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Activists Plan Port Shutdowns To Block Israeli Ship in US and Canada


August 18, 2014
JP Massar / Daily Kos & Rebecca Bowe / The Guardian & KTVU.com & Renee Lewis / Al Jazeera America & Global Witness

In solidarity with Palestinians, thousands of activists in Oakland, Seattle and Vancouver are aiming to prevent a commercial Israeli cargo vessel from docking on the West Coast. The actions come in response to a call from Palestinian and South African unions to hold Israel accountable for violations of Palestinians' human rights -- particularly during Israel's latest offensive in the Gaza Strip, an operation that has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/08/17/1322285/-Bay-Area-Comes-Out-to-Block-Israeli-Ship-from-Port-of-Oakland-Stand-with-Gaza

"We have stopped the Zim Piraeus from docking on the West Coast of the United States."
-- Eyad, a port protestor


Bay Area Comes Out to Block Israeli Ship
From Port of Oakland, Stand with Gaza

JP Massar / Daily Kos

(August 17, 2014) -- One thousand people left the West Oakland BART (subway) station Saturday afternoon about 3:30 PM on their way to the Port of Oakland, Berth 57. Their goal? Prevent an Israeli-owned ZIM Lines ship from unloading, in solidarity with Palestinians and in symbolic opposition to the blockade and bombardment of Gaza, standing with other protesters around the world.

A funny thing happened along the way. Not one, but two thousand people ended up at Berth 57, as more and more people joined the march along the two mile trek to the Port.
An even "funnier" thing happened to the target ship. It didn't move. It stayed in the Pacific Ocean, moving in a circle all day Saturday.

As the Guardian noted:
"An Israeli ship that was scheduled to dock at the port of Oakland in California on Saturday remained at sea as between 2,000 and 3,000 pro-Palestinian activists streamed towards the port entrance, chanting and waving flags. The protesters intended to form a picket line to prevent work crews from unloading the ship."

Activists had originally planned to meet at 5am for a blockade of the Zim Integrated Shipping Services vessel, but word that its arrival had been delayed prompted organisers to push the protest back until later in the afternoon.

The San Francisco Bay Area and the ILWU have a long and storied tradition of refusing to unload ships, dating back to the 1930's.

ILWU has a long history of refusing to load ships from countries engaging in gross violations of human rights. In the 1930s, West Coast dockworkers refused to load and offload ships belonging to Italy after they invaded Ethiopia, and Japan after it invaded Manchuria.

In 1978 and 1980, ILWU refused to load military cargo headed for Chile and El Salvador respectively. And in 1984, the union refused to unload a South African ship for 11 straight days...
In 2010... activists successfully prevented the offloading of a Zim Lines ship in an historic first, ((ILWU)) Local 10 relied on the port's arbitrator to declare the working conditions unsafe.

For more pictures and commentary, click here.

Activists Plan Port Shutdowns
To Block Israeli Ship in US and Canada

Renee Lewis / Al Jazeera America

(August 15, 2014) -- US and Canadian activists are planning a series of actions beginning on Saturday to shut down West Coast ports to prevent a commercial Israeli cargo vessel from docking and unloading goods.

The actions come in response to a call from Palestinian and South African unions to hold Israel accountable for what they allege are violations of Palestinians' human rights -- particularly during Israel's latest offensive in the Gaza Strip, an operation that has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians.

"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," said a leaflet calling for the actions, collectively called "Block the Boat."

Saturday's protest was set to take place in Oakland, California, with subsequent ones scheduled in the coming weeks for Seattle and Vancouver.

The action is part of a campaign launched by members of Palestinian civil society in 2005 for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands and to adhere to international law in its treatment of the Palestinian people. It is modeled after similar tactics that international activists used in the 1980s to pressure South Africa's former apartheid regime to accept majority rule.

Block the Boat will target Israel's largest cargo shipping company, Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. If successful, it would effectively lock out Israeli commercial shipping from the West Coasts of both the United States and Canada, activists said.

Block the Boat organizers alleged that Zim has a history of supporting Israel's occupation and subjugation of Palestinians.

"From its founding in 1945 by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Histradut, Zim has served Israeli settler-colonialism, bringing settlers to Palestine and serving as Israel's only maritime connection during the 1948 war, supplying 'food, freight, and military equipment' used of course to carry out the Nakba. The worldwide commerce conducted by Zim today funds the occupation of Palestine with revenue generated on every continent," a statement issued by the activist group read.

The Nakba, or catastrophe, is how Palestinians refer to the events that led to the founding of Israel, when attacks by armed groups led to the expulsion and fleeing of more than 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children.

"We will be answering this call by organizing community pickets at the Port of Oakland, asking the longshoremen to honor this request and to stand with the people of Palestine as they have done in the past," the group's statement read.

Organizers said they hoped to have union workers' support for the action, and cited a history of solidarity by The International Longshoremen and Warehousemen Unions (ILWU), who cooperated with a similar action in 2010 by refusing to unload a Zim cargo ship.

That action was in response to Israel's deadly 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-led humanitarian flotilla that attempted to bring aid to Gaza, which has struggled with an Israeli-imposed economic blockade. Israeli Naval commandos killed 10 people on the ship, sparking international outrage.

The ILWU also has a long history of supporting human rights causes. In 1984, workers refused to unload cargo from an apartheid-era South African vessel.

However, an ILWU spokeswoman told Al Jazeera that they have no plans to participate in Saturday's action in Oakland, or subsequent ones in Seattle and Vancouver.

