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Dec-06-2010 23:11printcomments

Facts Missing in Website's Hit Piece on Gaza Activist Ken O'Keefe

Survivor of Israeli attack on ship Mavi Marmara fails to resemble story posted on PalestineThinkTank.
"I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence..." -
Mahatma Gandhi
Tim King and Ken O'Keefe in Portland, Oregon - photo by Dexter Phoenix

(SALEM, Ore.) - This article is an expanded comment response to an article published by Palestine Think Tank writer Mary Rizzo about Ken O'Keefe, the Road to Hope Convoy to Gaza and Israel's attack on the Mavi Marmara. Rizzo's piece is titled, Truth Justice and Peace nearly sunk as RTH convoy facts emerge, and as usual, Gazans get the worst part of the deal

Mary, as a person who always appreciates your work, and think very highly of Palestine Think Tank, I have to bring attention to statements in this article about Ken O'Keefe and his roles in the Road to Hope Convoy and the Mavi Marmara incident that are absolutely not possible or true. In fact Ken called from Gaza today and we spoke about this. This man so heavily criticized by yourself and one member of the Free Gaza movement, certainly is welcome in the historic Palestinian city. There is no mention of this fact in your piece, surely that was an oversight?

Above all else, the description of Ken as a dangerous swaggering menace to other people is totally inaccurate. Sorry, but anyone who watches him in person or through video sees the person I describe, rather than the fictitious character created for this article. Ken is a gentle man, and it is the result of many things. He and I talked about how you accuse him of not being a sea captain. That is absolutely false. Also, you have no idea how or why Ken was discharged from the Marines. You simply repeat the most sensational fabrication floating around the nearest chat room- a false one at that.

And why drag his family into it? That is really sad to me, and you apparently find my interview of his mom what... humorous? Is this your side's point of view? Do you think your sarcasm betrays any kind of support for Palestine? Why on earth would you go there?

Some people are lucky enough to have a living parent, I'm not not one of them, but I can tell you that Ken's mother Pat is as awesome of a lady as one could find. Your reference to her really strikes a nerve. She does have heart. Kudos to him for having the support of his family. That says far more about him than most things could. I am getting the sense from comments like that that there may be a good reason for this great divide.

You do not divulge in your article that we have written before and that we've been mutually helpful and friendly toward one another in the past. And if I don't rate more than than being called a "former embedded journalist in imperialist wars in the Middle East, another ex-Marine" after the years of endlessly publishing thousands of stories advocating for the freedom of Palestine, heading the only news group in the US that does so, with 80 active writers, constantly under attack on the bullsh*t charge of 'anti-semitism'- then I honestly can't see this as anything more than an extremely extensive hit piece on my good friend Ken. The bar has indeed dropped closer to the ground than it should be.

Did I tell you about the Italian soldiers that I hung out with in Afghanistan? That's right Mary, your countrymen are there too with their tight-fitting combat pants right along side the Americans, at least they were in 2006 and 2007.

Do you regard Alan Sabrosky this way? How about Gordon Duff? They are former Marines and Vietnam Vets. How about Jeff Gates? He is an Army Vietnam Veteran; Is Gilad Atzmon forever impacted in this circle because he once served in the IDF? He is my brother and he is Ken's brother; funny how some of the most published writers in this regard are veterans. I suspect you only have respect for these individuals as most of us do. Please consider that a person's past is irrelevant when they stand a chance to make a positive difference for the future.

Oh I know the fact that Ken has real undeniable guts and that represents an obligation and commitment that really frightens people, but as we have reported, it was Gandhi who set the record straight about all of this:

"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 dishonor."

"But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment. Forgiveness adorns a soldier...But abstinence is forgiveness only when there is the power to punish; it is meaningless when it pretends to proceed from a helpless creature...."

"But I do not believe India to be helpless....I do not believe myself to be a helpless creature....Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."

Source: The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi

In no way can I rationalize this attack on Ken. If I had a personal problem with someone in this movement I would make every effort to work with them, find common ground, etc. It has been made clear to me by Greta Berlin, that there is no interest in this. I wish there was.

Regarding the current Palestine Think Tank article; at one point in this piece you either specifically make a false statement, or reveal that you have not really researched Ken's role on the Mavi Marmara, (approximately paragraph 65 out of more than 300 in this article) by stating:

"How come the IHH report of the raid does not mention his name and its accounts of the disarming of weapons does not match his own in any way? How come no one has come forward to state that they were the brother who had assisted in his heroic deed? Why does the number of Israelis he managed to disarm levitate (in Salem-News, this week we find out it was not two but three)?"

