests had no chance of stopping the invasion, and that largely these protests were just a way of making us feel better about the coming mass murder; by being able to say I protested against it.  With that understanding I argued that the only viable way to stop the invasion was to conduct a mass migration to Iraq.  A migration in which people from around the world, especially western citizens, would position themselves at sites in Iraq that are supposed to be protected by international law, but which are routinely bombed when it is only Iraqi, Palestinian, generally non-white, western lives who will be killed.  I felt 10,000 such people could stop the invasion, or at the very least, expose the invasion for what it was from the start, an act of international aggression, a war crime and a crime against humanity.

When our two double-decker buses travelled from London to Baghdad through Turkey, it was ever clear that the people of Turkey also could sense the power of this act, and they were the biggest participants in it.  In the end we did not get the numbers required to stop the war, with at least one million Iraqi’s dead as a result, but I remain convinced that it was within our power to prevent the invasion.  A massive opportunity lost as far as I am concerned.

In 2007 I joined the Free Gaza Movement with its plan to challenge the blockade of Gaza by travelling to Gaza by sea.  From the moment I heard of the plan I knew it could succeed and ultimately I served as a captain on the first attempt.  The Israeli government said throughout our preparation that we were no better than pirates and they would treat us as such.  They made clear we would not reach Gaza.  And still I knew we could succeed.  And we did.  Two boats with 46 passengers from various countries managed to sail into Gaza on August 23, 2010; this was the first time this had been done in 41 years.  The truth is the blockade of Gaza is far more than three years old, and yet we, a small group of conscientious people defied the Israeli machine and celebrated with tens of thousands of Gazans when we arrived that day.  We proved that it could be done.  We proved that an intelligent plan, with skilled manipulation of the media, could render the full might of the Israeli Navy useless.  And I knew then that this was only the tip of the iceberg.

So participating in the Freedom Flotilla is like a family reunion to me.  It is my long lost family whose conscience is their guide, who have shed the fear, who act with humanity.  But I was especially proud to join IHH and the Turkish elements of the flotilla.  I deeply admire the strength and character of the Turkish people, despite your history having stains of injustice, like every nation, you are today from citizen to Prime Minister among the leaders in the cause of humanity and justice.

I remember being asked during the TJP Human Shield Action to Iraq if I was a pacifist, I responded with a quote from Gandhi by saying I am not a passive anything.  To the contrary I believe in action, and I also believe in self-defence, 100%, without reservation.  I would be incapable of standing by while a tyrant murders my family, and the attack on the Mavi Marmara was like an attack on my Palestinian family.  I am proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with those who refused to let a rogue Israeli military exert their will without a fight.  And yes, we fought.

When I was asked, in the event of an Israeli attack on the Mavi Mamara, would I use the camera, or would I defend the ship?  I enthusiastically committed to defence of the ship.  Although I am also a huge supporter of non-violence, in fact I believe non-violence must always be the first option.  Nonetheless I joined the defence of the Mavi Mamara understanding that violence could be used against us and that we may very well be compelled to use violence in self-defence.

I said this straight to Israeli agents, probably of Mossad or Shin Bet, and I say it again now, on the morning of the attack I was directly involved in the disarming of two Israeli Commandos.  This was a forcible, non-negotiable, separation of weapons from commandos who had already murdered two brothers that I had seen that day.  One brother with a bullet entering dead center in his forehead, in what appeared to be an execution.  I knew the commandos were murdering when I removed a 9mm pistol from one of them.  I had that gun in my hands and as an ex-US Marine with training in the use of guns it was completely within my power to use that gun on the commando who may have been the murderer of one of my brothers.  But that is not what I, nor any other defender of the ship did.  I took that weapon away, removed the bullets, proper lead bullets, separated them from the weapon and hid the gun.  I did this in the hopes that we would repel the attack and submit this weapon as evidence in a criminal trial against Israeli authorities for mass murder.

I also helped to physically separate one commando from his assault rifle, which another brother apparently threw into the sea.  I and hundreds of others know the truth that makes a mockery of the brave and moral Israeli military.  We had in our full possession, three completely disarmed and helpless commandos.  These boys were at our mercy, they were out of reach of their fellow murderers, inside the ship and surrounded by 100 or more men.  I looked into the eyes of all three of these boys and I can tell you they had the fear of God in them.  They looked at us as if we were them, and I have no doubt they did not believe there was any way they would survive that day.  They looked like frightened children in the face of an abusive father.

