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Kenneth O'Keefe

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Kenneth Nichols O'Keefe (born Kenneth Roy Nichols July 21, 1969) is a naturalised Irish, Palestinian and Hawaiian citizen and activist, he is also an ex-U.S. Marine who served in the 1991 Gulf War and subsequently spoke out about the use of depleted uranium as a crime against humanity and the US military using soldiers as "human guinea pigs" with experimental drugs that were directly linked to Gulf War syndrome.[1][2][3][4] He is an American born citizen who renounced his US citizenship on March 1, 2001. He is also a social entrepreneur utilizing direct action marine conservation,[4][5] but he is more widely known for leading the human shield action to Iraq and as a passenger of the MV Mavi Marmara in which he participated in defending the ship and disarming two Israeli Commandos during the Gaza flotilla raid.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

On January 7, 2004, O'Keefe burned his US passport in protest of American Imperialism and called for US troops to immediately withdrawal from Iraq. He replaced his US passport with a World Passport, subsequently proclaiming himself a "Citizen of the World" with "ultimate allegiance to my entire human family and to planet Earth." [12]

Marine conservation in Hawaii[edit]

In 1995 O'Keefe earned a scuba diving instructor certification and in 1996 he created a social enterprise 'to protect and defend the marine environment we operate within". To date his scuba diving operation has conducted 13 ghost net recoveries and over 55 rescues of endangered Green Sea Turtle wrapped in monofilament fishing line. O'Keefe pioneered these rescues with over 40 such rescues personally, he also taught others his methods and led a campaign to create a marine sanctuary (Pupukea MLCD) on the North Shore of Oahu.[13][14][15][16] In 1998 and 2000 he crewed with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) in anti-whaling and sealing campaigns in which he was mentored by Captain Paul Watson. In 2000 he became the regional director for SSCS in Hawaii, earned a US Coast Guard captain's license and was branded the 'ecopreneur' by Skin Diver Magazine, the worlds largest selling scuba diving magazine.[17]

Involvement in Hawaiian independence[edit]

In 1999 O'Keefe became an active supporter of the Hawaiian Independence Movement and began the process of formally renouncing his US citizenship.[18] In November 2000 he naturalized as a Hawaiian citizen, served as the election commissioner for the Hawaiian Kingdom elections and professed his allegiance to the Kingdom of Hawaii and a "reinstated Hawaiian government". On November 30, 2000 O'Keefe (at the time known as Kenneth Nichols) was issued with a bench warrant for his arrest in the amount of $11,000. O'Keefe claims that this warrant was unlawfully issued and that this was proof of US government persecution. He officially entered this claim into his asylum request in The Netherlands.[19][20][21][22][23] In January 2001 he produced 'The United States of Hypocrisy',[24] an attack on American imperialism that charges current administrations of the United States with continuing fraud by ongoing theft of Hawaiian national lands. He also charged the US Government with carrying out an unstated policy of genocide in Hawaii by the measuring of "blood quantum." In his film former president of the American Indian Movement, Russell Means, claims that only two other nations have used blood quantum, "Nazi Germany to measure Jews and Gypsies" and the "Apartheid regime to identify blacks in South Africa." O'Keefe's charge in the film is that the US measuring of blood is intended to eliminate Hawaiian nationals by making citizenship status contingent upon a 50% blood quantum. He says that, over time, the Hawaiian people (kanaka maoli) will have diminished blood quantum below 50% and the policy of genocide will be complete, allowing the US to take adverse possession of Hawaiian national lands.[25]

In 2006 he returned to Hawaii and was elected as a representative of District 6 in Oahu, serving one year in the Hawaiian Legislature. During that time he wrote resolutions calling for the ratification of international human rights treaties in Hawaii, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He also wrote and lobbied for a resolution that would outlaw weapons of mass destruction in Hawaii; that resolution was subsequently approved in June 2007.[26][27][28][29]

Seeking political asylum in The Netherlands[edit]

In the aftermath of 9-11, in November 2001, O'Keefe left his family and business in Hawaii to seek political asylum in the Netherlands, claiming increasing persecution from US agents over his political activities.[30] O'Keefe's claim was determined to require a long procedure that typically takes several years for a final decision. While in the asylum procedure he lived in a refugee camp in the north of The Netherlands, in Stadskanaal. Initially he represented himself, but later he secured pro bono services of Dutch asylum attorney, Pieter Bogaers. Understanding that the process would take years and seeing the upcoming invasion of Iraq he removed himself from the asylum process and initiated the human shield action to Iraq in December 2002.[22][30][31][32][33]

Human Shield Action to Iraq[edit]

