Press TV correspondent, Hassan Ghani, was aboard one of the Freedom Flotilla ship that came under the Israeli attack and in this 3-part video interview, he gives a most credible and measured account of the events of that tragic night, despite the horrors he had witnessed. He mentions in Part 3, a friend Ken O’Keefe who was severely beaten by the Israelis and a picture of Ken in a shocking condition is provided below. Also provided is Ken’s statement given in Istanbul after being deported by Israel.
Hassan Ghani was released from Israeli captivity and went to Turkey to attend the funerals before visiting Iran.
The following is a rush transcript of Press TV’s interview with Hassan.
Press TV: Tell us about your ordeal Hassan, What happened on the day of the attack?
Hassan Ghani: The Muslims members of the convoy had just begun the Morning Prayer — the Fajr Prayer — that’s when the Israeli forces decided to mount their attack, they came from the sides on commando boats and threw stun grenades and used rubber bullets against the ship that was repelled by water canons.
Then the Israeli soldiers decided to come by helicopter and from helicopter as well they were using rubber bullets against the people on the ground. Once it landed on the ship, there was a scuffle on the roof between the volunteers on the ship and the soldiers. The volunteers of course had no weapons what so ever, and the soldiers had machine guns, pistols and all sorts of deadly weapons and it was in those scuffles that a number of people were killed.
We didn’t understand how serious it was until we saw the first fatality. It was a friend of mine a person that had helped the press get internet access on the ship, it was his job to help setup laptops on the ship he was shot straight in the forehead by an Israeli bullet, which indicates that it was not an act of self defense by the soldier but a set up shot which he had time to take, and I have been told that my friend was taking pictures at the time — he was a friend of all the press really — he was taking pictures at the time that an Israeli soldier just approached him and shot him directly in the head.
That was a shock to all of us and was followed by several more fatalities and that’s when the organizers decided that although they were determined to get this aid convoy through, they were trying to prevent a massacre so they raised a white flag to surrender and told the Israeli forces to stop firing and that they would cooperate with whatever they wanted but the firing did continue for several more minutes as we clambered down into the hole of the ship to escape the firing.
Press TV: Well Hassan, from what we have heard after that you were abducted by the Israeli officials and taken away, so what were the conditions when you were there abducted along with your friends and activists on board? What happened after that?
Ghani: Well we were held for 24 hours by the Israelis on the ship, at gun point. Most of us were placed in stressed positions, the Israelis didn’t know I was a member of the press and I was held in that position for 2-3 hours, later they found out I was a member of the press, instead of putting my hands behind my back they put my hands in front of me but many other people were held 16-18 hours in stress positions where they almost completely lost blood circulation in their hands, we weren’t allowed to stand up we weren’t allowed to talk, not even allowed to use the toilet without pleading and begging the Israeli soldiers to do so, and even then they often refused.
Eventually we reached the port of Ashdod where we taken by force, we were all asked to sign a form agreeing to be deported even though we were taken there involuntary we were forced to go there, we didn’t want to go to Israel. The activists were pretty clear they wanted to go straight to Gaza avoiding the Israeli waters but the Israelis put us in prison for illegally entering Israeli as they claimed.
In the prison the rules changed some what. It was the good cop bad cop routine on the ship, we were treated pretty much like animals but in the prison I think by that stage the Israelis had become aware of how big the media followed from this was and the live pictures that had gone out were quite horrific so they began to treat us a bit more like human beings. They, of course wanted our cooperation later on, when they wanted to throw us out of the country they didn’t want us to try mount illegal challenge which two people did try to do — and of course those two people were beaten quite severely and were literally dragged to the airport and thrown on a Turkish airline along with the rest of us and eventually we were taken to Istanbul
STATEMENT BY KEN O’KEEFE in ISTANBUL
“I have for many years understood that we, people of conscience, are the true holders of power in this world.“
“Frustratingly however we have largely relinquished that power and failed to reach our full potential. Our potential to create a better world, a just world. Nonetheless I have conspired with others of like mind to reveal and exercise our true power.“
In 2002 I initiated the TJP Human Shield Action to Iraq because I knew that the invasion of Iraq had been planned well in advance, that it was part of a ‘Global Spectrum Dominance’ agenda as laid out by the Project For A New American Century. I knew that protests had no chance of stopping the invasion, and that largely these protests were just a way of making us feel better about the coming mass murder; by being able to say I protested against it. With that understanding I argued that the only viable way to stop the invasion was to conduct a mass migration to Iraq. A migration in which people from around the world, especially western citizens, would position themselves at sites in Iraq that are supposed to be protected by international law, but which are routinely bombed when it is only Iraqi, Palestinian, generally non-white, western lives who will be killed. I felt 10,000 such people could stop the invasion, or at the very least, expose the invasion for what it was from the start, an act of international aggression, a war crime and a crime against humanity.
When our two double decker busses traveled from London to Baghdad through Turkey, it was ever clear that the people of Turkey also could sense the power of this act, and they were the biggest participants in it. In the end we did not get the numbers required to stop the war, with at least one million Iraqi’s dead as a result, but I remain convinced that it was within our power to prevent the invasion. A massive opportunity lost as far as I am concerned.
In 2007 I joined the Free Gaza Movement with its plan to challenge the blockade of Gaza by traveling to Gaza by sea. From the moment I heard of the plan I knew it could succeed and ultimately I served as a captain on the first attempt. The Israeli government said throughout our preparation that we were no better than pirates and they would treat us as such. They made clear we would not reach Gaza. And still I knew we could succeed. And we did. Two boats with 46 passengers from various countries managed to sail into Gaza on August 23, 2010; this was the first time this had been done in 41 years. The truth is the blockade of Gaza is far more than three years old, and yet we, a small group of conscientious people defied the Israeli machine and celebrated with tens of thousands of Gazans when we arrived that day. We proved that it could be done. We proved that an intelligent plan, with skilled manipulation of the media, could render the full might of the Israeli Navy useless. And I knew then that this was only the tip of the iceberg.
So participating in the Freedom Flotilla is like a family reunion to me. It is my long lost family whose conscience is their guide, who have shed the fear, who act with humanity. But I was especially proud to join IHH and the Turkish elements of the flotilla. I deeply admire the strength and character of the Turkish people, despite your history having stains of injustice, like every nation, you are today from citizen to Prime Minister among the leaders in the cause of humanity and justice.
I remember being asked durýng 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 Mavri Mamara 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 Mavri Marmara, would I use the camera, or would I defend the ship? I enthusiasticly 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 Mavri Marmara 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 through 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 Mavri 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.