Monthly Archives: July 2010

Blockade: Dockers respond to Israel’s Flotilla Massacre and Gaza Siege

Report by Greg Dropkin
Published: 09/07/10

Three weeks after the massacre on the Freedom Flotilla, ILWU dockworkers in the San Francisco Bay area delayed an Israeli Zim Lines ship for 24 hours, the Swedish Dockworkers Union began a week-long blockade of Israeli ships and containers, dockers in the Port of Cochin, India, refused to handle Israeli cargo, and the Turkish dockworkers union Liman-Is announced their members would refuse to service any Israeli shipping. In South Africa, Durban dockers had already boycotted a Zim Lines ship in response to the invasion of Gaza last year.

On the 5th Anniversary of the United Palestinian Call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, Israel faces the prospect of targetted industrial action to implement boycotts. How did it happen, what does it mean, and how can the solidarity movement respond to the new opening?


Port of Oakland 5:30 am 20 June 2010

At 5am on Sunday 20th June, 800 trade unionists and Palestine solidarity activists from the San Francisco Bay Area marched to the SSA (Stevedoring Services of America) terminal at Berths 57-58 in the Port of Oakland, where the “Zim Shenzhen” was due. Zim Lines is the main Israeli shipping company, with services connecting Israel to the world. The ship sailed from Haifa, calling at Piraeus, Livorno, Genoa, Tarragona, Halifax, New York, Savannah, Kingston, Panama Canal, Los Angeles before reaching Oakland.

When longshore workers turned up for the day shift a mass demo was in place at four gates chanting “Free, Free Palestine, Don’t You Cross Our Picket Line”. . .“An Injury to One is An Injury to All, Bring Down the Apartheid Wall”. . .“Open the Siege, Close the Gate, Israel is a Terrorist State”. . . As union members spoke to drivers, pickets sat down in front of cars. The San Francisco Labor Council and the Alameda County Labor Council had passed their own resolutions and mobilised hundreds of trade unionists to back the demo called by the Labor Community Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People. It was an unprecedented show of strength from the local and regional AFL-CIO, affiliated unions and their members side by side with Palestinian and Arab-American activists. The Gaza ships were originally organised by Paul Larudee from San Francisco, and Bay Area residents had sailed with him. Now everyone came together for a united action organised in just two weeks.

Local 10 and Local 34 (clerical) are militant sections of the International Longshore Workers Union. The ILWU organises longshore (dockers) and many other industrial sectors on the US West Coast and Hawaii. With a history stretching back to 1934, they have faced their employers in countless disputes on the docks, carried out industrial solidarity action with other workers, fought against racism, adopted resolutions which characterize the Israeli oppression of Palestinians as “state-sponsored terrorism”, and on May 1st 2008 shut down every port on the US West Coast against the war in Iraq. Labor laws in the U. S. like the Taft-Hartley Act make it illegal for unions to organize solidarity actions.

The Oakland longshore workers arrived for the day shift and refused to cross the picket line on grounds of “health and safety”. The Pacific Maritime Association, on behalf of the employer SSA, immediately called in the Arbitrator (a joint union-management procedure for first-line response to disputes on the docks) hoping he would order everyone to work. The Arbitrator considered the PMA demand that the police use force to open access through the picket line, to make it “safe” for workers to enter the terminal. The union argued that the Oakland police are a threat to the security of workers and demonstrators. In 2003, as the U. S. attacked Iraq, Oakland police fired so-called “non lethal” weapons at longshore workers and anti-war demonstrators alike, injuring scores and sending many to hospital.

The arbitrator agreed with the union. As per their contract, the dockers were sent home on full pay. On a Sunday, that meant double-time.

The ship was now expected at 3:30pm, but didn’t arrive until 6. Meanwhile, SSA realised that several thousand pickets could show up after the emails and mobiles started buzzing, and decided not to risk it. They didn’t call up a crew for the night shift. The “Zim Shenzhen” sat at the quay, untouched.

This was the first ever boycott of an Israeli ship by workers in the US, where Zionism has counted on influencing the traditional stance of the mainstream labor movement, as well as elected politicians.

“An Injury to One is An Injury to All” is the slogan of the ILWU. It is also an emblem for South African workers.

