All that is missing might be the crown of thorns, in the still and video images of Irish-American peace activist, environmentalist and iconoclast, Kenneth O'Keefe, as he was let out of Israeli detention, with nothing but the rendered garments he was wearing and the blood, dripping down from his swollen and scabbed-over forehead:
Did the IDF soldiers throw dice for what they stole from O'Keefe? We'll never know. What they did, though, was unsuccessfully attempt to paint this middle-aged, quixotic figure as a terrorist organizer. Max Blumenthal surmises:
One of the most bizarre accusations the IDF made was that former American citizen and ex-Marine Ken O’Keefe was planning to “train a commando unit” in the Gaza Strip. That’s the same Ken O’Keefe who organized an aid boat to Gaza, Aloha Palestine, with the sister-in-law of Tony Blair, Lauren Booth. In recent days, O’Keefe has been a major presence in the international media, giving his account of the melee on the deck of Mavi Marmara. Why would Hamas want some middle aged American guy with no experience in guerilla warfare to train its elite forces? The answer is the IDF is probably trying to smear O’Keefe to discredit his withering assessment of their conduct during the flotilla raid. “All I saw in Israel was cowards with guns,” O’Keefe has declared.
If O'Keefe is to be believed, he may have saved the lives of more than two IDF "commandos," after they had been disarmed - one of them by O'Keefe himself:
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.
If you are familiar with the dramatic, poetic, visual and musical genre known as the Passion, you can see some of its elements at play here in the narrative. There is no crucifixion, no betrayal by St. Peter, and no Barrabas. But there is, or was, a Caiaphas. He died the day after the MV Rachel Corrie was towed into Ashdod:
Mordechai Eliyahu, who died in Jerusalem on June 7 aged 81, was a former Chief Rabbi of Israel ("Rishon Le'Zion") and a spiritual leader of the Religious Zionist movement that calls for a state for the Jewish people in the land of Israel with laws based on the teachings of Judaism.
Why compare Rabbi Eliyahu to Caiaphas? For one thing, both were appointed to their posts by rather conservative governmental entities. And for another, both succumbed to hatred and false punishment, with Eliyahu even evoking an imprecatory psalm to justify eliminationist thinking. Here are some quotes from the late Rabbi:
[In 2005] Rabbi Eliyahu wrote to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to say that, according to Jewish war ethics, an entire city (he referred to Gaza City) holds collective responsibility for the immoral behaviour of individuals
Thus, he continued, there was no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians during a potential massive military offensive in Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket attacks. He ended his letter quoting from Psalms: "I will pursue my enemies and apprehend them and I will not desist until I have eradicated them."
...As for the hundreds of thousands killed by the Asian tsunami of 2004, he said that those who died were paying for their governments' support of the Palestinians..
Maybe this Rabbi might make a better future Caiaphas than Eliyahu:
International Middle East Media Center – September 18, 2006
A Jewish rabbi living in the West Bank has called on the Israeli government to use their troops to kill all Palestinian males more than 13 years old in a bid to end Palestinian presence on this earth.
Extremist rabbi Yousef Falay, who dwells at the Yitzhar settlement on illegally seized Palestinian land in the northern part of the West Bank, wrote an article in a Zionist magazine under the title "Ways of War", in which he called for the killing of all Palestinian males refusing to flee their country, describing his idea as the practical way to ensure the non-existence of the Palestinian race.
"We have to make sure that no Palestinian individual remains under our occupation. If they (Palestinians) escape then it is good; but if anyone of them remains, then he should be exterminated", the fanatic rabbi added in his article.
Falay is not the first to have called for such extreme measures. Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Kach movement, called for "the transfer of Israel's Arab population to Arab (or other) lands." (As it states on the group's website). Followers of Kahane have been connected to a number of murders of Palestinians, particularly in the Hebron area in the southern West Bank. In the most well-known of such attacks, 29 Palestinians praying in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron were gunned down by Baruch Goldstein, a follower of Kahane, in 1994, with Israeli soldiers looking on and allowing the gunman to reload his automatic machine gun and continue killing innocent civilians. In response to that massacre, the Israeli authorities punished the Palestinian victims by taking over the Ibrahimi mosque and turning half of it into a synagogue, where Israeli settlers go to pray each week. And each year, on the anniversary of the massacre, Israeli settlers in Hebron dress up like Baruch Goldstein and parade through the streets of Hebron, firing guns in the air.
Recently, there has been a trend in performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's St. John Passion, to either change the biblical words pertaining to Caiaphas' role in the trial of Jesus, or to delete that section from the performance. The words in the original version that are questioned are:
Then Jesus went out and wore a crown of thorns and a purple mantel. And Pilate said to them:
Behold, what a Man!
When the high priests and servants saw Him, they screamed and said:
Pilate said to them:
You take Him away and crucify Him; for I find no fault in Him!
The Jews answered him:
We have a law, and according to that law He should die; for He has made Himself into God's Son.
When Pilate heard this, he became more afraid and went back inside to the judgment hall and said to Jesus:
Where do You come from?
But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him:
You don't speak to me? Don't You know that I have the power to crucify You, and the power to release You?
You would have no power over Me, if it were not given to you from above; therefore, he who has delivered Me to you has the greater sin.
From then on Pilate considered how he might release Him.
The Jews, however, screamed and said:
If you let this man go, you are not a friend of Caesar; for whoever makes himself a king is against Caesar.
When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus outside and sat upon the judgment seat, at the place that is called High Pavement, in Hebrew however: Gabbatha. But it was the Sabbath-day at Passover at the sixth hour, and he said to the Jews:
Behold, this is your King!
But they shrieked:
Away, away with Him, crucify Him!
Pilate said to them:
Shall I crucify your King?
The high priests answered:
We have no King but Caesar.
Then he delivered Him to be crucified.
This section of the work contains some of the most powerful and picturesque music penned by J.S. Bach. It is removed because:
The text Bach set to music has been criticized as anti-Semitic. This accusation is closely connected to a wider controversy regarding the tone of the New Testament's Gospel of John with regards to Judaism.
Having come to the United States in 1937 as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, Lukas Foss changed the text from “Juden” to “Leute” (People) when he directed performances of the work. This has been the trend of numerous mainline Christian denominations since the late 20th century as well, for instance, the Episcopal Church, when they read the gospel during Lenten Good Friday services. Michael Marissen's Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach's 'St. John's Passion' examines the controversy in detail. He concludes that Bach's St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion contain fewer statements derogatory toward Jews than many other contemporary musical settings of the Passion. He also noted that Bach used words for the commenting arias and hymns that tended to shift the blame for the death of Jesus from "the Jews" to the congregation of Christians.
And we might consider, in the light of this charitable trend, considering how to fairly share the blame for the sad state of affairs these narrow interpretations of Judaism, represented by the Rabbis quoted above represent. One might hope that the efforts of Christians like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jews like Rabbi Michael Lerner might come more to the forefront, and that when somebody like Helen Thomas (St. Helen of the White House press room?) utters something as thoughtless as she was revealed to have said, that a bit of charity might be extended her way.
And we might consider the charity and humanity expressed in this chorus from Bach's St. John Passion:
He took good care of everything
in the last hour,
still thinking of His mother,
He provided a guardian for her.
O mankind, do justice,
love God and humanity,
die without any sorrow,
and do not be troubled!