Defenders of the Mavi Marmara

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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 ‘Full 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.

This is the send off for the IHH passenger ship just before departure from Antalya on May 27, 2010. As you can see the atmosphere is jubilant and optimistic.

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.

Israeli Commando – Disarmed and receiving first aid.

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.

Comments(36)

  • Dave
    June 18, 2010, 3:10 pm  

    Did you have an interview?

    watch from 1:35

  • Rod Foster
    June 23, 2010, 4:10 am  

    Hi Ken, just saw you on Hard Talk. Really think you are what the world needs right now. Really want to spread your message to all i know. You’re passion and honesty truly inspiring. Tried to find you on Facebook, you don’t show up, and the link from you blog page leads nowhere. Has Mark Zuckerberg blocked access to your page?

  • David
    June 23, 2010, 5:38 am  

    Saw you on Hardtalk on BBC. Nice tattoos. How drunk were you when you made them?
    Anyway, also heard you comparing Hamas to Nelson Mandela. Poor Mandela. If he only knew what is he compared too. My TV screen almost exploded when you said that. For a minute I was sure there was an IHH “peace activist” hiding in there. Anyway, Hamas and Mandela. mmm. Interesting. You mean the same Hamas that under it’s control Palestinian women have no rights? And any other opinion which is not an Islamic fundamentalist one is not allowed? You are definitely supporting the right group as a “world citizen”. For example, try to draw a cartoon about Mohamed in Gaza, or Denmark, and see what happens.
    There are 6 million Jews in Israel right now. Don’t you wish it was 1939 right now and you could help with the final solution?

    • maurice sabbag
      July 6, 2010, 2:49 pm

      you talk about islamic and fundamentalists,
      but do you talk about the lives that are beeing lost for so many years in palestine ? you poor fucker, you say that becouse you have never lived a life like that, i life with no purpose, i life with no certainty, go fuck you, you selfish mother fucker.
      you talk about the nazi, but what is Israel doing?…
      hahahaha
      a poeple expeled from all around the world becouse it has nothing of good to give, it allways tries to monopolize the world and social information, and economy.
      fuck israel! even the tru zionists do not support the ocupation, nor the state. u aschkenazi or sefardi, you dick sukker? KEN, WELL DONE, IF WE DO NOT FIGHT FOR A FREE WORLD, WE WILL LIVE UNDER OPRESSION FOR ALL TIMES.

      PS: I DONT KNOW IF KEN WOULD LIKE IT TO BEE 1939, BUT I WOULD LOVE IT.

  • June 23, 2010, 8:56 am  

    i’m watching the bbc interview and i’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at your comments. are you calling jailed terrorists in israel your brothers? hahhaha
    i can’t believe how these people from the first world romanticize certain causes and make it their own.. i guess it’s easy to think like that when you live a cozy life.
    also, how is it smart to hit armed soldiers? i mean, nine lost lives so you can be on the bbc? how genius.
    watch your back, son.

    • maurice sabbag
      July 6, 2010, 3:01 pm

      cozy life??
      what tha fuck do you know about life?
      have you live in the ocupated territory??
      have you lived the lives of the palestinians???
      my fuckin friend, there is no such thing as “these people from the first world” in this fact. there are PEOPLE FROM THE WORLD you fucker, and if you, do not see youreselfe as from this world, so go to the moon, asshole. there is no revolution without blood, it is a price that every soldier on a just couse is willing to pay.
      yeah, 9 lives were lost, but do you know how many are lost every day in palestina?…and the fucking israel supporting midia hides it?…
      thanks God, Ken went on world wide television, so good poeple, and blind people like you, could see a bit of the truth tha happens in that man forsaken world.

      you call them terrorists, as do the USA goverment. but who is the terrorist, PEOPLE WHO TRY TO DEFEND THERE LAND, THERE FAMILY, THERE LIFES? OR THE ONES THAT TRY TO TAKE IT, AND END WITH IT ALL?…

      LOOK IRAQ, BIRTHPLACE OF CIVILIZATION, ROBBED, SACKED, DESTROID BY the PEACE MAKERS!!! PEACE THERE ASS!! THEY DESTROYD A ENTIRE COUNTRY, THEY KILLED SADDAM FOR SOME EXECUTIONS, BUT HOW MANY PEOPLE DIE NOW, EVERY DAY? AND EVERY HOUR?
      WHAT ABOUT APHGANISTAN?…IS IT STILL A COUNTRY, OR A GRAVE YARD?

