O’Keefe: Gandhi would have defended the ‘Mavi Marmara’

Israel/Palestine
on 20 Comments

“All I saw in Israel was cowards with guns.” These are the words of Ken O’Keefe, a former US Marine who was just deported from Israel after surviving the Mavi Marmara massacre.

In 2002, O’Keefe initiated what some would regard as a quixotic endeavor: an effort to prevent the war in Iraq by positioning Western volunteers as human shields at strategic sites in Iraq. The Truth Justice Peace action failed, but O’Keefe’s passion to follow the dictates of his own conscience has continued unabated.

This is part of a statement O’Keefe made upon arriving in Istanbul on Friday after his expulsion from Israel:

I remember being asked during 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 Mavi Marmara 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 Mavi Mamara, would I use the camera, or would I defend the ship? I enthusiastically 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 Mavi Mamara 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 Mavi Marmara, 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.

I doubt that there is a single Israeli official who would have the guts to take up O’Keefe’s challenge. Instead, the IDF has issued a laughable claim:

Ken O’Keefe (Born 1969), an American and British citizen, is a radical anti-Israel activist and operative of the Hamas Terror organization. He attempted to enter the Gaza Strip in order to form and train a commando unit for the Palestinian terror organization.

The IDF spelled his name correctly and the year he was born — thereafter, the errors and deceptions follow. O’Keefe renounced his US citizenship in March 2001. He is now an Irish and Palestinian citizen, though describes himself as “in truth a world citizen.”

If the IDF had a shred of evidence that O’Keefe was heading to Gaza to train a commando unit for Hamas, I guarantee he would not now be in Istanbul. He would be in an Israeli jail awaiting trial. (In an interview with Al Jazeera he does indeed dismiss Israel’s claims.)

But when O’Keefe says that all he saw in Israel was “cowards with guns” he points to a fundamental truth that reveals the character of the Jewish state.

As a nation that revels in its willingness to crush its opponents, Israel operates with the mindset of every bully: it only feels convinced of its strength when facing a weak opponent.

Lacking the courage to hold its own among equals, Israel operates in a world defined by dominance and oppression.

(This is cross-posted at Woodward’s site, War in Context, where an Al Jazeera interview and one of O’Keefe’s video diaries can be viewed.)

About Paul Woodward

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20 Responses

  1. potsherd
    June 7, 2010, 12:05 pm

    And a trial would have brought out evidence that the commandos began the violence and the passengers were acting in self-defense.

    No way would Israel let go persons it actually believed to be terrorists. Which brings up, again, the question – are the six missing passengers accounted for yet?

  2. eljay
    June 7, 2010, 12:06 pm

    >> 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.

    Well said. It’s a shame that people like RW cannot or will not appreciate this. “Nurturing” a relationship becomes meaningless when the person you’re trying to “nurture” with has a boot on your neck, a gun to your head and is threatening to shove a nightstick up your @ss.

  3. eljay
    June 7, 2010, 12:07 pm

    >> Lacking the courage to hold its own among equals, Israel operates in a world defined by dominance and oppression.

    Israel and the U.S.: Birds of a feather.

  4. Chu
    June 7, 2010, 12:12 pm

    Excellent articles like this and the surface will start to crack much quicker. Nice to see a guy like him can take the weapons of three Israeli IDF, making them brown their panties. That blood on his head is a fraction of the blood spilt of Palestinians over the last 60 years. Do you think anyone in Washington will take the debate he’s offering? Maybe Brad Sherman will stand strong for the State. Lol!

    -Helen Thomas is retiring. :(
    It’s the latest tragedy for Washington’s whoring media circus. She forget rule numero uno:
    never speak out against the criminal state of Israel.

    • Chu
      June 7, 2010, 12:18 pm

      video of O’Keefe:
      link to pulsemedia.org

      • melka
        June 7, 2010, 12:29 pm

        This is the first time that I hear the word “abducted” on TV used by a journalist or news anchor, and I’m not even sure I heard this word in interviews.

  5. javs
    June 7, 2010, 12:28 pm

    lets see if the international criminal courts are run by or controlled by the zionist movement by the reaction and actions taken such as sanctions and warrants for the arrests of those murderers. Even if zionism is on the way out as a lot say it is, the controls are of the heart for the ziojewish rulers whom claim they work for the usa government and the people. They will hide it and show nothing in reaction to the past 60+ years of crimes against humanity in which usa taxes were used to fund through aiapac, the same group responsible for the targeting of JFK whom was about to re inspect the facility on suspicions they were not peaceful but deceptive as well as not allow aipac to be listed as a an entity from outside the usa. The truth will be hidden and spun till it can be spun no more, and the victims will be called terrorists and nine eleven collaborators, while all along the crooks run the country here in the usa or should it be zusa. Feeling the hate should be broadcast in times square for all the world to see. Hopefully it can be played by overriding the signals.

  6. hophmi
    June 7, 2010, 12:50 pm

    Well, it’s nice to hear that O’Keefe is being honest about the violence on the ship, despite repeated claims from activists in the beginning that there could not have been any violence.

    I do not think Ghandi would have endorsed what the people on the Mavi Marmara did. I do not remember the part where Ghandi talked about surrounding British soldiers and beating them with lead pipes.

    • sherbrsi
      June 7, 2010, 2:00 pm

      Well, it’s nice to hear that O’Keefe is being honest about the violence on the ship, despite repeated claims from activists in the beginning that there could not have been any violence.

      Still preaching your Hasbara I see.

      This arrogance to the truth will be the downfall of Zionists.