But they did not face an enemy as ruthless as they.  Instead the woman provided basic first aid, and ultimately they were released, battered and bruised for sure, but alive.  Able to live another day.  Able to feel the sun over head and the embrace of loved ones.  Unlike those they murdered.  Despite mourning the loss of our brothers, feeling rage towards these boys, we let them go.   The Israeli prostitutes of propaganda can spew all of their disgusting bile all they wish, the commandos are the murderers, we are the defenders, and yet we fought.  We fought not just for our lives, not just for our cargo, not just for the people of Palestine, we fought in the name of justice and humanity.  We were right to do so, in every way.

While in Israeli custody I, along with everyone else was subjected to endless abuse and flagrant acts of disrespect.  Women and elderly were physically and mentally assaulted.  Access to food and water and toilets was denied.  Dogs were used against us, we ourselves were treated like dogs.  We were exposed to direct sun in stress positions while hand cuffed to the point of losing circulation of blood in our hands.  We were lied to incessantly, in fact I am awed at the routineness and comfort in their ability to lie, it is remarkable really.  We were abused in just about every way imaginable and I myself was beaten and choked to the point of blacking out… and I was beaten again while in my cell.

In all this what I saw more than anything else were cowards… and yet I also see my brothers.  Because no matter how vile and wrong the Israeli agents and government are, they are still my brothers and sisters and for now I only have pity for them.  Because they are relinquishing the most precious thing a human being has, their humanity.

In conclusion; I would like to challenge every endorser of Gandhi, every person who thinks they understand him, who acknowledges him as one of the great souls of our time (which is just about every western leader), I challenge you in the form of a question.  Please explain how we, the defenders of the Mavi Marmara, are not the modern example of Gandhi’s essence?  But first read the words of Gandhi himself.

I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence…. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour. – Gandhi

And lastly I have one more challenge. I challenge any critic of merit, publicly, to debate me on a large stage over our actions that day.  I would especially love to debate with any Israeli leader who accuses us of wrongdoing, it would be my tremendous pleasure to face off with you.  All I saw in Israel was cowards with guns, so I am ripe to see you in a new context.  I want to debate with you on the largest stage possible.  Take that as an open challenge and let us see just how brave Israeli leaders are.

Source

O'Keefe

Testimonies from Passengers begin to come in

Written by Free Gaza Team | 03 June 2010

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In an interview with Sweden’s largest news bureau TT, Mattias Gardell, professor of religion and spokesperson for Shiptogaza.se, said the Israelis shot live from the air, gave wounded no treatment. He said activists threw away Isreali weapons, and he fears activists drowned:

“- The Israelis committed premeditated murder. There were rangers with laser sights. Two people were killed by shots in the forehead, one was shot in the back of the head and one in the chest. Several of those killed were journalists. I saw one of the bodies and heard many corroborative testimonies

, says Mattias Gardell on the phone from Istanbul.

– First came the special forces of silent boats. Then the defenders of our boat used fire hoses and made it impossible for the Israelis to come on board. Some soldiers were captured. An Uzi and a pistol were seized, emptied of ammunition and were thrown into the sea. We would by all means show that there was a peaceful campaign and that we did not have weapons, said Gardell.

– Then came the paratroopers in four helicopters and they shot sharply already from the time they were in the air, he says.

Gardell says that the attack was launched at exactly 04:10 local time on Monday and that 14 military vessels circled around Mavi Marmara.

– There were three large frigates, four ironclads and a host of small quiet boats for boarding. There was even a small submarine.

– I think the explanation for this massive assault on an unarmed convoy is that Israel wanted to practise pre-emptive strikes at sea, said Gardell.

The death toll could rise, he fears.

– Many were severely injured by the attack and were treated in such a way that the damage was aggravated. They were tied on deck, some had hoods over their heads in the worst Guantanamo style. Some were bleeding and one was shot in the back but got no help, he says.

“And there are people who are missing, and it worries me a lot. People were thrown, and threw themselves, into the sea in the attack”

According to Gardell, there is no doubt that the Israelis were aware that the convoy was peaceful and unarmed. The vessels were inspected in accordance with all applicable rules for passengers and cargo before they left Greece and Turkey.

“Everything was filmed. The Turkish aid organization IHH wanted to show that everything really went right. And I really want to emphasize that it completely was a peaceful, humanitarian intervention, which consisted of generators, prefabricated houses and schools, tröskmaskiner and more,” he says.

After they are landed, the activists were placed in collection camps with prison discipline.

– We had to constantly remind the Israelis that we were not prisoners. We were accused of illegal entry into Israel, although we have been kidnapped out of international waters, said Gardell

– Now we are tired. We mourn the dead and think of their relatives. We are dirty and have not been sleeping. We have no other clothes. The Israelis cut our clothes apart and smashed cameras and computers, says Mattias Gardell.”