      THINK HARD MY FRIEND, BEFORE YOU SAY STUPID THINGS.

      • Adnan Bin Hassan
        July 17, 2010, 8:10 pm

        THE LEAST KEN O’KEEFE WALK HIS TALK. WHAT ABOUT YOU? FOR TYRANNY TO TRIUMPH IT TAKE GOOD MAN DO NOTHING.

    • Adnan Bin Hassan
      July 17, 2010, 8:01 pm

      1. ON THE INTERNATIONAL WATER. 2. WHY BOARD ON OTHERS SHIP W/O WARRANT. 3. 9 CIVILLIANS DEATH TO NONE OF ZIONIS DEATH. 4. STUDY THE AUTHENTIC TORAH. 5. AND WATCH YOUR BACK TOO. 6. SUCH A POOR PITY SOULESS SPECIES.

  • Dirk van der Merwe
    June 23, 2010, 9:21 am  

    I have just watched the Kenneth O’Keefe interview on BBC and must express my utmost discuss at the misguided views of this questionable character and his mannerism which clearly indicated that he is better suited to be part of the suppressive male chauvinistic ideology of the people he calls his brothers! Good riddance – the west is better off without him. Viva Israel, Viva!

    • maurice sabbag
      July 6, 2010, 3:07 pm

      THE WEST???
      FUCK YOU, AND IS THE WEST BETTER WITH YOU?….
      SUPPRESSIVE CHAUVINISTIC IDEOLOGY?….
      FUCK YOU!!!
      AND WHAT IS ISRAELS IDEOLOGY, WHEN IT SEND MISSILES AND BOMBS, AND TANKS, AND ARMED MEN, TO THE HOUSES AND SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES AND HOSPITALS, OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE???…
      THANK GOD HEZBOLLAH NEVER LET THAT FILTHY RACE CONQUER LEBANON, AND NEVER WILL!
      SO MY FRIEND, DO NOT TALK HERE ABOUT IDEOLOGY, FOR YOU HAVE NONE, YET YOU ARE HERE, TRYING TO CUT OFF THE EFFORTS OF SOMEONE WHOW REALLY HAS, FOR IDEOLOGY IS A CAUSE, AND A REASON FOR LIVING AS A HUMAN BEEING, AND LETTING OTHERS LIVE AS IT.

  • Dirk van der Merwe
    June 23, 2010, 9:30 am  

    If you wanna really understand the flotilla issue check out this link:

    Viva Israel, Viva!
    Dirk from South Africa!

  • Dirk van der Merwe
    June 23, 2010, 9:48 am  

    Sorry, the link has been removed – pity because it explains by song parody the clever and slimy way the ‘victims’ set themselves up to gain international support while laughing all the way to the ‘bank’!

    PS have just read the ‘spirituality’ link on this O’Keefe character and it explains a lot and now I have nothing but pity for him.
    Shame!
    Viva Israel, Viva!
    Dirk from South Africa.

  • julia shaw-lawrence
    June 23, 2010, 4:21 pm  

    I have just seen your interview on the BBC – As someone who visited Israel recently and has subsequently written of the experience,largely ‘through the wall’ and as a UK member of USC4PJ I laud what you said and the truths you so unequivocally were able to convey. I was on the march in Rome with USC4PJ on June 1st. and now having been interviewed by Euronews suspect I won’t be allowed back into Israel as a visitor again.
    I join you in what you are doing; I would happily be on the next flotilla and only look for more ways to actively participate to an end to the inhumane treatment of Palestinians and all people who are subjugated by the forces of evil and perverse self-interested power. Thank God there are people like you as there is no more room for compromise.
    yours with peace
    Julia S-L

  • Maurice Sabbag
    June 23, 2010, 5:24 pm  

    hi Ken, i am Maurice Sabbag, 21years old, im from Brasil, i am grandson os palestinias and libanese, son of bolivian mother and brasilian father, and i have been in update with the disaster that happened in the mavi marma, and about your efforts on putting and end on the Gaza blockade as well as taking suplies to the palestinian people.
    i congratulate you for your braveness in saying such truth words to that zionist lover in Hard talk.
    and i would like to know, if there is anyway, we could get in touch, for i would like to if we could be of any help, we have a good group of people here, that would like to be helpfull on these times, and i would like to know if there is any probable date on wich the next flotilla will depart?… if you could please mantain contact, i would be very gratefull…

    thanks man, good luck

    FREE PALESTINE!!!
    DOWN THE ZIONIST OCUPATION!!!
    LET OUR PEOPLE LIVE!! WE ARE ALL SONS OF THE SAME WORLD, BREETHE THE SAME AIR, LIVE UNDER THE SAME SKY, IF GOD PERMITS, WY SHOULD WE PROHIBIT?!