"The ILWU is not involved with any actions regarding incoming Zim ships," ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said.

Though ILWU is not endorsing or participating in the upcoming actions, Block the Boat organizers are hopeful that union members will honor their efforts.

"We trust that in line with their long legacy of political protests that they will honor our picket and not work the Israeli Zim ship," said Mohamed Shehk, media and communications officer for Critical Resistance, one of the grassroots organizations planning the actions under the umbrella of Block the Boat.

The ILWU is currently in contract negotiations, according to industry sources, and union members have been without legal contracts since July 1 -- which could make participation in such action complicated for members.

Shehk said that activists could still stop the unloading of the ship by gathering enough protesters to create a "health and safety risk" that would prevent union workers from crossing the picket line and doing their jobs.

"It's on us to ensure that the action is successful enough that they don't have to make a choice," Shehk said. The group is expecting several hundred protesters to join Saturday's action.

Shehk said this is what happened in 2010 when activists succeeded in preventing the Zim ship from unloading. Solidarity action with Palestine is now even more important, he said, because of escalating Israeli aggression against Palestinians.

"This latest attack on Gaza by Israeli forces has been one of the deadliest attacks that we've seen in recent years, and this action is just one in the larger boycott, divest, and sanction movement against the Israeli occupation," Shehk said.



Crowd Gathers at Port of Oakland Protesting
Against Arrival of Israeli Cargo Ship

KTVU.com

OAKLAND, Calif. (August 16, 2014) -- A large crowd of protesters gathered near the Port of Oakland on Saturday afternoon.

They are protesting against an Israeli cargo ship that was scheduled to arrive at the port Saturday. As of Saturday night, the Israeli-owned ship was off the coast of Monterey.

The protesters are now claiming a victory, saying it was their actions that kept the ship from docking in Oakland as scheduled on Saturday afternoon. Demonstrators say the protest was in response to a call from the General Federation of Trade Unions to take action in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

They say the effort to block Israeli ships is part of a larger campaign to organize boycotts, sanctions and encourage divestment from Israel. At one point the group looked to be well over 100 people.

A port official confirmed the ship was scheduled to arrive Saturday afternoon and he was not aware of what prompted the change in schedule.

The ship is now expected to dock Sunday evening. Protesters say they plan to regroup to prevent that from happening.

At this point, there have been no reports of arrests or injuries.


Israeli Ship Remains at Sea as
Thousands of Protesters Gather in Oakland

Blockade delayed as word spreads that ship is off the coast of California, closer to Santa Cruz, and won't be docking that day

Rebecca Bowe / The Guardian

OAKLAND, Calif. (August 17, 2014) -- An Israeli ship that was scheduled to dock at the port of Oakland in California on Saturday remained at sea as between 2,000 and 3,000 pro-Palestinian activists streamed towards the port entrance, chanting and waving flags.

The protesters intended to form a picket line to prevent work crews from unloading the ship.
Activists had originally planned to meet at 5am for a blockade of the Zim Integrated Shipping Services vessel, but word that its arrival had been delayed prompted organisers to push the protest back until later in the afternoon.

The event began with a brief rally at a nearby transit station, followed by a march to the port. Sameh Ayesh, a 21-year-old Palestinian activist with the San Francisco-based Arab Youth Organisation, led the crowd in a chant.

"We're gonna block the boat," he called into a megaphone. "Block, block the boat."

But before the march had even reached the port entrance, an activist who identified himself as Eyad delivered word that the Zim vessel would not be docking that day. An online ship tracking service showed that the vessel was off the coast of California, closer to Santa Cruz, as the march got under way.

Activists interpreted the delay as a victory since the schedule change seemed to have been made in response to the planned pickets. "We have stopped the Zim Piraeus from docking on the West Coast of the United States," said Eyad, of the Arab Resource and Organising Center (Aroc), into a megaphone, drawing cheers from the crowd as the march came to a halt on a bridge leading towards the docks.

"Zim Lines is the largest Israeli shipping company, and it's a huge flow of capital for the state of Israel," said Lara Kiswani, executive director of the centre, whose organisation was one of 70 to take part in planning the blockade.

Kiswani said the action was meant to generate momentum for a broader campaign calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli government as a response to violence in Gaza. "With the recent attacks on Palestine … there's been a lot of discussion locally, particularly with Aroc, on how to escalate our tactics," she said.

A similar blockade against a Zim vessel took place in 2010, when pro-Palestinian activists formed picket lines in response to Israel's attack on a flotilla ferrying humanitarian outreach workers to Gaza.

"After the flotilla was attacked by the state of Israel, we successfully were able to block the Zim Lines ship here, with the ILWU," Kiswani said. "So for years we were working with ILWU, with rank and file, and with the leadership, to try and raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians." In 1984, she added, "ILWU took a position against apartheid, and the workers refused to unload that ship."

As the march reached the port entrance, where activists had originally planned to stage a picket, they encountered a line of police officers standing in formation. Protesters erupted into chants of, "hands up, don't shoot!" -- echoing chants sounded in response to police violence directed against street protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Several others made statements linking recent acts of police brutality with the conflict in Gaza. "On Twitter, we've seen people in Gaza tweet to protesters in Ferguson how to cope with teargas," said Mohamed Shehk, who helped organise the blockade with the Oakland-based nonprofit Critical Resistance. "They're saying things like, 'as Palestinians, we know what it's like to be targeted and killed for being of the wrong ethnicity'."

The Guardian is seeking comment from the port of Oakland and the Zim shipping company.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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