“All I saw in Israel was cowards with guns”

“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 appearing below, 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.

(Thanks to Ann El Khoury at Pulse for reporting on O’Keefe’s statement.)

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17 thoughts on ““All I saw in Israel was cowards with guns”

  1. beena sarwar

    Thank you for speaking out and spreading the word. We in Pakistan and other places need to know that voices like your’s, like O’Keefe’s exist courageously amidst the wider media din that we routinely hear which presents only one side of the picture about Americans, Israelis and others – which is what our media does too. I am thankful to the Internet for providing this platform for dissenting voices. More power to you, to us.

  2. Renfro

    Marine Col Pat Lang of Sicsempertyrannis.com and who was a US pentagon ME military laison to Israel described the IDF as a undiscplined teenage street gang with guns.
    He also described seeing IDF rountinely beat and humilate both Palestine men and women…..in one incident he saw IDF cowards shoot at a Palestine woman out hanging her laundry…just for sport.

    Once a dog is rabid there is no way to save him.

  3. NotSoHardNowAreYou

    If only there were more like the hero O’ Keefe. A human shield group needs to be formed for any attack on Iran. At least he can now wear his tear tattoo with pride (In the UK a tear tattoo is a prison tattoo). Tattoos aside, good on him. It takes real bravery to go up against armed thugs with your bare hands or a stick, he was prepared to die for one of the most noble causes of our time.

  4. DE Teodoru

    The key to understanding Israel is the fear of its heritage of slander in anti-Semitic lore as the “slimy Jew.” That this characterization is absolutely false is beside the point. A complex is not rational, nor is it practical. Yet its effect is devastating when fear drives one to violent and abusive exploitation of the weaker other so as to feel self-confident hiding behind an arrogant façade, as so many Israelis seem to do. The state of Israel has been fighting with far, far superior weapons, from the Soviets at first and Americans later, against a rag tag force of Arab peasants devoid of any real ideology, just a few years after the British had killed every tenth Palestinian male. Israel, therefore, acquired a false courage like that acquired from going after helpless middle-aged ex-Nazis following the Russo-American occupation of Germany. Decades later came Lebanon 2006 and suddenly Israel panicked, looking for someone guy or other from among its generals to blame. Since then, as O’Keefe said, it is a nation of “cowards with guns” in the sense that they lack the confidence to feel secure about their ability to defend themselves and are seeking to quell that lack of confidence visiting violence and abuse on helpless people. Invariably then, they will follow the advice of the prototype East Euro “Jew,” the scrawny little Jabotinsky: to mow down all with an “iron wall.”

    So the problem is not Israeli blood-thirstiness. Israelis are probably more shocked by killing than most as they are on average highly educated and value life and intellect more than most. But it is fear that their weakness—their lack of blood-thirstiness– will be found out. Most Israeli military I know claim that since 1967 the IDF has been getting weaker and more cowardly. But in fact this is not so; instead, the Arabs have become better fighter and better disciplined….very often willing to self-sacrifice for cause or glory. A perfect reflection of this inferiority complex is the Israeli poll showing that if Iran acquires the ability to make an atomic bomb 30% of Israelis will leave the country immediately. Fear has recreated the phenomenon of the “wondering Jew” who leaves as soon as trouble appears. To combat that, since most Sabras have nowhere else to go– especially the Mizrahis– they fight like desperate loosing soldiers, killing the weak and running from the strong. The recent Mossad killing of a HAMAS operative was a boost to morale in that the fearful can feel that at least they are still able to get their enemies from behind.

