Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

San Francisco protest for Palestine

Pro-Palestine demonstrators protest Israel's latest assault on Gaza and ongoing apartheid, ethnic cleansing, occupation, and settler colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem on May 15, 2021 in the Mission District of San Francisco. (Photo: AROC/Facebook)

Oakland BDS Activists Stymie Israeli Cargo Ship During Global #BlockTheBoat Protests for Palestine

"We are sending a strong message that profiteering from Israel's apartheid and ongoing violence against the Palestinian people will not be welcome in the Bay Area."

Brett Wilkins

Demanding an end to Israel's apartheid and other crimes against Palestinian people, hundreds of San Francisco Bay Area human rights defenders on Friday prevented an Israeli-owned cargo ship from unloading at the Port of Oakland as part of a weeklong international #BlockTheBoat campaign.

Led by the Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC) as part of the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights and backed by union workers as well as over 100 organizations around the world, Friday's action drew several hundred community members who began picketing entrances to Oakland's port in the early morning hours.

The activists targeted the Volans, a container ship owned by Haifa-based ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. that has been circling outside the port for nearly two weeks. While the ship was able to dock Friday morning, as of 8:00 am local time it remained fully loaded, with cranes idle, as longshore workers refused to cross the protesters' picket lines. 

The Block the Boat campaign—in which activists are mobilizing to prevent Israeli ships from docking at ports in Los Angeles, Houston, Vancouver, Seattle/Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Italy, and South Africa—comes in response to Israel's recent assault on Gaza, which killed at least 248 people including at least 67 children, as well as ongoing Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and illegal occupation and settler colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in Palestine. 

"Once again, we have demonstrated that the Bay Area, workers, and all social justice movements support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, and that there will be a high price for all companies who do business that profits the apartheid state of Israel," AROC executive director Lara Kiswani said in an email to Common Dreams. "Today's victory is a win for the international movement to boycott, divest, and sanction the apartheid state of Israel.”

"With over 500 people joining us at the Oakland port to block the Israeli ZIM company in the early hours of the morning, we wonder if doing business with ZIM is worth it to the Port of Oakland, employers at the port, and other shipping companies," Kiswani said of Friday's action.

"We honor the workers here in Oakland and Palestine, and are sending a clear message that profiteering from Israel's apartheid and ongoing violence against the Palestinian people will not be welcome in the Bay Area," she added. 

A ZIM official told Middle East Eye that "due to operational constraints and long delays in the Port of Oakland, and in order to meet schedule departures in the Far East, we will be calling on other U.S. West Coast ports until further notice." 

Last month, members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union in Durban answered a call from the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions by refusing to unload cargo from a ZIM ship. Italian dockworkers in Livorno and Ravenna have also protested and refused to offload ships transporting weapons to Israel in recent weeks.

Union solidarity has played a major role in the Block the Boat campaign, whose supporters include the Congress of South African Trade Unions—that country's largest labor federation—and the San Francisco-based International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10. 

"An injury to one is an injury to all. Just as ILWU Local 10 workers refused to unload cargo from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, we honored community pickets asking us not to unload cargo from Israeli ZIM vessels in 2014," said Jimmy Salameh, a Palestinian rank-and-file worker with the ILWU Local 10, in an email referring to a similar action at Oakland's port nearly seven years ago.

"Just this month, dockworkers in Durban, South Africa and Italy have also refused to unload Israeli ZIM vessels," Salameh added. "Rank-and-file members of ILWU Local 10 stand against Israeli apartheid and with our brothers and sisters in Palestine."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Scientists to BlackRock Vice Chairman: New Fossil Fuel Development 'Incompatible' With 1.5°C

"The only responsible course of action is to do everything in our power to stop fossil fuel expansion and further emissions."

Jessica Corbett ·


Goldman Prize Awarded to Activists Who Showed Nature's 'Amazing Capability to Regenerate'

"While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity."

Julia Conley ·


Faith Leaders Call for Federal Election Monitors in Georgia to Protect Black Voters

"It is imperative that our election this November is monitored to preserve ballot integrity and ensure ballot security."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Inaction Is Bought': Here Are the Receipts on NRA's Purchase of GOP

"The issue is money in politics," said Nina Turner after the nation's latest mass killing of students and teachers. Right-wing lawmakers are "allowing children to die because of the gun lobby."

Kenny Stancil ·


'This Is on You!' Beto Interrupts Abbott Press Conference on Texas Massacre

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke accused Texas' GOP leaders of "doing nothing and offering us nothing" in the wake of the massacre at Robb Elementary School.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo