Jun 04, 2021
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.
\u201cThousands of people turned out this morning at 6AM to block the Israeli-owned cargo ship Zim from docking at the Port of Oakland. #BlockTheBoat #Palestine #FreePalestine #EndTheOccupation #FromTheRiverToTheSea #LongLiveInternationalSolidarity\u201d— BrookeAnderson (@BrookeAnderson) 1622835935
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.
\u201cIt\u2019s officially after 8AM in Oakland, but no longshore workers have crossed our picket! The apartheid-profiteering ZIM ship remains fully loaded, cranes remain idle. Every minute we keep cargo from being unloaded, ZIM loses money! #BlockTheBoat #BDS #EndIsraeliApartheid\u201d— AROC #BlocktheBoat (@AROC #BlocktheBoat) 1622813031
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.
\u201cOakland blocked the boat! (Part one!) Well be back out for the next shift at 4 PM- meet at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park or take a shuttle from the West Oakland BART. Join us then and show the world Oakland stands against Israeli apartheid #BlockTheBoat #FreePalestine\u201d— East Bay DSA \ud83c\udf39 (@East Bay DSA \ud83c\udf39) 1622822467
A ZIM official toldMiddle 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.
\u201cHappening Now: South African dock workers have refused to offload an Israeli cargo ship and are now protesting at the harbour in support of #Palestine. #DockWorkersWithPalestine #FreePalestine\u201d— Afro-Palestine Forum (Afropal) (@Afro-Palestine Forum (Afropal)) 1621590708
\u201cDockworkers of the top 3 confederate trade unions in Ravenna, Italy declare refusal to load container marked arms and explosives on ship destined for Israel arriving June 3.\n\nThey will strike to block the shipment.\n"We refuse to be complicit."\n\n#InOurHands\nhttps://t.co/kg2VbKCEzM\u201d— BDS movement (@BDS movement) 1621855529
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.
\u201cPowerful community picket at the Port of Oakland blocking the ZIM Israeli apartheid shipping company from unloading.\n\nSOLIDARITY! #BlockTheBoat\u201d— U.S. Labor Against Racism and War (@U.S. Labor Against Racism and War) 1622823172
"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."
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