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Gaza and the Will to Change the WorldTim King Salem-News.com
Announcing Ken O'Keefe's upcoming mission to free Gaza that is certain to bring about change, one way or another.
(SALEM, Ore.) - I suspect this story may be the most important item I have ever written. I have been patiently waiting to release Ken O'Keefe's plans to bring relief to the people of Gaza by permanently breaking the illegal Israeli military blockade that has been in force for years.
This is an undertaking of epic proportions, but something has to happen. While there is likely to be a degree of dissension, as there always is, I suspect that most people in the world vested in freeing the Palestinian people of Gaza will be onboard one way or another.
The analogy for Americans seeking to understand the Palestine/Israel conflict, is the extinction of millions of Native Americans during the early years of the U.S. You would have to work very hard to find a person in any of the 50 states who believes genocide was the right plan. It was a tragedy, and almost identical to the plight of the Palestinians today.
Surely we are supposed to have moved past this point. With almost all of Palestine absorbed by Israel, the tiny remaining land that is Palestine is continually being confiscated by the Israeli government for the construction of illegal 'settlements' for religious extremists.
Today and throughout American history, even during the darkest years, Native American symbolism has maintained a certain undeniable appeal for those of white European descent. Perhaps that is one reason the serious prejudice of a hundred years ago is strictly illegal in this modern age.
It was a painful journey but one a nation called the United States nonetheless, completed.
I question the safety of any person of any race in America who practices blatant racism toward the people we used to mistakenly call "Indians". It's just not accepted. I'm not saying there is no prejudice; we always have a long way to go in that area, but the systematic, legal oppression of Native Americans or people of any particular race, ended long ago in the U.S.
Of course it was a slow process. Acclaimed poet, national recording artist, actor and activist John Trudell, whose international following reflects the universal language of his words, work and message, (Santee Sioux) was a spokesperson for the Indian of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971. After that he worked with the American Indian Movement, becoming Chairman of AIM from 1973 to 1979, the year a fire of unknown origin killed Trudell’s wife, three children and mother-in-law. This horrific tragedy allowed Trudell to find his voice as an artist and poet.
In the early days of the U.S. there was always religious conflict. The Christians became adept at converting Native Americans to their faith. This is not a goal of the Israelis from what history tells us. Arab residents of Israel aren't even allowed to serve in the Israeli Defence Forces.
Mavi Marmara Incident
Flash forward to May 2010, that is when Ken and hundreds of activists were aboard a Turkish flagged ship, the Mavi Marmara, in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Strictly loaded with unarmed peace activists, journalists and humanitarian aid cargo destined for Gaza; their goal of breaking the Gaza siege was clearly stated and their ships had been thoroughly inspected, though not by Israel itself.
The crew of this ship always said they would defend the Mavi Marmara if attacked; there was never a question about it. Before the flotilla had a chance to get anywhere close to Gaza, while traveling approximately 80 miles off the coastline, parallel to Gaza rather than approaching it, the ships would become the scene of a deadly Israeli commando attack. The Israeli guns killed nine activists, several execution style, and left more than 40 seriously injured. Of the nine dead, several could have been saved, but they were denied medical attention by Israel as they bled to death.
The incident that night changed many things, and would lead to strong condemnation from the United Nations and an endless list of countries, excluding the U.S. and Canada and a few others that always side with Israel in spite of the repeated, highly documented violations of international law that continuously take place.
The ending of this illegal siege and the Israeli occupation of Palestine must include the banning of apartheid laws that create endless checkpoints and unfair, contrasting rules and subsequent prison sentences for Jews and Arabs in Israel. Israel did not always conduct itself the way it currently does, and today even the most minimal peace gestures from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are met with grating resistance from hard liners.
Apparently the Israeli government only understands resistance, and there are few times that resistance does not become violent. The plans underway are long in the making, and will only involve those who are committed to ending this struggle of Biblical proportions, by placing their lives in harm's way.
Ken O'Keefe and his brother activists disarmed three Israeli commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara in May and they had every opportunity to harm or kill them. Instead the Israeli soldiers were given medical treatment and released. Again, this is while Israel chose to let activists who they shot bleed to death.
It is tragic that the lesson of this one aspect of the story is lost through Israeli lies and propaganda and the western media parrots who regurgitate the government press releases like the Gospel, when they could not be any more different. The press here portrayed the story as if the activists were the dangerous party. They reported that the IDF soldiers only used paintballs when that in fact was a bald faced lie.
The Final Flotilla Mission
The next mission to break the Gaza siege will be of such a grand scale that change is guaranteed. Exactly what that change will amount to is yet to be seen, but the main ship in the flotilla being planned by Ken O'Keefe will have residents of every nation on the earth aboard.
The ship will have media accommodations that are unrivaled, and the backing of international governing bodies through the use of existing trade agreements that for a very long time, have been squashed in Gaza.
