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Jun-07-2010 00:48printcommentsVideo

'And Yes, We Fought'
Eyewitness Account From Mavi Mamara

"...we fought in the name of justice and humanity. We were right to do so, in every way."

Ken O'Keefe
Ken O'Keefe is a former Marine and first Gulf War Veteran.

(ISTANBUL) - 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 busses 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 May 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 durýng 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 Mavri Mamara 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 Mavri Mamara, would I use the camera, or would I defend the ship? I enthusiasticly 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 Mavri Mamarra 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 murders, 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 Mavri Mamarra, 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.


Ken O'Keefe is a former Marine and veteran of the first Gulf War.

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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NooR June 12, 2010 10:07 am (Pacific time)

I posted this piece last night and have had a few people ask for a way to contact Kenneth with an interest in challenging him. Is there anywhere to do this? Oh, I found a site with 652 hate messages to him. Israeli of course but I think was from Moscow on the Hudson. And this morning they posted a new "funny" video mocking him and the attack on the Mavi.

gp June 12, 2010 9:09 am (Pacific time)

"They looked like frightened children in the face of an abusive father." They are frightened children, their abusive parents have taught them to fear the world and hate their neighbors. Perhaps at least these three have a chance to discover that the world does not hate Jews, it hates murder and violence and would love them to find peace with the rest of us.

Noor June 11, 2010 10:59 pm (Pacific time)

Thank you Ken for what you did. Thank you for your explanation. I knew this was the mindset of any who fought on the Mavri but it is good to hear it reiterated by one whom I consider to have taken heroic actions that day. Your humility would not allow me to call you a hero per se I know. I myself do not know how to fight. However, I appreciate one who knows when it is necessary to defend that which must be defended for whatever honorable reason. I also believe in righteous anger but that was not the case at all in this instance. Your commitment is admirable. I read that the creeps in power are a little worried about a mass influx of soldiers returning to America all at once because they know that then the lies would not hold up and they would have a lot more to deal with in terms of total control. More of you and we stand a chance. My weapons are words and light... and on you I beam much light and thanks and wishes for your future.

June 7, 2010 12:03 pm (Pacific time)

Two boats with 46 passengers from various countries managed to sail into Gaza on August 23, 2010; .... Is this written in the future?

Editor: This is likely a mistake at my end, at any rate it has been corrected, thanks.

Gene Mosher June 7, 2010 1:02 am (Pacific time)

Thank you, Ken, for your personal commitment to peace in this world.

Anonymous June 7, 2010 2:58 pm (Pacific time)

not to be on either side, but I have seen videos and read articles that show the IDF to not be very pleasant. It seems they have shot unarmed people in the past. Not beating up the IDF in this post, stuff happens. but, if I knew the IDF was coming after me, I would defend myself. Seems the IDF does have a bit of a moral problem, of shooting first, asking questions later. And do not forget, the Fatah was placed into position by israel and the u.s. to be yet another puppet dictator. But the Palestinians democratically voted in Hamas. they were elected, by the people, in a democratic election. Basically, from what I learned, is, either the Palestinians accept the Fatah as their leader, or be destroyed. and obama calls israel a "beacon of democracy"? It is also interesting how israel plans things. For instance, why break the cease fire treaty on Nov 4 2008 while everyone was distracted with the election? its not a coincidence, its happened before. Just things to keep in mind.

Anonymous June 7, 2010 10:19 am (Pacific time)

while the obama administration does nothing. corporate/wall street/israeli whores. and it gets worse, obama touts job creation, things are getting better, while 95% of all jobs are government/census worker jobs, and the stimulus money is about run out. People better start waking up to what the heck is going on, and the lies thereof.

eileen fleming June 7, 2010 9:27 am (Pacific time)

Have you seen: Al Jazeera talks to US activist named by Israel as a 'terrorist'

trevor June 7, 2010 8:39 am (Pacific time)

I salute him for being a veteran but obviously it's gotten to his head!

gaik June 7, 2010 6:10 am (Pacific time)

corrrection need of aug 2010 date

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