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Oct-21-2012 01:20printcomments

PCRF Enjoys a Spirited and Inspired Evening with Ken O'Keefe

A full house welcomed Ken O’Keefe to California

Ken O'Keefe PCRF
Ken O'Keefe gives the keynote address at The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) 2012 event.
Photos by Marivel Guzman.

(SALEM, Ore.) - Veteran human rights activist, Ken O’Keefe was the keynote speaker at The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) annual banquet/fundraiser Saturday night, October 13, 2012.

The event, titled “Healing Hands”, was highly successful, drawing a capacity audience at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel in Anaheim, Ca. O’Keefe was very honored to be invited to speak at the prestigious event where recent key note speakers include Ilan Pappe, Diana Bhutto and Ralf Nader.

The PCRF was established in 1991 by concerned people in the U.S. to address the medical and humanitarian crisis facing Palestinian youths in the Middle East. It has since expanded to help suffering children from other Middle Eastern nations like Iraq, based only on their medical needs.

Ken O’Keefe knows very well the realities faced by the citizens of Gaza, and especially the children.

Ken O’Keefe was aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was attacked by Israel May 31, 2010 (Click Here for Music Video). The Mavi Marmara was part of an aid flotilla to Gaza, and they were about 60 miles from shore in International waters when the ship was attacked by the Israeli navy.

He spoke about that fateful night; describing how he and others disarmed Israeli sailors who were then treated and released by the peace activists.

Nine humanitarians were killed by the Israelis that night, and another still lies in a coma today.

Everyone left on board was eventually arrested and made to go to a country they had no intention of visiting- Israel. While in custody, O’Keefe suffered brutalities at the hand of his captors more than once, a lasting reminder of their lack of humanity.

Today Ken O’Keefe is actively engaged in numerous projects in Gaza to raise the standard of living of its residents “suffering under the boot of the Israeli presence”.

Perhaps most well known is the Samouni Project, dedicated to helping the Samouni family to move toward self sufficiency. The Samouni family may have suffered more than any other one family during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in early 2009.

Forty-eight people were killed in this family; children shot in front of parents, parents shot in front of children, a group of 97 in one home blasted to bits by rockets and mortars, Ken O'Keefe stated in a previous article.

One of the surviving girls in the Samouni family has been treated by the PCRF in the past and was also seen by them this September during a medical mission to Gaza.

Ken O'Keefe visiting after the event.

“As it goes for Palestine, it goes for the whole world,” O’Keefe said, reaffirming that the future of world peace hinges on the Palestine conflict.

He told the audience about life in Gaza and the turmoil it brings especially to the children, all 800,000+ of them. To them losing a beloved family member, a limb, and living with the constant sound of helicopters overhead is an integral part of their lives. It is a nightmare that they do not wake up from. That is something we, who do not live under occupation, cannot comprehend. Their PTSD is constant, there is nothing “post” about their Traumatic Stress.

O’Keefe broke a 30 day hunger fast the evening of the event. He had undertaken the fast to protest and show solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners who are often held without charge, endlessly.

The dinner also featured music by Doc Jazz and his Musical Intifada, providing a highly entertaining program. His appearance at the Gala marked the first time Doc Jazz had crossed the Atlantic to perform.

Doc Jazz wrote a new song titled “Healing Hands” to coincide with the event. The proceeds from its down loads will be given to the PCRF. Also coinciding with his appearance in Anaheim is the release of a CD titled “Intifada” which will be available on Amazon. The songs he performed ranged from traditional Arab music to contemporary jazz.

Doc Jazz is more than an esteemed musician; he is also a Palestinian surgeon.

The PCRF helps to improve the quality of medical care in the Middle East by sending medical equipment and supplies to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The group has also trained Palestinian surgeons so they can treat patients there and has sent American medical personnel to the region to treat difficult cases and train medical personnel in country.

Steve Sosebee, the founder of the PCRF and its current CEO, gave an overview of the organization.

Doc Jazz performs for PCRF 2012

The PCRF is the largest children’s charity in the world. Since its inception it has expanded its program’s vision. The PCRF sends medical missions, usually but not exclusively, to Palestine to treat children there. If they cannot be treated locally they are flown, at no cost to themselves and their guardian, to a hospital in Dubai or the West. The medical missions also serve to teach the local medical personnel so that more can be done on site.

Later in the evening, the Huda Sosebee Healing Spirit Award was awarded to PCRF Chairman of the Board, Dr. Musa Nasir, and to Los Angeles-Orange County PCRF Chapter President, Lily Karam.

Since 1991, over 800 children have been or currently are being treated outside of the Middle East through the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Their work has just begun.

After the event, O’Keefe commented, “What can I say other than I am blessed, this trip to So Cal has been a trip to connect with so many beautiful people. This to me is one of the great joys in life.

“This PCRF event is the key to funding all of their incredible work. So much hinges on this. What I have seen is how volunteers can actually come together and do good work, what a great team PCRF have put together. Doc Jazz was great, Hala Gabriel and Randa Issa were just so lovely, the board members and chairman and founders of PCRF all have something to be proud of.

“I am honoured to have been their guest and I feel my family has just grown. I never get nervous before a speech, simply because I merely state the truth as I know it, but I felt a deep desire to make this event something truly memorable. As per usual things flowed, the audience was with me 100% and the response made clear my words did indeed inspire. What can I say, I am blessed.”

Some of the information in this article was first published by Susan Schwartz in The Muslim Observer. CLICK HERE to read their report: Successful Fundraiser for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (October 18, 2012).

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Bonnie King has been with Salem-News.com since August '04, when she became Publisher. Bonnie has served in a number of positions in the broadcast industry; TV Production Manager at KVWB (Las Vegas WB) and Producer/Director for the TV series "Hot Wheels in Las Vegas", posts as TV Promotion Director for KYMA (NBC), and KFBT (Ind.), Asst. Marketing Director (SUPERSHOPPER MAGAZINE), Director/Co-Host (Coast Entertainment Show), Radio Promotion Director (KBCH/KCRF), and Newspapers In Education/Circulation Sales Manager (STATESMAN JOURNAL NEWSPAPER). Bonnie has a depth of understanding that reaches further than just behind the scenes, and that thoroughness is demonstrated in the perseverance to correctly present each story with the wit and wisdom necessary to compel and captivate viewers.

View articles written by Bonnie King
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