Israel accuses former US Marine on aid mission of terrorist linkshttp://www.timesonline.co.uk/
A former US Marine is at the centre of Israel’s response to the outrage caused by its raid on a Gaza-bound aid boat after it listed him as one of five people on board with terrorist links.
Ken O’Keefe, 40, who lives in London, told The Times that he had met Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader, and said that he supported the organisation’s “right to violent resistance”.
He also said that he had helped to subdue two Israeli commandos after leaders of the Turkish Islamic IHH charity enacted a plan to defend the boat.
The words inked into the right hand of the 1991 Gulf War veteran — “US Expatriot, 01-03-01, RIP” — mark the date that he renounced his US citizenship after what he called a taste of military injustice. Mr O’Keefe said that he was subjected to institutional bullying in the US Marine Corps after he went over the head of his commanding officer to report an unspecified infraction.
In 2003 he moved to London, took Irish citizenship and began to visit Gaza and the West Bank. He said that he was granted honorary citizenship in the Palestinian territories.
He said that in the early hours of last Monday, when it became apparent that Israeli naval forces were preparing to board the ship, the IHH leadership issued a call to defend the ship as part of a pre-arranged plan. He was posted at the back of the boat to repel boarders.
“We were told that if they got on the ship we should arrest them,” Mr O’Keefe said. When he heard shots from the roof where commandos had descended from helicopters he rushed towards the gunfire, meeting on the way a soldier struggling with activists.
“By this time I had already seen one person dead. We subdued the soldier. He was struggling; he was trying to get to his weapon. I had no doubt that if he got to it before I did I’d be dead.”
After taking the commando’s handgun he took the bullets out and hid it to keep as evidence for a future trial, he said. He also helped to wrest an assault rifle from another commando.
He said: “We applied the principles of defending humanitarian cargo and defending one’s honour, instead of simply handing over the cargo, most of which would have not made it.”
Asked if the nine deaths had been worth it, he said: “I don’t see how there can be any question of that. The situation of the Palestinians is a problem which cuts to the heart of injustice all around the world.”Mr O’Keefe said that he had spent 20 days in an Israeli prison in 2004 after trying to cross from an Israeli settlement in Gaza into Palestinian territory. During this time he admitted in interrogation to meeting the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and other Palestinian groups that Israel would regard as terrorists while trying to broker his own peace initiative. He denied helping to train terrorists.