When I in fact produced a video report with Canadian activist Kevin Niesh, also aboard the Mavi Marmara that night, and Ken, titled The Ugly Details of Israel's Gaza Siege & Attack Against the Mavi Marmara (VIDEO), also posted below for those who missed it, that goes into great detail about Ken's role in disarming the soldiers and specifically what happened that night. I almost think your article suggests Ken wasn't there. If you need proof as to the beatings he received in Israeli custody, you only need to look at the widely publicized video of this, read: 'And Yes, We Fought' Eyewitness Account From Mavi Mamara and watch the associated video.

And for the record, I looked at a letter from IHH today inviting Ken to an event based on his role on the Mavi Marmara. I am increasingly shocked at this piece and I see a real distraction to real efforts at hand to help the Palestinian people.

I see an ego war. I see jealousy. I see fear.

As disturbing as this article in Palestine Think Tank is, it doesn't rile me as much as the Ship of Fools piece that looks more like an IDF press release than an editorial in DesertPeace. I went back to grab that writer's name and it is gone from the article.

Cowardice and deception and a desire to undermine the hard work of a real Gaza activist; that is the subject of my rant. I can only say that anyone who cared about changing the minds of Americans, the biggest supporters of Israel, and helping them comprehend the level of injustice in Palestine, would never try to undermine or bring down

Ken is far more of an entity in the world when it comes to the freedom of Palestine than almost any other active figure. That I fear, is what this is about. You write hundreds of paragraphs that are all about numbers and semantics. A shorter piece might have gone further, and that matters because there is valid information in this article and you are a good writer who I have always liked and supported. But the point here clearly is to bring Ken down and damage the credibility of in the process, and it isn't going to work. We were gracious enough to link to it in the first part of this article, and I suspect it will get more views via that link than any other source.

I know you believe many things that color your perception of this; things that have been related to you; but I am telling you as a personal friend of Ken's who recently spent three weeks with him on a speaking tour of the US and Canada, that he is highly mischaracterized in this piece.

However I fear that plenty of people who fear the change Ken represents... if supported, are cheering.

I am getting the idea that there is no flexibility with Greta Berlin; I am sad about that as I completely support her efforts and respect her work and have no plans of doing otherwise. The same goes for you and your site. I hope in the future that the road to hope can be a bit smoother.

Tim King: Editor and Writer

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 65 writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can send Tim an email at this address:

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Mary Rizzo December 9, 2010 12:37 am (Pacific time)

Tim, For Anna O'Leary to lament that I am "unsavoury" (as opposed to sweet) and was "uncouth" to her, while at the same time accusing me of being AIPAC/Israel payroll and then listing a series of "character" sins she ascribes to me such as jealous or ego driven speaks more than volumes about who is uncouth or unsavoury. I would like her to present a crumb of evidence of the sort, let her research me and find something before she libels me like this. Take into consideration, others who have done so have had to publicly apologise, but meantime, they make the fools of themselves. And Anna making the fool of herself has been more than adequately demonstrated by the posts she had pushed for everyone to circulate full of total and complete lies. You have nothing to say about the accuracy of the report, the contradictions don't seem to affect you? The questions I asked you about the seeking of KEN to get warships of other nations involved on foreign soil? None of this seems to even phase you at all? Perhaps it is the military mentality that I just can't get my mind wrapped around. I honestly do not want ex mils determining the discourse for Palestinians. I simply can't handle that much. Forgive me for this major flaw of mine, but history is replete with them coming into liberation causes and driving the local leaders out and imposing their own techniques. It is always a very negative thing. Once more, if Ken was contacting you, great, he was feeding you all kinds of lies just like the Gunpoint one that he later fed you the opposite, upon reflection, no one would believe too much at the end of the day... I don't care about his temperament. I care about the lying, distortion and misleading discourse. What have you got to say about him travelling on a US passport while concomitantly declaring he's an Ex-US citizen? I mean, one need NOT dig any deeper than the obvious. When I dug, upon his recommendation, I had the confirmation that he was not a person who has a consistent narrative and at the same time, makes reckless actions and accuses others of things such as affiliation with services. It is ludicrous. Meantime, he bangs that tin cup for his personal reasons. (His big investment project, his travels, next will be his products to sell, who knows? I hope he branded TJP so that he can get more dough that way! Tim, you have been taken for a big ride, and your lack of even doing any kind of due diligence proves that this site is little more than a bulletin board for your own friends. A true journalist (which I am not, I'm just an amateur) would attempt to know the truth, not hide it or paint it differently. One day you may become aware of your part in the libel and in the lie. I hope it won't cost you too much. Ken says that he does not worry about the negative things said about him, as they are "par for the course". But at the same time, he is begging for everyone to put their comments on PTT and to also copy them onto his FB page. I think he's a wee bit concerned. Why does he not participate? Because he knows the Truth and knows that his declarations could be perjury if testimony is used from his declarations freely made. why else would he not declare anything to the Greek police?

