Kenneth Nichols O'Keefe (born July 21, 1969) is an Irish-Palestinian citizen and activist and former United States Marine and Gulf War veteran who attempted to renounce US citizenship in 2001. He led the human shield action to Iraq and was a passenger on the MV Mavi Marmara during the Gaza flotilla raid. He said that he participated during clashes on the ship including having been involved in the disarmament of two Israeli commandos.
O'Keefe served as a United States Marine in the Gulf War. According to O'Keefe's own website, he was discharged because he "spoke out openly about abuse of power by my 'superiors' and as a consequence I paid a heavy price. I realised that honour and integrity were virtues which are often punished rather than rewarded and the Marines supplied me with my first serious taste of injustice."
O'Keefe created a marine conservation social enterprise 'to protect and defend the marine environment' in Hawaii in 1996. This enterprise conducted ghost net recoveries and rescues of endangered Green Sea Turtle wrapped in monofilament fishing line. O'Keefe became a pioneer in sea turtle rescues in Hawaii and led a campaign to create a marine sanctuary (Pupukea MLCD) on the North Shore of Oahu. In 1998 he joined an anti-whaling campaign in which he was bloodied when attempting to retrieve a boat belonging to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, of which he was a crew member. It was in this time he was mentored by Paul Watson. Eventually he served as the regional director for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, in Hawaii.
Human Shield Action to Iraq
In December 2002, O'Keefe started the human shield action to Iraq group. Intended to "make it politically impossible for them to bomb" Iraq by placing western civilians as "shields" at non-military locations, about 75 activists traveled over land from London to Bahgdad in two double-decker buses. Critics of the human shields argued that their mission would only protect Saddam Hussein. O'Keefe argued the "people of Iraq" would suffer the most from a war and publicly acknowledged Hussein as a "violent dictator". At its height about 300 human shields were in Baghdad, but due to challenges internally, with the Iraqi dictatorship and O'Keefe's deportation from Iraq, the numbers dwindled.
O'Keefe attempted formal renunciation of his U.S. citizenship in 2001, but
"... O'Keefe has tried officially to renounce his citizenship twice without success, first in Vancouver [Canada] and then in the Netherlands. His initial bid was rejected after the State Department concluded that he would return to the United States—a credible inference, as O'Keefe in fact had returned immediately. After his second attempt, he waited seven months with no response before he tried a more sensational approach. He went back to the consulate at The Hague, retrieved his passport, walked outside, and lit it on fire. Seventeen days later, he received a letter from the State Department informing him that he was still an American, because he had not obtained the right to reside elsewhere. He had succeeded only in breaking the law, since mutilating a passport is illegal. It says so right on the passport".
Gaza Flotilla involvement
In June 2010, O'Keefe was on board the MV Mavi Marmara. During the Gaza flotilla raid, O'Keefe was among the passengers who clashed with the Israeli military. In the course of the clash, O'Keefe claims to have been involved in providing initial first aid to a seriously wounded passenger and disarming two Israeli commandos. He claims he helped to disarm one commando of his gun and aided in subduing another, personally taking possession of a 9mm pistol from the second commando, removing the "real bullets" or live ammunition from the pistol and giving the bullets to others while hiding the weapon. He explained that it was his hope that the weapon could be used as evidence in any subsequent trial. O'Keefe said of the experience that it was like "combat but without combat weapons" and that "We had in our full possession, three completely disarmed and helpless commandos" who were "surrounded by at least 100 men"; "we could have done anything with them." He said that "woman provided basic first aid, and ultimately they were released, battered and bruised for sure, but alive. Able to live another day." O'Keefe was among those arrested and detained in Israel.
O'Keefe and another activist said he was beaten at the Tel Aviv airport when he resisted deportation, while still in Israeli custody. He claims that a policeman hit him on the head with a truncheon and that he was choked until he almost blacked out. He said he spent two more days in a detention facility in the airport after the incident. O'Keefe said the Irish consul general tried to convince him to agree to leave and asked him to wash the blood off his face but he refused.
A video showing his bloodied face was released upon his arrival in Istanbul. On June 6, 2010, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) charged that O'Keefe is an "anti-Israel extremist" and "operative of the Hamas Terror organization". According to the IDF he was entering the Gaza Strip in order to "form and train a commando unit for the Palestinian terror organization." He responded: "If they had a supposed terrorist in their possession, why the hell did they let me go?" He acknowledged having had meetings with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and other senior Hamas officials.
Road to Hope
In October 2010, O'Keefe joined the Road to Hope humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza. Organizers were seeking to transport the convoy from the port of Derna, Libya to el-Arish, Egypt on board the private-charter roll-on/roll-off ferry M.V. Strofades IV, which left port unexpectedly without any of the aid after the ship's owners and captain got into an argument with the aid workers, although seven Libyan port officials and ten of the Road to Hope team were on board.
Organisers of the convoy claimed that despite paying a shipping agent for the charter of the ship, O'Keefe and the others were "kidnapped" from the port by the owner and the captain of the ship who "went nuts". The ship owners claimed that the activists had boarded the ship without any contract or charter. Due to a "tense atmosphere" aboard the ship, and (as he claimed) receiving no response from the Libyan authorities, the captain feared for the safety of the ship and decided to sail out of Libyan waters.
The ship eventually docked at Piraeus, Greece after being boarded by Greek commandos. All the activists were allowed to disembark after they were found to have committed no crime. The captain and owner were subsequently arrested.
