The Israeli cargo ship ‘Zim’ was set to dock in the Oakland port, on Saturday morning. But activists have claimed credit for an announced delay in the ship’s docking, and are planning to stop the ship wherever it tries to dock.The U.S. activists are following the lead of trade unionists in South Africa, who successfully blocked Israeli ships from docking on several occasions, to protest Israeli aggression against Palestinians and call for a just and lasting peace.
Activists in Oakland, California are gathering Saturday to carry out direct action to stop the ship from being able to dock at the port. And, activists in Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC are also planning to blockade scheduled stops in those ports.
The actions could potentially cost Israeli exporters millions of dollars, if their goods are unable to reach their ports of destination. The exact products on board the Zim are unknown, but they are likely to include Sodastream, a do-it-yourself soda-making device that is manufactured in an Israeli settlement on illegally-seized Palestinian land, Ahava dead sea salts, which are seized from Palestinian land in violation of the Dead Sea Agreement, and Osem brand food products, some of which are manufactured and packaged in Israeli settlements on illegally-seized Palestinian land, in the West Bank.
In their organizing materials, protesters say, “Palestine is calling us to action! Palestinian laborers [and the] Palestinian General Federation Trade Union have called on workers around the world to refuse to handle Israeli goods.”
They say that their “Block the Boat” actions are in response to a call by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, which calls for people around the world to “educate and build awareness among the labor movements of the U.S., and urge them to condemn the Israeli aggression and to boycott Israel.”
The Oakland action ran into some complications when the local branch of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, or ILWU, was unable to take a public stand in favor of the action – reportedly because of an active negotiation between the union and management. But individual union members are supporting the action, and are part of Saturday’s blockade.
One of the organizers of the event, Reem Assil of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, told reporters, “Symbolically, for Oakland we can say, ‘Not in our name!’ We’re not going to be complicit and an accomplice to the ongoing genocide and massacres going on.”
In 2010, Oakland activists successfully turned back an Israeli ship, while protesting the Israeli siege on Gaza. But that ship was later able to dock in Los Angeles. This time, activists are coordinating via social media and contact lists to ensure that protesters prepared for direct action will be on hand to meet the ship in Los Angeles, Seattle, or Vancouver, BC if it decides to re-route.
The protesters are calling for an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza, and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Their demands are in sync with the Palestinian core demands, which include equal rights for Palestinian people, the return of Palestinian refugees to their former homes in what is now Israel, and the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prison camps.