The “Zim” action was recognised as a direct echo of Local 10’s fight against apartheid in 1984, when members refused to work South African steel and coal for 11 days until the employer obtained a Federal injunction to break the boycott. Interviewed on video during the “Zim” picket, Local 10 Executive Board member Clarence Thomas stated [1]

“This is a historic occasion. Everyone remembers the action taken by the community and labor in 1984 at Pier 80 in San Francisco, where the “Nedlloyd Kimberley” was picketed, and as a result of that longshoremen did not cross the picket line in opposition to the apartheid government in South Africa.”

Retired Local 10 longshore worker Howard Keylor, a co-organiser of that action, recalled:

“This was the result of over a decade of education within the Local on the horrors of the South African apartheid regime. South Africa arrested the entire leadership of the black miners union (the National Union of Mineworkers) and charged them with treason, and was threatening to execute them. I made the motion in Local 10, which passed unanimously, not to work the cargo in the next ship that came in. It was the longshore courage in deliberately violating the Taft-Hartley law and the union contract that made that successful.”

Clarence Thomas set out the current strategy:

“People are lacking food, people cannot rebuild in Gaza, construction supplies are not allowed. They haven’t even been allowing chewing gum! The thing that is going to make Israel and the United States both understand that this cannot continue, is the whole question of commerce and trade. Israel is very vulnerable on that question. This was critical in building the mobilisation in 1984 against apartheid, with three prongs: Boycotts, Sanctions, and Divestment.”

Jack Heyman, also from the Local 10 Executive Board:

“If longshoremen decide they’re not going to cross the picket line, then the Zim ship that’s coming in is not going to be worked, and that’s going to be repeated around the world, in Norway, Sweden, South Africa. I think people are beginning to understand that the Israeli government is going to have to be sent a message loud and clear, that their policies towards the Palestinian people are unjust and they’re going to suffer the consequences. It’s not business as usual when they commit acts of murder like this.”

Monadel Herzallah, of the Arab American Union Members Council summed up the impact on the labour movement:

“It’s indeed a significant turning point in the work with labour, and it’s significant because IlWU has honoured our picket line, it is something that we cherish, that we think will make an impact not only in the United States of America but also worldwide. The Labor Councils in Alameda and in San Francisco, responded to the call by encouraging labor unions, members, activists, to support this, with dozens of other community organisations who have worked to make this picket successful. People have wanted to tell this government and the government of Israel that they cannot be above the law, they have to be held accountable for what they did against these unarmed civilians on the flotilla ship in the Mediterranean.”

Palestinian unions appeal

On 7 June, the Palestinian trade union movement had produced a united appeal [2] to dockworkers unions worldwide. It was signed by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), the General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW), the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (IFU), and 11 other Palestinian union and labour movement organisations. It concluded

“Gaza today has become the test of our universal morality and our common humanity. During the South African anti-apartheid struggle, the world was inspired by the brave and principled actions of dockworkers unions who refused to handle South African cargo, contributing significantly to the ultimate fall of apartheid. Today, we call on you, dockworkers unions of the world, to do the same against Israel’s occupation and apartheid. This is the most effective form of solidarity to end injustice and uphold universal human rights.”

This appeal was doubly significant. It gave the basis for dockers to respond, knowing that the call came from fellow workers. And, it showed exceptional unity on the Palestinian side, a big step in its own right.

The ILWU Local 10 Executive Board met the next day, and heard from members of the San Francisco Labour Council, a Palestinian speaker and solidarity activists. The Board unanimously adopted an Executive motion [3] citing the Palestinian union appeal which they had received, and noting that the flotilla massacre had been condemned by the International Dockworkers Council (IDC), the International Transportworkers Federation (ITF), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and British union UNITE. The Executive motion joined in condemning the massacre and concluded with a “call for unions to protest by any action they choose to take”.

The ILWU also noted that Swedish Dockworkers were planning an action, scheduled to begin on 15 June.


Even before the Palestinian unions issued their appeal, the Swedish Dockworkers Union had announced plans for a week-long blockade of all trade with Israel. The union is a key member of the International Dockworkers Councilformed during the Liverpool dockers battlefrom 1995 – 1998 to regain their jobs after being sacked for refusing to cross a picket line. Former Liverpool dockers and Swedish dockers discussed the possibilities for action and alerted the IDC and its affiliated unions when the Palestinian Boycott National Committee made contact soon after the massacre.

