U.S. Politics and the Economy

Bay Area Activists Declare Gaza Solidarity Victory

Israeli cargo ship blocked for five days at port of Oakland

Historic Port Shutdown Contributes to International Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions Movement Against Israel in Protest of Its 7-Year Siege of Gaza

Oakland, California—For two days in a row1, August 16 and 17, 2014, the Bay Area community prevented a ZIM Lines container ship, the most prominent shipping company in Israel, from docking and unloading goods at the port of Oakland in response to Israel’s latest attack on Gaza and its ongoing occupation of Palestine. Israel’s violence over the last month-and-a-half has left over 2,000 Palestinians dead and over 10,000 injured.

The ZIM Pireaus arrived in Northern California the afternoon of August 15 and was scheduled to unload early Saturday morning. As a result of the build up for a mass mobilization at the port, organized by Block the Boat, a coalition of Bay Area organizations and activists, ZIM was pushed back onto the Santa Cruz shores, idling overnight. Organizers called this an early victory, and called for community members to come at 3:00 P.M. to stop the scheduled work crews from unloading the ship. As the 5000-person protest marched toward the gate, organizers were notified that the ship was not going to dock and longshoremen had been told not to report to work. Block the Boat declared victory.

Then, Sunday afternoon on August 17, organizers received word that the ship had arrived and workers were being called to unload it. Within 30 minutes they mobilized more than 400 people back to the port and organized community pickets at Berths 57 and 59. Workers honored the picket lines, stood on the side of justice, and the ship was not unloaded.

According to Lara Kiswani, Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, “Our actions this weekend have sent a clear message to the state of Israel that apartheid and Zionism have never been and are not welcome in Oakland or anywhere on the West Coast.”

“We are learning from the historical success of the international movement to boycott apartheid in South Africa,” says Sameh Ayesh, a member of Arab Youth Organizing. “Just as we did with the Block the Boat mobilization, we will build on the rapidly growing BDS movement until the Israeli apartheid regime falls.” The Block the Boat action has received widespread international attention, and is part of the growing campaign to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel for its ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people with the military, economic and diplomatic support of the United States.

“We hope that this historic port blockade will inspire further port blockades and actions by workers and communities all over the world to isolate Zionism and end the oppression of Palestinians,” says Monadel Herzallah, a former labor organizer and current member of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network.

Another ZIM ship is planning to dock in Tacoma and Seattle this week. In both cities, the ship will be met by communities united in their determination to Block the Boat and stand with Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and self-determination.

—Freedom Archives, August 18, 2014

1 The protest continued to block the ship for five days.