Ken O’Keefe: “A Warrior of Heart”

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Ken O’Keefe: “A Warrior of Heart”
by Diane Walsh
He is famous for instigating Human-Shield Action to Iraq, which attempted to curb deaths of Iraqis, and as a survivor of the Israeli attack on the MV Mavi Marmara May 22, 2010, where he helped defend the ship when-under-siege by assisting to disarm two Israeli Commandos. And, without harming them.
 
Born Kenneth Roy Nichols O’Keefe on July 21th 1969 and known to his friends and supporters today as Ken, this courageous soul gives the following candid interview to highlight some of the philosophical debates surrounding the Palestine-Israel war.
 
I caught up with Ken last week; who’s now living in London and is committed as ever to the FreeGaza.Org cause. For more information about his activities, including Aloha Palestine, visit his signature TPJ (truth peace justice) website, with easy links to Facebook, twitter & blog networking to him directly.  

Note, a former U.S. Marine who served in the 1991 Gulf War, he’s since out of conscience and heightened awareness for social justice renounced his US passport—choosing instead to be a World Citizen, with an Irish passport and whilst holding also, Palestinian and Kingdom of Hawaii citizenship.

 

DW: Can you comment on this turn-of-events in England? For reader’s reference: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/30/activists-arms-factory-acquitted

It's rather interesting that the court ruled to acquit in the Brighton case, do you think it signals less and less tolerance toward [the government] Israel's tactics toward Gaza, perhaps a shift in the positive direction? 

KO: What it says is: we, people of conscience, have tremendous power; we do because, the vast majority of people do not want war, do not approve of innocent people being killed.  The acts of the Israeli government - the invasion of Lebanon 2006, the Gaza assault 2008-2009, the assassination in Dubai 2010,  the attack on the Freedom Flotilla 2010 - all this, and more, exposes Israel (and its American benefactor) to be very dangerous states with open contempt for international law.  This makes them serious threats to the safety and security of all people on planet Earth.  Manifesting that understanding in the form of direct action is therefore very powerful, because it is not just those involved that are acting, it is the will of people from around the world manifesting through those people.  And in such cases you can compel unjust “justice” systems to do the right thing.   

DW: What contact have you had with members of the ship crew; are you still keeping in close touch with your colleagues from Turkey?  Are you in touch with Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, CAIA, in Victoria? 

KO: I do have contact with friends from the flotilla, including Turks, Europeans, Arabs, Americans and Canadians.  My schedule has been very hectic and I am also meeting new people all the time, but I do not have formal contact with CAIA.

DW: What could groups of this vein in Victoria and elsewhere do to assist the people of Gaza other than holding rallies which they've done extensively?

KO: Participating in the boycott and divestment campaigns is important.  If you work in a union; getting your union to join this campaign.  Informing yourself and sharing the truth. Raising awareness on personal levels.  Perhaps planning, supporting and/or participating in direct action like the flotilla or other such actions that target the war industry.  Since I am now directly involved in raising the investment for the purchase of the largest ship yet to go to Gaza, help us with that.  The bottom line is everybody has something to offer and I would encourage people not just to look at my suggestions, be creative, really, come up with new and creative ways to expose the truth and unite people in the cause of justice and peace.  Looking at the potential of human beings, I am truly optimistic. 

DW: Could you give us your comment: Rabbi Harry from the synagogue in Victoria here felt compelled to speak publicly recently and held what was termed a "Peace Vigil". There was a meeting at Spirit Square (AKA Centennial Square) beside Victoria's City Hall, and not at the synagogue which some people initially presumed.  Sources said more than 100 people attended. One perspective (according to an attendee) was that, almost all attendees; either, part of the Jewish community (mainly synagogue) or their supporters from other faith groups. Circled, in groups, around the rabbi, with two or three guys from the shul observing from the fringes.  The Rabbi’s message—interpreted: ‘it's better to calm ourselves in quietude before engaging in argument, and that mutual respect is fundamental’.

Clearly, advising against personal attacks on pro-Gaza activists. 