The Swedish Dockworkers Union set out the aims of the blockade and discussed strategy in detailed briefings to the membership and press articles.[4]

Their blockade was designed to last one week, a temporary measure to be evaluated with the possibility of further action. It aimed to influence the Israeli government to:

“1. Lift the illegal and inhuman blockade of Gaza, which has been going on for over three years.

“2. Allow an independent, international inquiry into Israel’s boarding of the Freedom Flotilla (of which the Swedish Ship to Gaza was a member) in international waters, when nine people were killed and at least 48 people were injured. The requirements are clearly defined and conform fully with the demands that the UN and the EU have made to Israel.”

After the initial announcement, the employers’ association “Ports of Sweden” threatened to sue individual union members, deduct from their wages, and demand compensation for participation in the blockade. The dockworkers postponed their action for a week, to dovetail with plans by the Norwegian Transportworkers Union. The Palestinian unions issued their appeal and Sweden would now be acting in response. In the event, the Norwegian blockade did not take place – yet – but Sweden went ahead.

“From the 23rd of June we will no longer handle containers with Israeli wines, vegetables or fruits branded Jaffa, Carmel or Top, vegetarian pre-fabricated foods from Tivall or the carbonation-machine Soda Stream. Neither will we contribute to the Swedish export of Volvo buses, which were used by Israel to transport hundreds of human right activists from the Freedom Flotilla to Israeli prisons.”

The union was directly involved in the original plans for the Swedish Ship to Gaza, which the dockworkers intended to load for free. When the “Sofia” was eventually purchased jointly with a Greek solidarity organisation, the Swedish Dockworkers were in touch with the Greek Port Workers Union who loaded “Sofia” with electric wheelchairs and cement at the port of Pireus, free of charge. The Swedish also approached the IDC to ask affiliates to protect and handle voluntarily all ships carrying supplies to Gaza.

Björn Borg, Chairperson of the Swedish Dockworkers Union, and Erik Helgeson, Ombudsman, local 4 Gothenburg, stressed the significance of the Flotilla.

“We could see how the eyes of the world were finally turned towards the isolated population of Gaza. Even the night before the Israeli military violently stormed the Freedom Flotilla, this international initiative had done more to bring attention to the catastrophic situation of the people of Gaza, than all the diplomatic moves, declarations and resolutions put forward in recent years. That also inspires us and our colleagues in ports around the world to take action.”

When the blockade began, the dockers identified and isolated 10 containers full of goods to or from Israel. Erik Helgeson commented:

“We thought the flow of goods would be much lower considering the blockade has been announced for twenty days. Our ambition is of course that our action can be one of many grassroots initiatives that will keep the eyes of the world focused on the 800, 000 children living isolated in Gaza. The Palestinian civilian population must be allowed to rebuild their economy, their infrastructure and freely integrate with the rest of the world. The war on Gaza and Israel’s brutal blockade have made all this impossible for over three years.”


The Mavi Marmara

As the Swedish began their blockade, news emerged that the dockworkers union Liman-Is would join the fast growing movement for boycott sweeping through all levels of society after the murder of Turkish aid volunteers aboard the “Mavi Marmara”. Alongside the Physicians’ Association of Turkey and the Chamber of Agricultural Engineers, the Liman-Is Central Committee stated: [5]

“. . . The attack that was protested throughout the world and condemned harshly by the UN also brought people out to the streets in Turkey. The government’s announcements indicate that further sanctions against Israel are to be expected.“However, Israel needs to be answered not only through the channels of government, but through all institutions and social organizations, most of all, through NGO’s and unions.

“Our union Liman-Is, has decided to boycott the ships from Israel, which has become a machine of death and torture. In the framework, no member of our union will give service to Israel in any docks where we are organized.

“Liman-Is union invites all unions and NGO’s organized in our country and throughout the world to join this boycott and protest campaign.”


A few days before the Oakland action, unions in the Port of Cochin, in the state of Kerala, India, had agreed to boycott Israeli ships and cargo. [6] The boycott began on June 17 on receipt of information that cargo unloaded at Colombo Port from Israeli ship m/v Zim Livorno was bound to arrive at Cochin Port in a feeder vessel. Similar consignments unloaded at Colombo from Israeli ships were set to arrive in feeder vessels.

