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Oct-11-2010 17:37printcomments

Every Tattoo tells a Story and Expresses the True Ken O'Keefe

“The tear under my eye expresses the sorrow I feel for all the insanity I see humanity involved in" - Ken O'Keefe

Ken O'Keefe on a recent tour of the NW US and Canada.
Ken O'Keefe on a recent tour of the NW US and Canada.

(CLERMONT, Fla.) - Kenneth Nichols O'Keefe, is a strikingly handsome 41 year old naturalized Irish, Palestinian, Hawaiian and world citizen, who began expressing his spirit on his skin with tattoos while a U.S. Marine who served in the 1991 Gulf War.

Ken O'Keefe in Washington with
his mom Pat Johnson

During 13 days on the road with Ken, his mother and the Salem-News.com crew who documented his non-stop speaking engagements through the NW US and into Victoria, Canada, Ken informed me that his first tattoo was the “meat tag” on the left side of his chest.

“When I found out the Marines were not exactly about honor and integrity I had the USMC crossed out and replaced with "civilian". I didn’t even know the tattoo artist but he gave me the tattoo for free because it was novel.”

At the same time, Ken also began speaking up verbally about America’s use of depleted uranium as a "crime against humanity" and how the US military uses soldiers as "human guinea pigs" with experimental drugs that were directly linked to the Gulf War syndrome.

Ken has been a boat captain, dive instructor and social entrepreneur whose efforts have rescued over fifty-five endangered Green Sea Turtles in Hawaii.

Ken founded Deep Ecology, a 14 year old dive operation in Hawaii, that also focuses on education, environmental protection and customer service.

Ken has saved untold amounts of marine life and successfully lobbied for the creation of the North Shore's first Marine Sanctuary, and today his mother, Pat Johnson runs the operation and on the left margin of the Deep Ecology oahuscubadive.com/ site it proclaims, “RESPECT YOUR MOTHER” meaning both biological and Mother Nature.

Ken renounced his US citizenship on March 1, 2001 and rose to fame for leading the human shield action to Iraq and was deemed a ‘terrorist’ by Israel for his resistance against their attack on the MV Mavi Marmara in which he defended the ship by disarming two Israeli Commandos, who were treated by medical doctors and released.

“I’ve made mistakes as every human does, but not regarding morals and integrity. By myself, I can do little, but together we can do everything. The Mavi Marmara experience proved that a small group of people who work together and tell the truth will create a better world.

“Our greatest responsibility is to hand over a better world to all children, and the 800,000 children in Gaza, are my children. I would rather die in pursuit of justice than back down. How can anyone accept the unacceptable!

“Governments should fear the people, not the other way around. The world is what we make of it and the fact that their is so much injustice in our world is a testament to our failure to unite and exercise our ultimate power.

“Direct Action, such as that which we conducted on the Mavi Marmara is the most powerful way for people of conscience to defy tyranny and affect justice; we have only just begun to reach our potential. Protecting that ship as we did was really an act of protecting the 800,000 plus children of Gaza who are the major beneficiary of breaking the blockade and ending their collective punishment.

Ken speaking at Portland State University
Salem-News.com photo by Dexter Phoenix

“Israel used stun guns, percussion grenades, rounds of live ammunition, 9mm pistols, submachine guns and they had snipers in the helicopters.

“They attacked during morning prayers at 3:40 AM [on America’s Memorial Day] and within five minutes of their attack, I saw a photographer who was a father of two shot in the head while he was taking photos of the helicopter.

“The first commando that I saw that descended from the helicopter had a 9mm pistol. I disarmed him and removed the live rounds and ran with the gun to stash it away for evidence.

“When I returned on top of the ship, another commando fell in front of me who had a sub machine gun and I grabbed his arms and me and another bother disarmed him.

“I ran around that ship for over five minutes trying to figure out who to hand over the 9mm pistol to, either I am incredibly lucky, or else those snipers had orders not to shoot white people.

“I tattooed my body as a form of expression, as a form of commitment to the cause of truth justice and peace, these tattoos also predictably forced me to make my own path rather then getting any jobs with IBM and the corporate world in general. These tattoos definitely force people to look at their prejudices.

“The tear under my eye expresses the sorrow I feel for all the insanity I see humanity involved in.

“The chain around my neck is a necklace of commitment and another is Sanskrit for ‘compassion for all life.’”

Ken’s right arm is adorned with an Hawaiian tiki entwined with Celtic knots, and “USA EXPATRIOT: 3-1-01 R.I.P.”

On his left hand is a symbol for TJP, which stands for Truth, Justice, Peace and on his arm a take off of the Michael Parkes gargoyle who is chasing bubbles blown by a young maiden.