Israel has Gaza surrounded on all sides with a massive wall and guard towers replete with trigger happy snipers, and Israel's navy offshore.
Two days ago six Palestinians, including two children, were shot by Israeli snipers in Gaza. Ken O'Keefe reported this information as his own party came under Israeli fire in Gaza, as shown in the video on the left.
One person Ken seriously hopes to have aboard, is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Like many nations in the world today, Venezuelan citizens largely say they stand behind the Palestinian cause.
The main ship described above, intended to carry 1000 passengers, is only one small aspect of the upcoming plans announced publicly today during a press conference in Gaza by O'Keefe. Again, the mission will be completely peaceful and activists will be unarmed with no exceptions.
However, as Ken and his fellow shipmates resisted the Israeli Commandos act of international piracy on 31 May, which is what the Israeli attack amounts to, the crew of this ship will also resist illegal boarding and piracy. There will be a large number of other vessels in the flotilla and they will be designated as resistance and non-resistance ships.
Those aboard the non-resistance ships will be able to quickly abort their mission if they decide to and surrender to the Israeli Navy. The resistance ships will reach Gaza and not be deterred as they seek only to fulfill a legal mission to establish free trade and business connections with the people of Gaza.
Ken talked privately with us about this mission during his recent NW International Speaking Tour. He says charity is needed in Gaza, but these are proud people perfectly capable of existing if they are simply provided the opportunity.
Israel keeps the Gaza population in an open air prison. Palestinian farmers feed their prize winning carnations to cows as their market remains mostly sealed. It rings of the old adage: 'You can give them a fish or you can teach them to fish.' The Palestinian people of Gaza need business revenue far more than charity.
The residents of Gaza simply need to live without the constant threat of death.
They need freedom of movement, and to be afforded the rights guaranteed to them by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights .
Gazans need large numbers of world citizens to help.
For years now the Palestinian cause has been a peaceful one, and all this time Israel keeps brutalizing those who speak out. Some, like Salem-News.com Writer Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, are able to relate their experiences of Israeli brutality through journalism and academic tenure.
Most however remain silent; those who are able to post videos of the brutality on YouTube know Israel will block their residents from seeing the images.
It always seems important to point out that the real truth about the much touted 'rocket attacks' from Gaza. Mentioned continually in the news, these glorified fireworks have killed exactly 28 people since they began in 2001. Those are 28 tragedies, but is it worth Israel's jeopardizing the future of the whole world?
The western and Israeli news outlets also overlook the fact that Palestinians are no longer setting off suicide bombs; Hamas swore off the practice years ago.
The Importance of Unity
Ken O'Keefe's actions aboard the Mavi Marmara and his ability to get airtime with channels like the BBC, has led to a needless and counterproductive divide in this movement. There are those who accuse Ken of showboating, but the public fallout from the attack in May led to the partial opening of Gaza's southern border at Rafah.
It has been suggested to me by someone I greatly respect in the movement, that I am too taken with Ken's persona, and I have to say with all respect, that the suggestion, however well-intended, is inaccurate. Ken and I were both U.S. Marines, we've both been in Kuwait and Iraq, and we are both surfers from Southern California who care greatly about a more peaceful future for this world.
We have a lot in common and it just so happens that he is the one pushing for change at a fast clip. His Direct Action approach has saved lives in the past and it will again in the future.
Peace is the goal, and reaching that takes strength, courage and sacrifice. Combining those elements has the potential to lead to Ken's vision of truth, justice and peace, TJP.
His project Aloha Palestine has a chance to really make an impact from what I see, and Ken's public strength has both legs and teeth. We need to get on with this and then sort out differences when it is over.
Obviously the flotilla will be the subject of a large amount of fundraising. At this point we are looking for a tour bus that can be used for a west coast fundraising tour featuring Ken and other speakers. The vehicle will be painted or wrapped to promote both the fundraising tour and the upcoming flotilla.
Please write if you or your organization are interested in providing this valuable tool.
Also, media agencies interested in being aboard the main ship during the flotilla, should write to me, Tim King, stating your interest in securing work and travel space aboard the ship. Please direct all media inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once again in my life the lines between reporter and activist are slightly blurry and hard to define. I hope more former mainstream news reporters and those currently working for western media and press, experience the same thing. Of course if you judge from history, it is more important for Israel to maintain their stupid blockade by killing people, than by admitting that its position in the world is non-humanitarian and unacceptable under all conditions.
Perhaps this mission will end like the Mavi Marmara's, in blood soaked decks. But maybe, possibly, it will be the final proof to Israel that the world isn't going to stand for their oppressive behavior any longer.
More information including dates and additional contact information and tour dates will be forthcoming. Ken's press conference from 1 December is posted below:
Articles for December 1, 2010 | Articles for December 2, 2010 | Articles for December 3, 2010