On June 23, trade unions held a joint protest rally in Cochin Port near the office of Zim Integrated Shipping Services (India) Pvt Ltd – the Israeli shipping line. Addressing the rally B Hamza, general secretary of Cochin Port Labour Union (CITU) condemned the flotilla massacre and expressed the Port workers solidarity with Palestine. Leaders of at least five port unions and the Water Transport Workers Federation of India expressed the unity of Cochin Port workers with the growing world-wide boycott.

South Africa

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) had already boycotted an Israeli ship which sailed from Haifa during the invasion of Gaza. In early February 2009, members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union SATAWU, affiliated to COSATU, had refused to work the Zim Lines “Johanna Russ” when it arrived in Durban. On the eve of that action, COSATU wrote: [7]

“SATAWU’s action on Sunday will be part of a proud history of worker resistance against apartheid. In 1963, just four years after the Anti-Apartheid Movement was formed, Danish dock workers refused to offload a ship with South African goods. When the ship docked in Sweden, Swedish workers followed suit. Dock workers in the San Francisco Bay Area and, later, in Liverpool also refused to offload South African goods. South Africans, and the South African working class in particular, will remain forever grateful to those workers who determinedly opposed apartheid and decided that they would support the anti-apartheid struggle with their actions.“Last week, Western Australian members of the Maritime Union of Australia resolved to support the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and have called for a boycott of all Israeli vessels and all vessels bearing goods arriving from or going to Israel.

“This is the legacy and the tradition that South African dock workers have inherited, and it is a legacy they are determined to honour, by ensuring that South African ports of entry will not be used as transit points for goods bound for or emanating from certain dictatorial and oppressive states such as Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Israel.”

photo: Greg Dropkin
COSATU Campaigns Co-ordinator George Mahlangu
at UN building, Cairo 28 Dec 2009

Five COSATU officers were amongst the 1400 internationals who converged on Cairo last December, hoping to enter Gaza for the Gaza Freedom March. Zico Tamela, the International Secretary of SATAWU, was on the delegation. Interviewed outside the UN buildings by the Nile, he called on transportworkers throughout the world[8]

“. . . to assist in the struggle for the liberation of our brothers and sisters in Palestine. We must support and actively participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. This means the total isolation of Israel in terms of arms embargo, economically, culturally, socially, and otherwise. Just like you fellow workers did with apartheid South Africa. This also means that the Israeli labour movement, which is Zionist to the core, must be kicked out of the progressive international trade union movement. It’s not a question of fighting Jewish workers, no, no, it’s a question of isolating Zionism within the labour movement. Just like it was not a question of fighting white workers, but of fighting racism and isolating it within the international progressive trade union movement.“The action we South Africans took in relation to an Israeli ship and a Chinese ship that docked in Durban, when we refused to offload the consignments those ships carried, the Israeli ship carried civilian goods, the Chinese ship carried arms for Zimbabwe, we didn’t offload those goods. As transport workers throughout the world, we need to be at the forefront of the struggle to implement Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign, because we are the ones who transport goods to and from Israel throughout the world.”

Israeli Consulate rebuffed by ILWU Local 10 Executive

Israel is taking this seriously. Their San Francisco based Consul for the Pacific Northwest Akiva Tor sought to meet with the ILWU Local 10 Executive Board on 6 July, hoping to persuade the union to change course. When the PGFTU found out, they wrote to the Executive Board on 2 July, saluting the union’s boycott, their history of international solidarity, and the risks taken by African-Americans in the civil rights movement. They appealed to the union to stand firm: [9]

…Although we do not live in the United States, we find it highly unusual and somewhat uncustomary that a paid foreign representative of a racist and apartheid regime can demand and get a meeting with the executive board of a local union no less than the ILWU. . .Our civil society has risen and said that justice is universal. We supported the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, the struggle for Civil Rights in the United States, and the struggle for international solidarity. We remember that May 1st commemorates a labor struggle that took place in Chicago, IL, in the US and on May Day 2008, your union the ILWU, shut down all west coast ports to oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, setting a precedent in the U. S. Labor movement.