The human shield action to Iraq intended to exploit the greater value put on western lifeTemplate:Clarify and render the 2003 invasion of Iraq politically untenable by placing the western civilians as "shields" at locations that are legally protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention.[1][34][35] Critics of the human shields argued that their mission would only protect Saddam Hussein; O'Keefe argued that the "people of Iraq" would suffer the most and publicly acknowledged Hussein as a "violent dictator" and "mass-murderer"; he was not greeted positively by the dictator when he later arrived in Iraq. At its height about 500 human shields were in Baghdad, but due to challenges internally, with the Iraqi dictatorship and O'Keefe's deportation by order of Saddam, the numbers dwindled to approximately 100 at the beginning of 'Operation Shock and Awe'.[34][36] Failing to achieve the primary objective of preventing the invasion, volunteers attempted to protect seven sites (Al Daura Electrical Plant, Baghdad South Electrical Plant, 7 April Water Treatment Plant, Al Daura Water Treatment Plant, Tejio Food Silo, Al Daura Oil Refinery and Al Mamun Telecommunications Facility). The communications site was destroyed the day after the volunteers pulled out.[37][38]

P10K and international observers in Palestine[edit]

In 2004 O'Keefe founded P10K and attempted to organize a group known as the "P10K Force", a group of 10,000 Westerners intended to act as international observers in the occupied Palestinian territories and help bring peace with Israel.[39] P10K secured endorsements from Noam Chomsky, former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Tanya Reinhart along with Israelis who refuse to serve in the IDFTemplate:Specify.[40] O’Keefe sought meetings with leaders within the main resisting factions of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in order to obtain an ‘Agreement in Principle’ that would effect a ceasefire in return for the arrival of the 10,000 international observers within the ‘P10K Force.’ He was arrested for attempting to enter Gaza.[41][42][43] The IDF offered to release him if he signed an agreement stating that he would not attempt to re-enter Gaza; O'Keefe refused and spent twenty days in jail before being deported as a security threat. While in Israeli custody he initiated a hunger strike, alleging he was being beaten and denied access to an attorney and use of a phone to call his family.[44]

Free Gaza Movement[edit]

In 2007 O'Keefe joined the Free Gaza Movement and in July 2008 he arrived in Greece to serve as a captain and first mate in the transport of two boats to Gaza via Cyprus. The Free Gaza mission was an open challenge to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Ultimately he was one of 46 [45] who succeeded in reaching Gaza by sea despite Israeli threats all the way up to departure from Cyprus. The boats arrived in Gaza on August 23, 2008, the first boats to sail into Gaza for 41 years, tens of thousands of Palestinians greeted them as they arrived. Template:Citation needed O'Keefe piloted one of the two boats, the 'Free Gaza,' into the Port of Gaza. [46] [47]

Aloha Palestine[edit]

O'Keefe and Lauren Booth co-founded Aloha Palestine, a social enterprise to conduct 'safe trade' with Palestinians in Gaza. Aloha Palestine is supported by Noam Chomsky, Tony Benn, UK MP Jeremy Corbyn, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet and John Pilger.

Safe trade


Gaza Flotilla involvement[edit]

In June 2010, O'Keefe was on board the MV Mavi Marmara as the Managing Director of Aloha Palestine CIC, a social enterprise intending to conduct SafeTrade with Palestinians in Gaza. In the ensuing Gaza flotilla raid, O'Keefe was among the defenders of the ship and the mission to deliver aid to Gaza. In the course of defending the ship O'Keefe was involved in providing initial first aid to a seriously wounded passenger and disarming two Israeli Commandos. He helped to disarm one commando of his assault rifle gun and aided in subduing another, O'Keefe personally taking possession of a 9mm pistol from the second commando. He removed the "real bullets" or live ammunition from the pistol, giving the bullets to others while hiding the weapon. 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."[29][48][49][49][50][51] O'Keefe was among those arrested and detained in Israel.

According to fellow activist Fintan Lane, O'Keefe was severely beaten by Israeli security officials in Tel Aviv, and had to be hospitalized before his deportation on 3 June.[52] A video showing his bloodied face was released upon his arrival in Istanbul.[53] O'Keefe's own testimony is that "One policeman hit me on the head with a truncheon and blood started to run down my face" and "one of them started to choke me and the others kicked me in the ribs. There were four or five of them on me. I couldn't breathe. Just as I started to black out, they got off." He said he spent two more days in a "detention facility in the airport" after resisting deportation. The Irish consul general tried to convince him to agree to leave and asked him to wash his face but he refused saying that "This is the way I was treated and I will keep the blood on my face. That's how I will stay, or that's how I will leave.'" [54] Ultimately he was released, battered and bruised for sure, but alive.

On 6 June, 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."[55] O'Keefe said "If they had a supposed terrorist in their possession, why the hell did they let me go?" He confirmed that he had held meetings with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and other senior Hamas officials, to "broker a relationship between the Palestinian government and the Hawaiian Government".[29] O'Keefe says the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization by Israel is like the designation of the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela by the South African apartheid regime as terrorist. He compares his situation with that of Nelson Mandela, who Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, likewise considered a terrorist.[56]

Road to Hope[edit]

In October 2010 O'Keefe joined the Road to Hope humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza. Along with nine fellow convoy members and seven Libyan police officials, he was kidnapped from the port of Derna, Libya, by the captain of the ship which had been supposed to transport the convoy to Egypt. The kidnap victims were eventually deposited in Greece.[57][58]




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External links[edit]