    Netanyahu is unique in that older Sabra attitude: I’m from here and here I’ll stay. Free from fear he sought to work out a solution before the stink of Israeli mass fear invites an all-out Arab attack. Yet his Cabinet is full of the scum from the old East Euro Commie mentality of thieves and shysters, paralyzing him for their personal gain by invoking the panic generated by the Holocaust complex. Now the “Wizard of Oz” fakers of the Jabotinsky-type “iron wall” are trying to generate confidence through use of high-tech killing machines on helpless Palestinians; like shooting fish in a barrel. Fear has made them non-Jews as they violate the Jewish Ethic that holds life sacred; it is that notion of the sacredness of life which gave Jews their identity as a culture. We must engage Israelis in a quid-pro-quo quelling of their panic together with their Muslim neighbors so that they can use their tremendous talents to become once again an intellectual force with confidence in themselves– just like the integrated Jews in America– as they lead their Arab brethren out of the past, into modernity. Then, reassured by both the West and the Arabs that they will not be aggressed upon, they can be drawn out of their Holocaust psychosis. Since for most Israelis and Zionists the Holocaust is a magical allusion rather than a personal experience, underlying all their interactions with goyim is a fear that makes them potentially violent, a violence engendered from fear—most often expressed verbally and abusively in paroxysm. The reassurance to get over that nightmare– which was due them all after WWII– was the obligation to World Jewry the West never fulfilled, giving them instead the land of the helpless Palestinians. Nevertheless, despite all the hoopla about a “Jewish state,” 75% of Jews prefer to take their chances in the Diaspora and many Israelis venture into the West to make a new life while hedging their bets– ONLY PSYCHOLOGICALLY– by supporting extensive investment into a “Jewish State,” a state they will defend financially or theatrically (like Rohm Emmanuel) but never with their bodies, as we saw in 1973. That “Jewish” state failed to integrate itself into the region because of the grandomania of a few who saw it as expanding to dominate the Middle East and occupying an ever vaster region than it does today. Besides, many a Swiss bank account has been fattened with the rerouted donations of Diasporics.

    Peace will show how great a people are the Israelis—NOT AS JEWS—but as Israelis, for all their brethren in the Middle East to benefit from, as beneficial as Jews are for all the societies of the West. For that to occur, their panicky Holocaust psychosis must be quelled rather than used as a fearful glue to keep them sinking capital into a bottomless pit of a state that is only an arsenal instead of the “Cool Israel” it seeks to be.

  5. Eugnid

    We need O’Keefe back home to enter politics and help save America from the freaks and fools who think that 9/11 was a license to kill Muslims the whole world over.

  6. Jeff Honings

    I support Ken and all the others who tried to bring supplies to the people of Gaza.
    I respect their bravery for refusing to cow before the assault on their ship. For the ones who died I offer my condolences to their families. These guys should be remembered
    as men who did the right thing. The Israeli raid will always be remembered as a bloody, unnecessary event instigated by Israel. It will probably be remembered that way by almost everyone except Americans (most) who are too lazy to seek out something other than the gov’t line which parrots the Israeli line. Tail wagging the dog and all.

  7. ed cohen

    The behavior of the israeli pussy commandos makes me ashamed to be jewish; what a bunch of cowards; we (Jews) have been thrown out of 18 countries over the past 800 years. And now we gather in israel; and look how we behave . Even when we have our own country, we can’t behave; we over-reach and over-manipulate those around us. In this case, we abuse all of those around us and treat them like sub humans (anyone ever heard of identification with the aggressor; well we’re acting just like NAZIs). God help us, if he is still listening. Chosen people, my ass!!!!

  8. M.R. in Canada

    People of conscience all around the world owe Ken O’Keefe our deepest gratitude and admiration for sailing forth into action where we only wish we were brave enough to follow. Thank you! The people of Palestine endure horrible hardships and great injustice at the hands of the Israelis but I believe the Freedom Flotilla is awakening a growing number of people who have previously given Israel a pass on its abhorrent behaviour. It must be encouraging for Palestinians to know that people like Ken O’Keefe, George Galloway and many other valiant souls are trying so hard to help them. Viva Palestina!

  9. Robin

    What is the origin of that photo of him with the bloody face? Does that have a connection with the flotilla or his subsequent detention?

  10. Renfro

    “DE Teodoru June 7, 2010 at 3:35 pm
    The key to understanding Israel is the fear of its heritage of slander in anti-Semitic lore as the “slimy Jew.” That this characterization is absolutely false is beside the point. A complex is not rational, nor is it practical. Yet its effect is devastating when fear drives one to violent and abusive exploitation of the weaker other so as to feel self-confident hiding behind an arrogant façade, as so many Israelis seem to do.”