  • Aly
    June 26, 2010, 8:16 pm  

    Ken

    I just came across your interview on HardTalk (or is that ShiteTalk?) about the crazed act of Israeli piracy. To be honest I am simply amazed at how hypocritical, and lacking in any form of human decency supporters of this illegal IDF act are.

    Your interview was the best I have seen on the subject (although I literally blushed with shame at the mealy mouthed nonsense of the anchor). The courage and just basic humanity of those on that ship, including yourself, are a great and rare example in an ocean of bullshit. It makes me wish I could have been on it with you all.

    Keep at it, friend.

    Peace

  • Kris
    June 27, 2010, 9:23 am  

    Thank you for doing what is right.

  • julia shaw-lawrence
    June 28, 2010, 4:38 pm  

    I’d be really pleased to know that I might get updates etc. as yet I am waiting for an acknowledgement of what I have sent !! I know the ‘race goes not to the swiftest’
    Thanks
    j.v.s-l

  • June 28, 2010, 11:44 pm  

    Ken, I hope you are able to read this comment. It comes as a response to a disgraceful interview that you were victim of at the hands of the BBC. On behalf of Britain and the general, educated and impartial audience, I would like to apologise and say that the views of Ms Montague are by no means reflective of the masses. You conducted yourself admirably and maintained general calm in the face of inappropriate and intensive interrogation, which goes completely against the apparent “impartial” BBC. I was so incensed by Ms Montague that I was forced to formally complain to the BBC to take action against her.

    Please see the below email, I hope it gives you further encouragement to continue your good work and continue to gain more support and momentum.

    Reference interview on Hard Talk, Sarah Montague (BBC) with Ken O’Keefe, victim of Israel flotilla attack – 28/06/10

    I write in sheer disgust and disbelief at the extreme bias and inept journalism that I witnessed this evening in relation to the aforementioned interview. If BBC, as it claims in its mandate, wishes to provide impartial, fair and professional news services, it must take the most severe action against this journalist and those involved in this interview. Mr O’Keefe was a victim of an attack and the interview, if anything, should have been used as an opportunity simply to “fact-find” and allow Mr O’Keefe to advise of facts which took place on the ship. However, the interviewer declined the opportunity to simply establish facts and instead used very inflammatory and provocative language and made insinuations and accusations against the interviewee, who was undoubtedly a victim of the attack.

    Ms Montague continuously used provocative language, interrupted the interviewee and even used openly aggressive body language – as if to “intimidate” or aggravate the interviewee. This was not objective at all and instead sounded as though Ms Montague was actually an Israeli Navy spokesperson. Ms Montague continuously quoted various sources from a “pro-Israel” perspective and failed to even acknowledge any of Mr O’Keefe’s points or, more importantly, the loss of life on the ship.

    It would be wholly naive to suggest that all television interviews be conducted in a calm and relaxed manner as this does not attract or maintain viewers, and it is appreciated that an element of “devil’s advocate” must be played to make an interview more interesting. However, this interview was farcical and extremely one sided on the part of the interviewer. It is fairly obvious which party Ms Montague proactively supports and this type of behaviour will certainly discourage me from watching BBC news again – I am considering withholding TV licence fee as a mark of protest, I suggest others follow suit. The interviewer used this interview as an opportunity to market the Israeli “defence policy” propaganda and completely failed to establish facts in an impartial manner.

    A disgusted and highly disgruntled (former) BBC News viewer.

    All the best

    • Adnan Bin Hassan
      July 17, 2010, 8:27 pm

      I AM PROUD OF YOUR INITIATIVE RENDERED FOR OUR BROTHER KEN O’KEEFE. I WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE WITH YOUR COMMENT. KUDOS. THANKS

  • June 30, 2010, 1:46 am  

    i have no beef with israil or palestine either way, i dont pretend to know enough about it..

    but… are those idf videos real?

    because if they are, why didnt the activists simply do what the other 5 ships do? ie calmly surrender.

    if you want aid to get in, simply transfer it via the usual routes surely?

    as for the blockade, i understand israil are allowing in dual use stuff now? that sounds better?

    as to the blockade in its entirety, i undersand the low israili death toll is due to starving hamas of munitions. what democratically elected party is going to reverse such a policy?

    perhaps a political solution, perhaps a 2 state solution, might be the way forward?

