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A survivor speaks about the attack on the 2010 flotilla to Gaza

Ken O'Keefe speaking in Victoria at the BCGEU union hall Sept 30, 2010.

During the tragic 2010 Flotilla attempt to bring humanitarian supplies and political goodwill to the people of Gaza, Ken O’Keefe was taken prisoner and wrongfully beaten by the Israeli army This has been confirmed by the most recent United Nations Human Rights Council report.

On May 31, 2010 O’Keefe was on board the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, aiming to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. While the Mavi Marmara was still in international waters, Israeli commandos stormed it by sky and by boat. 

O'Keefe, a former Marine, and one of several activists who risked their lives, disarmed two of the Israeli raiders. He was able to safely remove one of their guns and yet, once it was in his hand, he did not to fire back.  Instead, he chose the path of non-violence, despite the whole ship being under siege by the Israeli army. 

The Israeli forces killed nine activists in the process of seizing the ship.

All communications to the outside world were severed and nearly all evidence was confiscated. Any footage that got to the outside world was smuggled out. Cultures of has video of the attack on the Mavi marinara.

For his resistance to this illegal attack Ken O'Keefe was detained in Israel by the Israeli military and beaten.

Victoria rises to the occasion

O'Keefe spoke in BC’s capital Sept 30 at the Douglas St. Union Hall accompanied by his mother and his film crew from Salem News. His talk was entitled: “My Mavi Marmara Experience and the Status of Direct Action in Palestine."

He came to Victoria outside his scheduled tour in the Pacific Northwest with the logistical assistance of Mavi Marmara activist Kevin Neish.

Although the Canadian customs officers interviewed him and his company (there were 3 in total) for 45 minutes, on the afternoon of Sept 30, he was treated courteously and respectfully and he made his entry. Similarly, BC resident Kevin Neish was released from an Israeli prison last June to a warm welcome at Victoria airport. 

Safe trade opportunity with Gaza will make a difference

Ken O'Keefe is becoming a  high-profile social justice advocate with a growing following. Believing that the crux of the movement should be (and is, in his mind at least, as one of the leaders of the Free Gaza Movement) a focus on port entry, he has founded ALOHA PALESTINE.

This formidable initiative seeks to not only break Israel’s blockade but insists that a port of Gaza be legitimated. That is to say, a port opened using International Law and under the world’s eye for the enablement of safe and fair trade. His aim: for a dynamic flow of trading of goods so that the region and Palestine people may prosper and live with dignity and comfort.  

In Victoria, he described how he is now in the process of organizing another relief effort in 2011, including a new ship.

There is a DVD available that tells his story. In the film, he describes how he had an epiphany after the experience of serving in the U.S. Marines in Iraq during the Gulf War. Upon seeing the imbalance in the way people lived and the rights they had,  a sort of heightened awareness set in, and this led him to embark on a different, more worldly, path. 

He renounced his U.S. citizenship, and he took on Irish, Hawaiian and Palestinian citizenship.  He then became a “World Citizen,” printing it as a tattoo on his left hand. Speaking for three hours, at the BCGEU HQ in Victoria, O’Keefe rocked the house. It was clearly a pivotal moment in BC activism for the Free Gaza Movement.

ICTV recorded the entire talk and it is expected to play on SHAW network.

Representatives from the Coalition Against Isreali Apartheid Victoria attended.

Members of the audience openly discussed the issue of the subversiveness of such meetings, which call into question the ethics of the Israeli government and the impact not only on Palestinians but on those who risk slander by defending them. Yes, fear does exist here in good ‘ol’ Canada. After all, we have a Prime Minister who does not even condemn the attack on the Mavi. And I am not the first to take note of this.

Ken O'Keefe (left) and Kevin Neish (right).

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