We humbly ask of you to hold steadfast in the face of backlash and revenge against your union. The call for a meeting with your union by a foreign paid emissary is intervening in the domestic affairs of local community grassroots action in the United States. Israel, an apartheid state, maintaining an illegal war against our people, should not be given the platform at your union house. That platform should be reserved for heroes who champion justice and equality for all.

The Consul may have scented danger, and 6 July his Deputy Gideon Lustig turned up to head the delegation. Lustig spent 10 years in the Israeli Defence Force and attained the rank of Major before turning to a diplomatic career.

photo: Labor Video Project
Deputy Israeli Consul for the Pacific Northwest Gideon Lustig (left) and Dr. Roberta Seid (3rd from left)

The Consular delegation was joined by Dr Roberta Seid, an academic at University of California Irvine who believes the IDF was not responsible for the death of ISM volunteer Rachel Corrie, run over by an IDF Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza on 16 March 2003 while trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian doctor’s house. Why? Because an official Israeli investigation concluded her death was an accident.

In a major diplomatic rebuff for Consular staff, the Executive Board refused to allow the delegation to enter the meeting, in line with the appeal from the PGFTU. [10]Dr Seid was given permission to speak. To general amazement, she defended the murderous attack on the Freedom Flotilla. Perhaps she anticipates the official Israeli investigation will clear the Navy of responsibility. What differences would the Israeli government have with her presentation, she was asked. None, apparently. Had the journal “Foreign Affairs” recently exposed Israel’s offer to supply South Africa with nuclear weapons during the apartheid era? Seid admitted they had, but claimed the story was untrue. A former ILWU official recalled his own experience of visiting Palestine in 1989 and described the expansionist aims of the Israeli state in detail.

When it was over, the Executive reaffirmed the union’s position opposing the Israeli blockade of Gaza, the apartheid wall in the West Bank, the continuing bloody Zionist oppression of Palestinians and the murderous Israeli attack on the aid flotilla.

What does it mean?

In the past, with a few very important exceptions, unions have focused on adopting national policies in solidarity with Palestine, donated funds, sent delegations to the West Bank and occasionally to Gaza, invited their Palestinian counterparts to address conferences, but without engaging in any dispute with their own employers over this issue. Although unions have adopted policies in support of BDS, and even overcome strong internal opposition before doing so, these policies have mainly remained paper commitments. Yet these small steps are essential preparation. As Howard Keylor remarked, it took years of education within Local 10 before the boycott of the “Nedlloyd Kimberley” became possible.

The first sign of another strategy came in 2006, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the largely secret war in Gaza that same year. [11] Tram drivers in Dublin were instructed to train their Israeli counterparts on how to operate the planned Light Rail system connecting Jerusalem to the illegal Settlements. In line with the policies of their union SIPTU and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, they refused, risking their jobs. [12] At the same time, an appeal from sacked Liverpool dockers entitled “Sanctions on Israel: If not now, when?” concluded “If you can, intervene directly to stop trade with Israel while the carnage in Lebanon and Gaza continues”. Possible action against Zim Lines was discussed in San Francisco a few months later.

During the bombardment and invasion of Gaza from Dec 2008 – Jan 2009, Greek dockers threatened to boycott a shipment of US arms to Israel, which was then re-routed, eventually reaching Ashdod in March. [13]

Now, for the first time, Israel faces the prospect that their trade links are no longer secure as unions across the world are willing to go into dispute to implement the boycott. This is not a dockers issue, it is an issue for any union which wants to make BDS a reality. And the dockers are only able to act because they know there is a strong basis of support in the wider labour movement.

This is exactly what happened to South Africa from about 1978 onwards. Workers at the computer manufacturing firm ICL (now Fujitsu) in Manchester refused to dispatch the machine they had built for administration of the hated Pass Laws. Air France pilots were poised to refuse to fly uranium illegally mined by Rio Tinto Zinc in South African-occupied Namibia. The trade was suddenly switched to sea. But a decade later Liverpool dockers blockaded containers to interrupt the export of processed South African and Namibian uranium, touching off an outcry in Japan where electricity contracts with RTZ were cancelled. Dublin shopworkers refused to sell Outspan oranges, and were sacked. Oakland dockers refused to offload South African steel and coal, and survived.