    Oh yea…and Ted Bundy’s defense attorney’s excuse for serial killer Bundy murdering all those women was because his ” mommy didn’t love him enough’.

    I don’t think you are going to muster much sympathy for the zionists with the ‘we kill out of fear’ and “anti semitism makes us do it” excuse.

  11. donhuangenaro

    ‘Cowards with guns? Don’t forget they are cowards with nukes.’

    you said it bro! 🙂

  12. Christian Frost Jørgensen

    I think this is exactly what the world needs, brave men (and women!), who don’t bring guns on a humanitarian mission. I want to become a boxer from reading the article above.

  13. Allen L. Jasson

    The Zionist movement was from the beginning and remains today a project of theft, implemented by violence and terrorism, justified by false ideology and anti-semitism, when in truth it serves only the acaricious few obsessed with wealth. Wealth brings the power to create a stampede of misguided fools – fanatical settlers, flag-waving israeli nationalists, sycophantic journalists and politicians. It’s tentacles of corruption have spread the world over to such a degree that the vile and obvious lies of the likes of Netanyahu are not only accepted but repeated and defended – still worse, the facts that prove them false are suppressed. It drags humanity into a cess-pool of filth and unhealthy diversion at a time when we should be applying our collective reason to the desperate need to save our planet. Or in the words of Gandalf “Dawn take you all!”

  14. chromelung66

    Even YouTube is in on this. Israel and it’s cyber IDF unit in coordination with the JIDF opened 100’s of brand new accounts and made videos not only mocking the Flotilla’s, but Ken O’ Keefe himself. It’s easy enough to research Ken O’ Keefe and he’s definitely not a terrorist. Check out his Aloha Palestine organization. He’s been an activist for many years and has appeared on international TV news for years. Even JewTube shows videos of him back in Jan. 2003. So even though I never flag videos, I flagged those 2 and what did they do? Sent me an email saying two of my videos were inappropiate and I am suspended from posting any videos. I won’t be surprised if they end up closing my account for simply doing twice what the JIDF & pro-Israel jews do 24-7..

  15. Kathleen O'Connor Wang

    I know several of the people aboard the boats. I was on the first boats, Keith was there, that broke the siege in 2008. I feel any one of us who take to the seas to Gaza risks their lives. We know of many victims of Israel who were cut down. Most of the names we know are Internationals but it is the Palestinians who suffer the most from the blatantly illegal and outrageous policies of Israel with complicity of my own country. American victims like Rachel Corrie, run over with impunity by an Israel bulldozer, set the stage for what could happen to any one who resists Israel barehanded to renounce the efforts to deny Palestinians inalienable rights and pursuit of happiness. Palestinians in Gaza are reduced to the ability to care for their families and they subjected to living on charity. The charity being offered is less than bare essentials which barely feed one’s children. On a happier note we hear Israel is going to allow snacks into Gaza. Snacks instead of clean water and nutritious food.

    As a Mother and great grand mother, I went to Gaza to participate in breaking the siege. With 8 grand children I understand the need for families to take care of our own. Gaza parents and grand parents are being denied their ability to provide for their families with their bare hands in the fields or factories or stores or as public servants, like me. Responsibilities they have always met have been replaced by standing in line for measly provisions that leave their offspring malnourished and parents with aching hearts. Children are always hungry. I asked my daughter about my grandsons, all skinny boys, who come home form school looking for something to eat in her kitchen. Edmund Sanders of the LA Times says “there is no hunger in Gaza”. My grandsons get instant gratification while Gaza children are suffering chronic malnourishment. This calamity is not caused by a natural disaster but by Israelis cruelty and a world of complicity.

    The Flotillas expose this crime. Hopefully the world will come to see based on testimony from people like Keith;a crime occurred on the high seas. The victims were the passengers and the criminal is Israel. Israel set out to terrorize and scare off any other group who wants to defy the blockade and stop the starvation of Gaza. People may be afraid, I was when I went, but it won’t stop us.Our boats left a trail.

    Kathleen O’Connor Wang

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