Anna O'Leary December 7, 2010 6:51 pm (Pacific time)

I was added to a private group discussion/message. The group had 16 people, including the unsavoury author,Mary Rizzo. When I aired my views in the discussion, which was clearly a diatribe against Ken by ego driven and jealous persons, I was attacked in the most uncouth manner by Mary Rizzo and her friend Mary Woodward. These people are definitely in the opressors camp, and perhaps on the Israeli or AIPAC payroll, and I would like to see them denied access to Gaza as their attitude is not that of a charity/aid worker. Tim King, I admire your wonderful news media organisation, but I fail to understand how you could know this woman and respect her. She showed no respect for me or my opinion.
I am an MA Hons. graduate of National University of Ireland, Galway and would have expected a little civility in the discussion even though we took opposing views.
In my opinion this is a troublemaker. Road 2 Hope met many such troublemakers and by sheer persistence made it into Gaza and delivered the aid. Bravo Ken O'Keefe and all the wonderful people who made this possible. Let's stay focused.....the people of Gaza needs you and I, and Ken O'Keefe, and all the honest and good people in the world. Let's put GAZA FIRST.

Tim King: Thanks for your comment Anna.  Please forgive me, I certainly understand your point.  We always appreciate your help on stories.

Mary Rizzo December 7, 2010 1:35 pm (Pacific time)

Tim, first of all, I do hope you address my other comments, but meantime:
1) the site is not Italian. I think that fact checking on everything is always good practice, especially on titles.
2) So, it honestly does not bother you that the you yourself have printed things that ultimately are untrue? EX: the article about the abusive "Greek Commandos" ->they were coast guard, and not commandos, they did not threaten anyone's lives nor hold anyone at gunpoint. This was your writing, your journalism. If you think apoligising is in order, why not start there and start to sort through all the contradictory and false information around, and come to some conclusions. You might not like what you see, but you are ultimately responsible if our whole category (activists/independent journalists, in my case totally un-financed by anyone) is taken as jokers. Then the accusations of me being an agent are brilliant, there is not a penny in any account anywhere from anyone for my writing on Palestine, which, were I an agent for Israel, I think they might have lots of problems with my article on (for instance) Hamas, which has been translated in quite a few languages and the PLC themselves wrote me a letter to thank me for my work not only in providing an article that was objective about them, but for also opening once again the issue of the unfairly detained PLC members on TV and after many months, finally having some of them released). I just want to know how that would fit in with the image painted of me as an agent for Zionism. They would have a problem with all of our material on PTT.

and yes, I was critical of George Galloway. Is that a crime too? I also recognise when he does things RIGHT, as is clear in my recent report on VP5.

About Egypt, I support Arab unity. I am against the Egyptian regime, and very supportive of the Egyptian people, so any attempts made to smash the Arab unity, to punish the Egyptian people, ESPECIALLY since they are part of the solution to the problem, much more than any of us are, and also because I learned from Meshaal that NO WAY is it acceptable to shift the blame to others. It is Israel to blame, to unite against and defeat. If you don't like that concept, you might have to discuss this on the various Hamas forums or with those in the movement, because this is their policy, and this is our policy. We do not want to put Egypt under the boot and we do not approve of Western activists doing this. It is against our belief in the strength of Arab unity.

Then again, to accuse those who think out of the box and expose the manipulations within our own ranks of the worst possible evil, well, this is how people who are afraid of the complexities of reality react: they create a lie about someone who disagrees with them and then they feel their job has been done.

I have no idea if Tim or Ken are just careless or do not see the bigger picture. If their co-militant loyalty blocks out their other reasoning capacities, and if they have tolerance for lies.