Chris Cook, the editor of Pacific Free Press, wrote a piece (here)—advising the same, sparked by a couple of Letters [1], [2]  that were sent to the Editor of Monday Magazine (a local publication in Victoria owed by the monopolistic Black Press) that were published, in Monday, both on-line and in print,  and which just happen to feature, according to some readers, not-so-pleasant rhetoric—in there—coupled with the characteristic over-the-top gratuitous Zionist speak, which needless to say, has been responded to[3] at length. Pardon this long-winded preamble, as my point is to ask you a very important question which couldn’t have been asked, contextually, without it: 

What do you think can be done to combat insidious Zionist talk (sinister and provocatively so)?  Recommended constructive actions by way of example?

KO: There are many ‘necessary illusions’ that must be maintained in order for a small minority to maintain extraordinary power over the masses, among these illusions is the idea that religion in itself is the problem.  That is an illusion intended to make us believe that problems involving religion are impossible to solve.  To the contrary I believe the basis of all genuine religion is the Golden Rule: Due unto others.  However, religions have to a significant degree become sectarian and extremist and rather than fostering love and respect, they foster feelings of superiority and division.  Every “religion” has these destructive elements within it, but to me, that is false religion. 

Jews and Muslims and Christians and any other section of society have the capacity to be destructive or constructive.  With regard to the Zionist extremists who have their way with Israeli policy, there is a deep sense of entitlement and some very dangerous teachings within the Talmud in particular that makes the non-Jew, gentile, goy, essentially non-human.  The Jew of this ilk is bound to treat the non-Jew as such, and that segment of the Jewish population in Israel has the most power.  What this translates to is the Jewish people are seeing their religion being hijacked.  I know good Jewish people, I know destructive Jews, but Judaism itself is not the problem.  However, I would argue that Jews of conscience must speak out, and do so in increasing numbers.  That is what is required to take your religion back and become a constructive contributor to society.

In addition all people of conscience must expose the truth and confront every ideology that provides one people supposed benefits at the expense of others.  This goes for the sectarian extremism of Christianity and Islam as well as Judaism. 

DW: If you were to ‘lead the troops’ so to speak (that is to say, lead the movement) from the UK to assist the Gazan people, what would you say to them? What is the next step in your view?

KO: My overriding message has been and will continue to be that we, people of conscience are the ones that make the biggest difference, either through inaction or direct action.  I have love for all people, even my enemies, but I mean to work with the people who are serious, disciplined, intelligent and ready to act.  We are the ones that will decide whether our world descends further down the path towards a third World War, or along the path of sanity, truth, justice and peace.

It is a massive mistake, and lazy, to become a cynic and simply complain about the masses not caring; “they are too busy watching Football or American Idol”.  What other people do or do not do is not what matters.  Nor is it of most importance what the governments or even Zionists do, what matters is what we do.  And if we really want it, we can have a better world.  I can literally see that world, I have a mental picture of it in my mind and I visualize it regularly.  As I have the ending of the blockade.  I know other people can also see this world, all we need is to visualize it together, act intelligently and with discipline, and a healthy dose of fearlessness, and we will win.  Justice will prevail.  It does not take millions of such people, several thousand will do; the majority will eventually follow our lead and join us, including Israeli’s, that is the way it has always been.

As Margaret Mead so rightly said; “Never underestimate the power of a small group of individuals to change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

The Freedom Flotilla is a perfect example.  So let us take full responsibility for our world.  Let us hand our children a better world, a just and peaceful world, and let us not rest until will achieve this mission.

What next?  We most definitely do another flotilla, bigger, stronger, and wiser and every bit as committed.  In that interest I am working with people to add one massive ship to that flotilla with a projected budget of €5,000,000. If we want it badly enough, we will make it so. 

DW: What was your reaction to your interview on BBC's Hard Talk?

KO: The HardTalk interview was just like the first one I did in 2003, more antagonistic and interruptive then your normal HardTalk interview.  But that was expected on each occasion.  So what I focus on is to simply say what so many people from all over the world believe.  And I am sure, from the reaction I have received, that I was able to do this pretty well.  People have been overwhelmingly supportive and ready to engage.  My task now is to turn that energy into something truly world changing.