It all coincided with the emergence inside South Africa of militant independent trade unions ready to strike against the employer and the apartheid system, eventually forming the Congress of South African Trade Unions in 1985. That was the moment when the South African ruling class knew it would have to find a way out of apartheid. Even so, it took another 9 years.

These were not the only factors which brought down the apartheid regime. No-one should imagine that a week of blockades spells the end of Israeli apartheid, or even the end of the siege of Gaza. But the dockers have broken through the consensus that trade union solidarity begins and ends with resolutions at trade union congresses, education, fundraising and delegation work, important as these are in laying the basis for action.

The blockades connect Palestine to the class struggle which workers live through every day of their lives. In Oakland, Sweden, Turkey and in South Africa, a new generation of dockers has joined a fight with echoes of the 1980s. Clarence Thomas:

“Today what you witnessed was the current young membership of ILWU Local 10 answering the call of the brothers and sisters who came before them. We understand what international solidarity means. It is not an empty slogan. You have to give something up. Our members were willing to give up a day’s pay today. That’s what solidarity means. This is indeed a people’s victory, and remember, just because it’s not on the front page of the New York Times, just because it’s not on CNN, we have to get the word out. We claim no easy victories and tell no lies. Solidarity to the Palestinians. Solidarity to the working class around the world.”

Whatever the immediate consequences, Israel’s murderous attack on the flotilla has landed the Zionist regime in very dangerous waters.


[1] interviews from the Oakland picket line transcribed from the video “Workers stand against Israeli Apartheid”, Labor Video Project.

[2] (from the website of the Palestinian Boycott National Committee)

[3] (from the website of the Transportworkers Solidarity Committee, which helped to organise the action)

[4] for English versions see

[5] for English version see









PGFTU Letter to Oakland Dockworkers: No Meeting with Tor

The following letter was sent from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) to International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, whose member workers honored the Labor/Community picket line at the Port of Oakland on June 20, 2010, leading to the historic boycott of an Israeli Zim Lines ship.

Following this historic action, the Israeli consul-general in San Francisco, Akiva Tor, asked to address the Executive Board of ILWU Local 10, in an attempt to pressure dockworkers against their honoring of the picket line and boycott. On July 6, 2010, however,  ILWU Local 10 Executive Board, after receiving this request from the PGFTU, denied permission to the Israeli consul and his delegation to address the union and reaffirmed the union’s position.

ILWU Local 10 has consistently stood as an example of international workers’ solidarity; its leadership in the boycott of South African apartheid, Latin America solidarity and opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and occupation is well-known. In 2009, the ILWU Longshore Caucus adopted a statement commending South African workers who refused to unload Israeli cargo in protest of the Gaza massacre, and the ILWU Local 10 issued an official statement condemning the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

The PGFTU’s letter follows (or download PDF):

Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions

Jerusalem Office

Friday, July 2, 2010

ILWU Local 10 President Richard Mead
Brother Richard Mead, President of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10
Executive Board of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 10, San Francisco Bay Area
United States of America

Dear Executive Board Members,

We are writing your union to express our appreciation and support for your historic action in boycotting the Israeli Zim ship, destined to the Port of Oakland on June 20, 2010. The action your union took in honoring the Labor/Community picket line and your refusal to unload the ship for the duration of 24 hours was indeed heroic and sent a clear message to the global labor community.

We want to underscore that Rosa Parks’ refusal to surrender to the racial injustice by revolting against the simple, but highly symbolic act of sitting in the back of the bus, could have cost her life. The subsequent courageous acts of the civil rights movement and the bus boycott did indeed compound the suffering of many African American civil rights activists who enjoyed little protection under the law at that time. Today’s labor union members are at a similar historical position, as many have suffered losses and set backs in the struggle for economic justice and worker protection.

Within this context, we understand that ILWU Local 10 has come under a predicted pro-Israeli pressure to hold an emergency executive session and meet with Akiva Tor, the Israeli consul general to the Pacific Northwest. We want to express our deepest concern in considering reversing this giant leap forward by meeting with an emissary of a foreign government. Although we do not live in the United States, we find it highly unusual and somewhat uncustomary that a paid foreign representative of a racist and apartheid regime can demand and get a meeting with the executive board of a local union no less than the ILWU.