The People's Voice
In September 2013 O'Keefe joined David Icke in the team of The People's Voice, an internet TV station. In particular, he is presenting The Middle East Show, reporting news and comments on the subjects related to Middle east politics.
On Iran's Press TV program, The Agenda, while speaking on the topic of "America: Is it a Civilized Nation?", O'Keefe denied the plausibility that the September 11 attacks were committed by Osama bin Laden and the 19 hijackers. He claimed it was an inside job and that the US government and intelligence agencies, including Mossad were responsible. He also alleged that the United States government, including the President, had prior knowledge of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor during World War II, but allowed the attacks to go ahead in order to have an excuse to enter the war.
O'Keefe appeared, alongside Jenny Tonge at an Israeli Apartheid Week talk at Middlesex University on 23 February 2012, during which he stated, "Israel and Mossad were directly involved in 9/11" and that it "continues to foster false flag terrorism". He further stated that "[Israel] has no place in this world. And it must in its current form, if you want me to use some inflammatory language, in its current form should be destroyed." A heated debate with supporters of Israel, who included Zionist Federation co-vice-chairman Jonathan Hoffman, followed O'Keefe's speech. The police later reviewed remarks made by O'Keefe at the meeting after allegations were made by two pro-Israel activists who had been in the audience that they had incited racial hatred by comparing Jewish audience members to Nazis (O'Keefe had said: "The Jewish state is acting on behalf of the Jewish people. You [the Jewish people], like the Nazis, now have a special obligation. The decent Germans of World War Two, what did they do when the Nazis came to power and instituted their policies? Did they do enough to stop the Nazis? No, they didn't. What are the Jewish people doing right now? Are you doing enough to stop your racist, apartheid, genocidal state?"). After looking at submitted video and media material, the police came to the opinion that no criminal offences had been committed and no further action was taken. Six student societies in the Palestine solidarity movement released a statement condemning O'Keefe's remarks as anti-semitic, stating that such opinions had no place in their struggle "against all forms of racism". However, the Middlesex University Student Union awarded the Free Palestine Society for O'Keefe's speaking event with the 'best society event of the year'.
- O'Keefe autobiography
- "Israel boards Gaza aid ship". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
- Gabbatt, Adam; Sherwood, Harriet (2010-06-07). "Israel (News),Gaza,Palestinian territories (News),Middle East and North Africa (News) MENA,World news,Fatah,Hamas (news),Binyamin Netanyahu (World news),Ireland (News),Europe (News)". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
- "I'm an ex-marine recruiting human shields". BBC. 2003-02-19. Retrieved 2003-02-19.
- "Gaza activist 'beaten in Israeli jail'". Channel 4 News UK. November 2003. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
- "HARDtalk - Kenneth O'Keefe - Gaza flotilla activist". BBC HARDtalk. Retrieved 2010-07-03.
- Bryant Urstadt (October 2004). "Electing to leave: A reader's guide to expatriating on November 3". Harper's Magazine.
- "Israel detains activist O'Keefe". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
- Mapes, Lynda V. (1998-11-02). "Rock-Throwing And Jeers In Battle Over Whaling -- Protest Group Decries Treatment By Tribe". The Seattle Times.
-  Channel 2 News Hawaii
- "Body blow as human shields ordered out". Melbourne: www.theage.com.au. 2003-03-08. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
- "BBC NEWS: Volunteer 'human shields' flock to Iraq". news.bbc.co.uk. 2003-02-17. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
- "Back to Iraq as a human shield". London: The Guardian UK. 2002-11-29. Retrieved 2010-06-14.
- "'Human Shields' Booted After Criticizing Iraq's Instructions". Fox News. 2003-03-13. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
- O'Keefe profile at Harpers, ibid.
- "Al Jazeera talks to US activist named by Israel as a 'terrorist'". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
- "Ken O'Keefe". Press TV. 2010-06-07. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
- "Rough Passage", Haaretz
- "Activists claim Israeli officials beat them". Irish Times. 2010-06-03. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
- "Gaza-bound ship in limbo in Greece - CNN.com". cnn.com. 2010-11-13. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
- Bowcott, Owen (2010-11-12). "Gaza aid convoy Britons held on Greek captain's ship". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-12-29.
- "Greece allows Gaza activists to disembark from ship". www.haaretz.com. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
- "Greek commandos board Gaza-bound ship". cnn.com. 2010-11-13. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
- "Greece arrests captain who held aid ship". Canada: Windsor Star (from Agence France-Presse). Retrieved 2011-11-13.
- O'Keefe appears on Iran's Press TV program, "The Agenda"
- "Israeli Apartheid Week: Discussion on "Is Israel an Aparthied State?"". Facebook. 23 February 2012. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
- "Police investigate Mavi Marmara man hate speech". The Jewish Chronicle (London). 1 March 2012.
- "Police drop inquiry into Marine's 'hate speech'". The Jewish Chronicle (London). 8 March 2012.
- "Police to probe Tonge's Israel Apartheid Week rant". The Jewish Chronicle (London). 29 February 2012. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
- GCU Palestine Society. "Ken O’Keefe tainting campus Palestine activism with his anti-Semitic rant". Retrieved 14 March 2012.
- Students Rights. "Evening with 9/11 'truther' wins best event prize at Middlesex University". Retrieved 23 May 2012.