I sometimes let white lies slide by and do not even comment. Indeed, the lies and inconsistencies all over things I just ignored, it didn't seem to make that much difference and, "so what!" If people want a hero that they can praise, let them fulfil that need.

The moment however, we were DEMANDED to ACT, to do this and that and to even start to circulate things that could only be lies.. my patience ran out. I am not the only one. And I do not like to see innocent people accused of such terrible crimes as kidnapping, which makes ALL of us look like IDIOTS.

So, Ken gets caught in his mess and I am the bad guy. This is how it works! It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last...

but be careful if you love Palestine, because if you are not loving truth and standing only by truth the lies will come back and damage you, and ultimately, the cause you support.

Tim King:Mary, you know I have never had anything but support for you and PTT.  There is a serious breakdown in philosophy here and it was not my idea to center on this matter regarding Ken; it was yours.  I can say many great things about you and then there is this.  I hope in the future that this falls behind us and we all learn from it.  Do you know I was in contact with Ken on the Strofades IV when all of this happened, catching it in real time? When you see Ken sitting at the top of the loading ramp in the video, he is writing to me.

I just don't understand the desire to take it apart so completely.  I don't want 'us' to be our own worst enemy.  Please understand, and I think you do, that support for Ken is broad and far reaching. 

I wanted to share one story about Ken's temperament; recently we were on the road heading for Canada and we were rolling smoothly, it was a beautiful day, right until the moment I realized that my crappy navigational skills had led us approx. 120 miles in the wrong direction.  This put tight travel plans in question and jeopardized our chances of arriving on time in a place where many people were expecting us.  Ken, along with everyone else, was not happy about it.  But Ken, along with everyone in the van, refused to rake me over the coals about it.  Ken tenses up when he fears he is going to let people down, or fail to meet an obligation.  When things aren't tense, he is the nicest guy you could ever hope to be around..

Now, as for co-militant loyalty, I have to say that you need a better understanding of how things are.  You are tossing us to the wolves because we are military veterans, are you about done with that yet?  How do you think it makes the scholars and diehard activists who are also veterans feel?  Trust me that it does not build support for you.  I like to think that this is a learning lesson for all of us.  No, Ken is not perfect, Tim is not perfect, Mary and Greta and not perfect.  Can we just push past that already?  Let's concentrate on what we do, that is to cover events and raise awareness.  If a portion of the people in this movement decide not to work with Ken, that is their business and it is fine.  I just think there is so much to do, I question that this is a good use of time.   

kmst4 December 7, 2010 4:53 am (Pacific time)

It is heart breaking when we who claim to be for equal human rights for Palestinians [and all people!] fall into the oldest trap/trick of empire: Divide and Conquer.

Silence Dogood December 7, 2010 11:15 am (Pacific time)

O'Keefe's own website autobiography claims he recieved a "general discharge" from the US Marine Corps ( see link 1 below). O'Keefe discloses more at his website: "Lest my enemies accuse me of sugar coating my life and hiding my faults as a human being, here are some of the bad things I have done but failed to address in detail in this very short biography.
• I have stolen and lied to feed my greedy desires
• I have defaulted on loans from major lending institutions and creditors (bad???)
• I have driven while drunk
• I have verbally attacked those I love with venomous words that have caused great pain.
• I have physically attacked people for reasons other then self-defense.
• I have abused non-human animals both physically and emotionally.
• I have disrespected my mother
• I have allowed my anger and frustration to dictate my actions in destructive ways
• I have been lazy and apathetic
• I have been selfish

I offer no defense for these actions; I take responsibility for all of my deeds, good or bad. But what I will say with regard to the bad ones is that I see them as the result of my unwitting involvement in “humanities collective state of insanity”. I was not one with my world, my universe, I was one of the detached majority seeking comfort and happiness in areas where neither of these desires could ever be obtained. I was lost in the darkness and my actions were a reflection of this. Who is to say I am any different now? I will not say that I am; I will allow my actions to speak for me instead."
Mary Rizzo has commented to this salem-news article by Tim King: "I got the information about Ken's dishonourable discharge for steroids use from one of his many autobiographies." end quote.

May I direct readers of salem-news to two links 1) The website containing O'Keefe's autobiography. The website registrant is listed (whois search) as Kenneth O'Keefe of Haleiwa, Hawaii and 2) the earliest wiki page on O'Keefe posted from somewhere near London, England on October 31, 2003.
O'Keefe's website:
wiki: 2) The human shield action O'Keefe helped organize to go to Iraq was organized from London in 2002.