He also sports this Mark Twain quote:

“Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”

On Ken’s left wrist is a bracelet and on his left thumb a ring and a heart.

On his right wrist is a “barcode” (taken from a packet of ground beef) and upon his forearm is inscribed “SOVEREIGN: BORN FREE - DIE FREE” and Ken explained it to me, “Kings and Queens are considered sovereign, but fuck that! We are all sovereign!

Ken speaking in Newport, Oregon Salem-News.com photo by Bonnie King

On Ken’s abdomen is the word “EXTINCT” and the Peter Singer quote, "All the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this one hard fact: in suffering the non human animals are our equals."

Ken told me that his “bio-hazard symbol represents that we humans are the most hazardous species on this planet.

“I have a dragon on my back with hidden meaning.”

“How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” -Rainer Maria Rilke

Ken also said that “The truth is God” and it is understood by most human beings that we are all created in the image of God.

Most of us believe that God’s image is manifest in our souls and our bodies are the result of millions of years of evolution.

Many of us manifest God’s spirit when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless and some of us comprehend that no greater love is there than one who will lay down his life for another.


Eileen Fleming is the Producer of "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu" Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org, Eileen is a Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com, Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory" and the soon to be released "BEYOND NUCLEAR: Some of my Experiences of Mordechai Vanunu and the Holy Land: 2005-2010" youtube.com/user/eileenfleming. Eileen is a unique leader in her state and she intends to run for a Florida Congressional seat in the future, to help speed the process of change that is so demanded today. Like many who walk in similar steps, Eileen, like other writers at Salem-News.com, is an outspoken advocate for humanity and she has no tolerance for the oppressive forces of the world.

You can send Eileen Fleming an email at this address: ecumei@gmail.com




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Lee Kaplan July 19, 2013 9:32 am (Pacific time)

To Annymous:Care to mention what demonstrators the IDF has shot dead in Bilin "all the time."? Yet another lie...because there are none.

Oh there are, we have shown plenty of video of this.  The IDF just murders people and then hires worthless hacks like yourself to lie in comment sections, I hope you didn't expect anyone to be shocked apartheid supporter.


Marivel Guzman October 3, 2011 2:45 pm (Pacific time)

I really respect Ken O'keefe,and Love him very much, not knowing him personally, only once I have a few minutes of his time in the mobile and that gives me a great pride just to say that I know him. It might sound childish but it is a honor to know this man. And I refuse to let people trash all his humanitarian work with non sense rumors and hasbarists tactics.
I love every aspects of his trajectory, just the act of rebellion of being an ex soldier that speaks about the atrocities of the employer that make him sign and swear in the name of God to obey this sinister Boss, the War Complex Monster, I think that act of rebellion is what it makes him bigger in my eyes.
His love for nature and being advocate not only in words but as a defender of sea creatures enlarge more his image as a humanitarian being, Let alone to had been part of the Mavi Marmara International Non Violent Activists Passenger List, and have been on the other side of an Israeli Rifle.
All his little and big activities in the peace process are deeds that no one can tarnish.
I have fought with my best friends and my family defending Ken O'keefe motives and activities.
I really hope that all the people that become dividers of our cause for humanity open their eyes, and see clearly that men such Ken O'keefe don't come very often to Earth.
We must follow his example and be better than we are when we see first the defects and errors of a person, instead to praise their good deeds first.
I give 2 thumbs up for Ken and wish him the best luck, and that he be able to continue his road for human unity and Peace not just for Palestine but for all Humanity.


Khani November 8, 2010 12:48 am (Pacific time)

I really liked this man but the tattoos turned me off! I understand the tattoos and now I love this man!


eileen fleming October 12, 2010 5:25 am (Pacific time)

I have been to Bilin 4 times since 2006 and have written about it many times. But this article is about Ken O'Keefe's tatoos and SPIRITUALITY!


Anonymous October 11, 2010 6:23 pm (Pacific time)

There has been untold loss of life and suffering by American soldiers, marines and other military personnel since our country's creation. Anyone can protest and exercise their 1st Amendment rights within our borders. Mr. O'Keefe is very fortunate that he was living here rather than Palestine while exercising his interpretations. If his protests were publically against the atrocities of those in power in Palestine, while there, he would not be traveling around providing his minority views at this time. Astute and informed westerners realize just how lucky we are to be able to question those things we find onjectionable, for in most places in the world the people would never think of challenging the status quo. Please remember to vote people, and give some real thought to past promises and the non-action behind those promises.

Editor: Israel shoots peace protesters dead at places like Bil'in frequently; why didn't you mention that?  

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©2017 Salem-News.com. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Salem-News.com.


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