Your union’s history is renowned for the great maritime strike, the boycott of the South African apartheid ship the Nedlloyd Kimberly in 1984, the strike against the war on Iraq that led to your repression with measures we are all too familiar with. You see on a daily basis our people have endured closures, destruction of homes, bombardment with phosphorous and cluster bombs, the targeting and shooting of children at play, curfews and outright massacres.

Mr. Tor will be defending the Israeli position to you for blockading 1.5 million people in Gaza, imprisoning us and calling that a defense policy against Hamas. In all truth Mr. Tor’s government is criminal as it violates many facets of the Fourth Geneva Convention, including articles on genocide by destroying a population in part or in full, racism by favoring “Jewish Nationals” over Palestinians carrying Israeli passports and collective punishment by refusing the Palestinian right return and maintaining an illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for 43 years. Mr. Tor and his government had been at war with us well before the establishment of Hamas, and even well before the establishment of the PLO. If you are interested, we would be very happy to assist in educating your members on the history of the Zionist oppression of Palestinians.

Our civil society has risen and said that justice is universal. We supported the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, the struggle for Civil Rights in the United States, and the struggle for international solidarity. We remember that May 1st commemorates a labor struggle that took place in Chicago, IL, in the US and on May Day 2008, your union the ILWU, shut down all west coast ports to oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, setting a precedent in the U.S. Labor movement.

We humbly ask of you to hold steadfast in the face of backlash and revenge against your union. The call for a meeting with your union by a foreign paid emissary is intervening in the domestic affairs of local community grassroots action in the United States. Israel, an apartheid state, maintaining an illegal war against our people, should not be given the platform at your union house. That platform should be reserved for heroes who champion justice and equality for all. Please ask Mr. Tor to end his government’s criminal actions and answer for the 40,000 people Israel killed during the multiple invasions and occupations of Lebanon, the massacres of Deir Yassin, Qibya, Sabra and Shatilla, Jenin and Gaza. Like the Turkish nationals, the fallen have names, lives and families and worked in the most destitute of conditions. Our mission, like yours, is to bring dignity to our working people.

Long live international workers’ solidarity!

Faithfully yours,

Manawell Abdul-Al
Executive Committee

Signed: Manawell Abdul-Al

Ibrahim Thweib
Executive Committee

Suheil Khader
Executive Committee

Ibrahim Daraghmeh
Executive Committee

Husain Foqahaa
Member of National Secretariat

Download PDF

(The PGFTU’s earlier letter to ILWU Local 10 supporting the port action may be read here.)

Video: LFP’s Monadel Herzallah at the US Social Forum

In this video from the US Social Forum, the Electronic Intifada interviews Labor For Palestine’s Monadel Herzallah, national organizer of the US Palestinian Community Network and the Arab American Union Members Council, on the US Social Forum’s decision to cancel the Zionist group Stand With Us’ workshop, which had been organized under false pretenses.

The full statement describing the victory over Stand With Us and Zionist infiltration follows:

US Social Forum: Victory for Palestine, Victory for Justice

June 23, 2010

Dear Sisters and brothers:

In a historic accomplishment, the leadership of the US Social Forum voted this morning to cancel a workshop proposed by “Stand With US”, a Zionist organization <> that sought to represent Israel as a safe haven for LGBTQI communities and undermine the broadening support for the cause of justice in/for Palestine. As the National Planning Committee (NPC) put it in its announcement, “the workshop ‘LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East’ (Thursday, June 24 10:00am to 12:00pm) has been canceled for violating the submission procedure and transparency requirements for all workshops, and for being in violation of the anti-racist principles central to the U.S. Social Forum”.

We, Palestinian, Arab and Muslim activists, gathered at the US Social Forum, came together in a solid coalition with our allies from other marginalized communities of color, poor people’s movements, and anti-Zionist activists, to respond to the urgent call issued by our sisters and brother in Palestine and Lebanon to cancel the Zionist workshop. The call was supported by Arab queer groups, such as SWANABAQ and by Palestinian and Arab community groups, such as the USPCN (US Palestinian Community Network), a group member of the National Planning Committee (NPC) of the US Social Forum.

As our sisters and brothers (Helem ASWAT, Al-Qaws, and Palestinian Queers for BDS made it clear in their statement that racist, Zionist, colonialist and Islamophobic politics and actions are as abhorrent as the politics and practices of homophobia and therefore have no place within movements for justice. We agree with this position and stand steadfastly and with unwavering commitment with this just struggle. Likewise, we stand steadfastly and with unwavering commitment to struggles against US and Israeli policies of war against poor and marginalized communities here in the US and that seek to undermine our unity and solidarity.