Christian Briggs claims on his wiki page to have assisted O'Keefe ( ) in the Iraq human shield action.

David December 7, 2010 10:20 am (Pacific time)

I have read Marys articles before attacking George Galloway and Viva Palestina. She is a nasty piece of work and is no friend of the movement. For some reason she gets very defensive when people challenge or criticize the Egyptian dictatorship. She is nothing more than an internet troll. Dont feed her!

Raul Reeve December 7, 2010 9:04 am (Pacific time)

Matt - Mary certainly gives a damn about the Palestinians. She's been working for their cause for decades, putting up with death threats and so on. The piece on Palestine Think Tank makes a number of serious points - did a Greek merchant ship really kidnap a group of activists, but allow them to make calls and post on Twitter? It sounded ludicrous at the time, and Mary Rizzo's careful account of the story makes it sound even more ludicrous.

Miri December 7, 2010 2:43 am (Pacific time)

What I see is the difference between investigative journalism of the highest caliber, and and op-ed (sorta) based on perceptions and other feeling states.

Why drag his family into it? Isn't that an odd question from someone who finds an interview with his mommy significant? How is this related to ending the occupation, and breaking the siege, any more than his tatts?

Mr. King, Mary Rizzo has shown us the facts; you do not.

Mr Johnson, if you had not read the article with your eyes closed, perhaps you would not be braying like such a fool.

O'Keefe IS a dangerous machista.

Tim King: Well let's not get too excited, this article is a response and it was quickly executed.  I have more than 1,600 published articles that I have filed in several countries available on Google; many are very highly developed.  Believe me there are many ways I would have rather spent my time.  I didn't ask for this role. 

I do suspect that most people agree  with me on this; who are you to decide when or where a person's mom does or does not fit?  For your information my article about Ken's mom has been viewed many times and that pattern is continuing.  I have news tor you; this whole saga is about families.  I'll say one more thing, this hit piece on Ken was a bad idea.  It only serves the needs and wishers of the oppressors.  People are very upset and I hope that Mary can find a way to acknowledge her mistakes in this article, pick up the pieces and move on. I sense your anger here Miri, why not direct it at the people who deserve it?        

Mary Rizzo December 7, 2010 2:09 am (Pacific time)

Tim, there is a lot to address here. Primarily, to cut to a few of your perceptions, I got the information about Ken's dishonourable discharge for steroids use from one of his many autobiographies. He goes extensively into the matter. That he is a US citizen and yet LIES saying that he is not in order to gain some kind of "advantage" does not bother you any? Especially when he uses all of these things to earn a reputation that translates into MONEY. Take a look, all of his recent activism moves are to promote his business venture (it's a CIC!), to obtain great amounts of freebies from persons who would be better advised to get money directly to Palestinians, so that they can develop their own businesses. He wants professionals all for free, 3BR flats in London for free... Of course, he has to be deserving of it, and if you look, he has loads of heroism, too bad that there are big shadows all over it. And YES; the question of all these EX mils being involved really is creepy. All of us know that people can change, but it seems this group goes into various arguments at the same time (from 9/11 to Wikileaks) while not presenting a LOT of info, just some "impressions". Can you ignore the facts that in the "kidnapping" there was MAJOR manipulation of activists and LIES being circulated? Does that not phase you at any level? Is the fact that he was aiming at an international crisis not at least a bit ALARMING and the things it has done to endanger the future convoys' chances (no, not his... which he "announces" right when the Flotillas are about to depart, perhaps hoping for some of those donations to go his way??) Seriously, it was YOU who bring up his mother, and forgive me for just finding that the height of hagiography! I hope you have been able also to read the Indymedia comments which talk about the Hawaii years from the neighbours, so you can get the idea that all is not sweetness and light. I think your hurt feelings about me referring to you as embedded are misplaced. YOU are the person who has written that! It is factual information, and you also produced an instant piece about being held at Gunpoint, so it is clear, you get your information from ONE source, you bulletin board it. If you don't like the article, (and how could I expect you to), at least start to ask yourself some questions.

Matt Johnson December 6, 2010 11:54 pm (Pacific time)

I want to know who Mary Rizzo is really working for? It certainly doesn't seem like she gives a damn about the Palestinians.

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