      • thankgodimatheist
        June 7, 2010, 8:17 pm

        “This arrogance to the truth will be the downfall of Zionists.”

        The culture of lying is deep rooted in Israel. From its inception it has been nothing but a tightly knit web of lies. Coincidentaly, Erdogan seems to have understood just that :
        “They are like a lying machine. They are making up lies. That’s what they are known for,” the Turkish leader said.
        link to haaretz.com

    • Justice Please
      June 7, 2010, 4:13 pm

      “I do not think Ghandi would have endorsed what the people on the Mavi Marmara did.”

      This is one thing you cannot possibly win, because:

      Ghandi probably would have endorsed it, as O’Keefe shows with his quotes of Ghandi that he wants India to fight violently before she surrenders to those who rape her (my choice of words of course, not Ghandi’s)

      But, if Ghandi indeed would not have endorset it as you claim, then Ghandis opinion does not matter. If he can’t see that disarming murder squads who are shooting from the sky and storming a humanitarian aid ship is commendable, then he’s blind.

      Case closed.

  7. demize
    June 7, 2010, 1:10 pm

    You can leave best wishes at his site, I already have. I cannot link to it now but it shouldn’t be hard to find.

  8. Pamela Olson
    June 7, 2010, 1:59 pm

    He reminds me, strangely, of Jesse Ventura in that he’s so utterly allergic to bullshit. He just doesn’t have it in himself to bite his tongue anymore. Ventura was more of a showman, and not as principled, but it was still refreshing to hear him shoot down sacred cows one by one, with nothing to lose. This guy’s refreshing like that, too.

    And I like to think Helen Thomas was ready to retire anyway, and that’s why she said her little piece (which wasn’t about Jews but about colonists who refuse to integrate into the lands they colonized or treat the natives like human beings).

  9. Avi
    June 7, 2010, 7:48 pm

    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.

  10. Cliff
    June 7, 2010, 7:56 pm

    I do not think Ghandi would have endorsed what the people on the Mavi Marmara did. I do not remember the part where Ghandi talked about surrounding British soldiers and beating them with lead pipes.

    Are you like 12 years old or something?

    Gandhi on Zionism (and symbolically on this Flotilla raid):

    The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me. The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and the tenacity with which the Jews have hankered after return to Palestine. Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood? Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and in-human to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.

    The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France are French in precisely the same sense that Christians born in France are French. If the Jews have no home but Palestine, will they relish the idea of being forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are settled? Or do they want a double home where they can remain at will? This cry for the national home affords a colourable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.

    I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as an unwarrantable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.

    Let the Jews who claim to be the chosen race prove their title by choosing the way of non-violence for vindicating their position on earth. Every country is their home including Palestine not by aggression but by loving service. A Jewish friend has sent me a book called The Jewish Contribution to Civilization by Cecil Roth. It gives a record of what the Jews have done to enrich the world’s literature, art, music, drama, science, medicine, agriculture, etc. Given the will, the Jew can refuse to be treated as the outcaste of the West, to be despised or patronized. He can command the attention and respect of the world by being man, the chosen creation of God, instead of being man who is fast sinking to the brute and forsaken by God. They can add to their many contributions the surpassing contribution of non-violent action.

    hophmi, you cynically use Gandhi’s image to mock those dead activists. Yea, if they got into the fetal position they’d be alive. I’m sure a lot of Palestinians, if they only didn’t resist Zionism, would be alive.

    Fuck you, coward.

    • hophmi
      June 7, 2010, 9:57 pm

      I’ve read this many times. I don’t see the part where it says “beat the authorities with lead pipes.”

      Ghandi’s record during WWII is not great. He favored non-violence for Jews as a tactic to be used against the Nazis.

      • Cliff
        June 8, 2010, 5:29 am

        I don’t think we’ll see a Palestinian Gandhi. That requires Israelis to have a conscience when it comes to dead Palestinians. They don’t. This isn’t the same kind of struggle anyway.

        If you read Teddy Roosevelt’s own words considering the Indians. Or even Mark Twain. It’s that same mentality.

        People like Twain who sympathized w/ enslaved Blacks but had nothing but the usual racism and hatred for the Native Americans.

        It’s about land, and you want it for Jews, hophmi.

        All this garbage about Islamo-whatever is secondary – an excuse to ignore the fact that Palestinians were the majority and to create a JEWISH majority you had to get rid of all those Arabs.

    • Avi
      June 7, 2010, 11:40 pm

      >

      Yea, if they got into the fetal position they’d be alive. I’m sure a lot of Palestinians, if they only didn’t resist Zionism, would be alive.

      During the first Intifada, there were a lot of cases of Palestinian civilians getting shot in the head by Israeli forces.

      When a few cases made it into the Israeli media, the Israeli military claimed that it had clearly instructed its soldiers in the occupied territories to shoot Palestinian protesters in the legs. When asked to clarify and explain WHY then did the bullets end up in the heads of many Palestinians, the military explained that they must have bent down to pick up stones and rocks at the same moment when soldiers shot at the protesters’ legs.

  11. Saleema
    June 8, 2010, 2:55 am

    Wow. He disarmed three Israeli soldiers. The Marines sound so cool. Go Marines!!!!

    • Walid
      June 8, 2010, 5:04 am

      It sure is, Saleema, and so were the 3000 Hizbullah fighters and a few part-timers that chased 30,000 IDF ground troops out of southern Lebanon in 2006. The IDF lads are truly cowards as O’Keefe called them and brave only when facing unarmed civilians.

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