DW: Specifically what steps should be taken to ensure there is a proper investigation into the events which occurred on the Mavi?  Is it even possible to avoid there being partial proxies involved in some way or another?

KO: The Israeli investigation will be a whitewash, let us not waste too much time expecting differently.  It is the proverbial Fox guarding the henhouse.  I say again, let us concentrate on what we can control, what we can do.  Let us not wait for saviors, we are our savior.  Governments change for the better only because people make it so.  Israel will change when they have no choice, period.  So let us make it so, just like we did with South African Apartheid.  That was the power of people, and we have only begun to exercise our real power.

DW: How do you protect against character assassination?

In a way I consider it a badge of honour to be attacked by the propaganda machine and the quislings of power.  According to the Israeli Defense Forces I am a ‘terrorist operative’ who was going to Gaza to ‘train a commando unit for Hamas.’  In that accusation I join my brothers and sisters who are falsely accused because of their refusal to accept the unacceptable.  Nelson Mandela was a “terrorist” according to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan because he refused to accept the Apartheid state and renounce violence in the face of Apartheid.  Who is Nelson Mandela today?  I am not Nelson Mandela, but I am proud to share his values and to be deemed worthy of the same false accusation.  In this Orwellian world truths are turned upside down, only we can turn things right side up. 

But the best thing to do in the face of character assassination is to live your life with your heart and your wisdom as your guide.  Never give up, be who you are without fear, embrace these accusations and use them as fuel to strengthen your commitment.  The best defense is a good offence.

DW: Can you define your position in a few sentences?

KO: In short, the better world I see will come in a three-step process of Truth Justice and Peace. 

Truth - The most powerful weapon of all is the truth, we must do everything we can to expose it and in turn de-legitimize the propaganda machine.  Propaganda is a necessary element of tyranny, but we can defeat it by exposing the truth at every turn. 

The ultimate truth is we are all members of one human family.  What is good for my brother/sister is good for me, and vice versa.  This is a universal truth; there is no way to circumvent it because we are all connected, literally.  Propaganda does all it can to divide us, into nations, races, classes, religions, etc., but we are still undeniably connected.  This is the truth the powers that be fear most for us to realize, because when we do, that will be the day we unite, across the globe, liberate ourselves from slavery in all its forms and act as one human family. 

Justice—Justice will be born out of understanding the truth.  As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.”  The truth will force us to see every people as brothers and sisters, compel us to act, to protect our family in the face of injustice.  In that context nothing will stop us, justice will simply happen, all will become clear, we will do as our conscience dictates.

Peace—Peace is even ‘more easy’ than effecting the truth or justice, but is the end of the process, not the beginning.  I think we must face this fact and in the west in particular, be honest about how we enjoy peace ourselves, yet pay for murder in the form of war.  The truth is we are hypocrites, we have not taken control of our governments nor or tax funds, and we are paying the hit men to commit mass-murder.  That is an uncomfortable truth, but we must face it. 

Peace will come, I have not doubt, but only if we first face and embrace the truth.

DW: Being against Zionism is of course not the same thing as being an anti-semite—that's obvious to most rational, intelligent people but the bad guys (so to speak) try to paint an ugly picture of the activists supporting Gaza. What do you suggest should be the response to ill-considered and wrong-headed accusation?  For instance, it may come in the form as a Jew, outspoken in support of: a two-country concept, Palestine & Israel [with Palestine being fully respected in every way on the world stage (and, same, for Israel)]—being called a "Bad Jew".  What support can be lent to those Jewish people who have spoken out and are experiencing a backlash?

KO: People of conscience across the board must support each other.  We must agree to disagree where necessary but focus on priorities and act as allies.  Let us never forget that the truth is on our side, that the false accusations are really a sign, in this Orwellian reality we have allowed to happen, a sign that we are probably doing something right.  Let us not expect favours from the propaganda machine, let us count on each other, people of conscience, we are the one that we decide the fate of humanity.

   

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