  • Maurice Sabbag
    July 4, 2010, 8:58 pm  

    moderation???

  • Kong
    July 5, 2010, 5:41 am  

    Ken, I am instantly attracted to what you said on the media. It is very illuminating to me. On this site I can see you are a good writer also. You have such a rich life and I would love to read more of your writings.

  • July 15, 2010, 11:15 am  

    Every time you feel disheartened by negative comments or hatred people, you can remember this brief story:

    Someone said, ‘People sit around you so that they may find fault with you!’ So al-Hasan al-Basri said, ‘…Indeed people were not pleased with their Creator although He provides for them, so how can they be pleased with another creation like themselves?’

    Keep up a great job, bro! 🙂

    • August 26, 2010, 11:20 am

      Thank you, beautiful.
      TJP

  • john bichard
    July 20, 2010, 11:11 pm  

    I was shocked by the BBC interviews which I saw by chance and it set me into finding out about the Mavi-Marmara and what fantastic people they are and so badly abused by the attackers.
    I was very moved by your Gaza Camp article and I have a graphic which now becomes very appropriate and which I would be of great use to you.
    The IHH and the whole teams reputation has suffered from the dreadful ‘stabbibg of IDF soldier ‘ sequence but I believe the tables can be turned if you have the contact me.
    Frieden und Freude

  • marcus
    September 17, 2010, 1:57 am  

    Kenneth, hundreds of people have been providing aid to Gaza for many years now without much incident. Once you got involved, activists started losing their lives. Are you a plant who’s aim it is to undermine and dismantle the years of hard work that peaceful activists have undertaken before your sudden arrival on the scene? Who in their right mind would go to Gaza now that people have been murdered because of your actions?

    • September 17, 2010, 2:44 am

      You got me dead to rights Marcus (Greta), I admit it everybody, its all my fault, I’m a plant. Sorry about that, I just couldn’t help myself. I just do not know what got into me, especially with “hundreds of people” “providing aid to Gaza” “without much incident”.

      Thanks for the best laugh of the day my brother.

      • marcus
        September 17, 2010, 11:42 am

        I’m an Irish born citizen. Three of my aunts lived in Gaza in the late 80s. They spent 3 years of their lives building and helping the Palestinian people. One of my aunts actually married a Palestinian. Don’t ever question my identity or motives again. Why were members of iHH on board that ship, when you knew well that they were accused of terrorist activities? Whether the accusations are true or not, they put lives at risk by being on that ship. Why was that ship the only one that suffered loss of life? Once again, are you purposefully trying to derail the years and years of peaceful efforts by people around the world? And save your sarcasm and mockery for the weak-minded fools who think you’re some kind of hero.

  • Dave
    September 21, 2010, 8:54 pm  

    Ken, out of the 5 ships, why was only one of them attacked?
    Please respond to either me, or Marcus, on this issue as many people are waiting for your answer.

    • September 24, 2010, 4:05 pm

      All of the ships were attacked. People had broken bones on others ships, stun guns were used (on a woman in one case), people were beaten. The Mavi Maramara is the only ship where people were executed however.

      • Dave
        October 6, 2010, 8:03 pm

        Yet no one from any of the other ships came forward to tell this story. No media outlet reported it.
        If the IDF ‘executed’ 9 people why did they stop at 9 why not 50? Why were they only ‘executed’ on your ship?

  • September 27, 2010, 6:45 pm  

    I am reading Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, and could also have been named the Trials of Israel, and the witnesses, are being, essentially, ignored. But they are not going to stop, and they will not be crushed…

  • marcus
    September 30, 2010, 11:57 pm  

    Ok, well let’s look at the outcome of these events. Because the crew of this boat decided to fight heavily armed commandos instead of just surrendering like every other boat, the lives of all aid workers in Gaza and the West Bank are now at risk. The IDF doesn’t know which aid workers will try to stab/beat their soldiers now so they will treat them all as a potential threat. As we know, the IDF tend to shoot first and ask questions later.

    Ken, if you’re still in contact with iHH do me a favor. Tell them to stay the hell away from Gaza and the West Bank. If they want to help, they can just send their aid to reputable, unbiased organizations instead of trying to sneak in under the cover of darkness. All you did with your little publicity stunt was risk the lives of people who actually do a lot of work in Gaza. Thanks Ken, you’re a real hero… a hero to the IDF who can now shoot and kill unarmed aid workers and make excuses that they are potential threats to soldiers.

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