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Feb-25-2014 17:44printcomments

The Ken O'Keefe Family Values Tour

World says goodbye to the mother of one of Gaza's most well known and substantial activists.

Ken O'Keefe and Pat Johnson
Ken O'Keefe and Pat Johnson
Photo by Bonnie King, 2010

(SALEM) - This article, originally published 19 October 2010, marked a significant time in Salem-News.com history. Our writer, Ken O'Keefe, and his friends, all unarmed peace activists and journalists, were attacked on the high seas by Israel, nine were killed. Ken survived, in fact he is the only person alive who ever disarmed two Israeli commandos and lived to tell the tale. Ken's mom, Pat Johnson, joined us for that tour in 2010 and Bonnie King, Eileen Fleming and I were genuinely moved by Pat and her wonderful personality and demeanor. Pat Johnson died today. Ken released the news, we are carrying this article as a tribute to Pat Johnson, who will always be remembered as an incredible mom and friend, we are sad she has left us, the world is a more empty place today.

Ken O'Keefe's recent whirlwind NW speaking tour featured a level of depth that one doesn't often see. His mom, Pat Johnson, left her Hawaiian Island paradise where she runs a busy dive shop, to accompany her son and see him for the first time since his dramatic survival of a deadly Israeli commando attack.

Pat and Ken in Seattle

Ken was aboard the Mavi Marmara, a passenger ship in last May's Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was attacked in international waters by Israeli troops in boats and U.S. supplied helicopters. They killed nine unarmed peace protesters and gravely injured dozens more.

The act has been fully condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Commission in a report. (see: United Nations Human Rights Commission international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance*)

Gaza is the only part of historic Palestine that still exists under Palestinian control. Israel has confiscated all of the land around it, and then they built a massive wall around the perimeter, with guard towers that today contain snipers who terrify the local population.

The Gaza Strip otherwise faces the sea, which Israeli Navy patrol boats frequently patrol, often killing innocent Palestinian fishermen. It is a terrible problem.

This is what Ken and so many others have been trying for years to change; Israel's blockade of Gaza is illegal under the United Nations, but the United States, Canada and one or two other nations always prevent the matter from being addressed.

Tim King and Pat Johnson in Eugene, Oregon

Pat Johnson has been watching her son from day one, grow from a sometimes self absorbed beach kid in San Diego, to a worldwide activist who lives in London today, and frequently engages in action for peace.

In addition to his work in Gaza trying to help the Palestinian people, Ken spearheaded a Human Shield Project when the current Iraq War started, to protect select locations with western people from being destroyed by indiscriminate bombs. The effort led to power staying on during some of the war's darkest days.

Ken O'Keefe is a world citizen. His Marine Corps background and high levels of accomplishments for Palestine and Iraq and all people in the world, made him an obvious fit for Salem-News.com.

Our affection for Ken is expected, but I had no idea how much I would come to admire and like his super cool mom, Pat. I think the same holds true for my wife Bonnie and our writer Eileen Fleming, who was also part of the speaking tour.

I lost my parents a few years ago (on the same day) and it has been hard at times. I appreciate parents in ways that some people would not understand.

Pat is now an addition to our lives too and I believe we will always be in contact.

Bonnie King photographs Ken, Eileen and Pat in Washington - 2010

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