This is a victory for our struggle and indeed the struggle for justice for all. This victory makes it clear that the struggle for justice in/for Palestine is an integral part of the worldwide movement for freedom, dignity, justice and peace.
We call on all of you to participate in the US Social Forum process by:

* Attending workshops and sessions in Detroit for the next 4 days
* Writing to thank the National Planning Committee (NPC) of USSF
* Working with the broad and diverse forces of justice and peace in your area.

Congratulations to all of us! Together, united for justice, another world is possible!

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Oakland dockers stand firm as Israeli Consul seeks an audience

Report by Greg Dropkin

Published: 07/07/10

On the eve of the 5th anniversary of the United Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, Israel faces blockades of ships and cargo spreading from Oakland, California to Sweden and India. South African dockers imposed their own boycott in February 2009 after the invasion of Gaza. Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla provoked the recent blockades.

Seeking to nip the growing movement at one of its many sources, the Israeli Consul in San Francisco asked to address the Executive Board of ILWU Local 10. Other names in the hat to join the Consul included the Zionist Dr. Roberta Seid. The aim, evidently, was to persuade dockers of their misunderstanding of the murderous attack on the flotilla and the ongoing siege of Gaza, in the hopes that they might reconsider or even disavow their action.

Last night ILWU Local 10 Executive Board, after receiving a request from the Palestinian union federation PGFTU, denied permission to the San Francisco Israeli Consulate delegation to address the union and reaffirmed the union’s position opposing the blockade of Gaza, the apartheid wall in the West Bank and the continuing bloody Zionist oppression of Palestinians.

The message from Sweden last week was equally clear. The Boycott is real, and spin cannot wish it away.

Indian dockworkers refuse to unload Israeli cargo

Dockworkers at the major Indian port of Cochin are refusing to unload Israeli cargo in protest of Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip.

According to the Indian communist publication People’s Democracy, “The boycott began on June 17 on receipt of information that cargo unloaded at Colombo Port [Sri Lanka] from Israeli ship m/v Zim Livorno 16 was bound to arrive at Cochin Port in a feeder vessel.”

“On June 23, trade unions held a joint protest rally in Cochin Port near the office of Zim Integrated Shipping Services (India) Pvt Ltd – the Israeli shipping line,” the report added. At the demonstration, labor leaders denounced Israel’s attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May which left nine people dead.

Representatives of several trade unions—including those aligned with both left and right wing parties— joined the demonstration.

The port of Cochin, in the state of Kerala, is one of the biggest ports in India.

The Chochin dockworkers join workers at ports in Sweden, South Africa, and other countries who have refused to unload Israeli cargo. Calls for boycotts against Israel intensified in the wake of the flotilla raid.

On June 20th, dockworkers in Oakland, California, refused to unload an Israeli cargo ship after protesters picketed at the dock.

Labor Video Project: Workers Stand Against Israeli Apartheid

The Labor Video Project released its new video, “Workers Stand Against Israeli Apartheid” (48 min., 2010).

In a historic labor/community protest on June 20, 2010, more than five hundred people joined picket lines in the Port of Oakland SSA terminal to call on ILWU Local 10 and ILWU Local 34 members not to cross the picket lines and work the Israeli Zim ship Shenzhen. The call for a labor boycott was initiated by the Palestinian trade unions in response to the criminal attack by Israel on the aid flotilla going to Gaza and the ongoing blockade of Gaza.

The longshore workers refused to cross the picket line and the protesters as a result were successful in stopping the work on the SSA terminal for 24 hours halting the ship’s departure until the following day. This labor documentary shows the link and continuity of this action with the 1984 apartheid picket of a ship from South Africa. ILWU workers and others make comparison of these pickets and also why they consider Israel an apartheid regime. Footage of this action and the action today provide a striking connection over 26 years.

The port boycott picket was also endorsed by the Oakland Education Association OEA and the San Francisco and Alameda Central Labor Councils. Many bay area trade unionists who joined the picket line speak out on this issue and why they have taken a stand.

Additional Footage by Oriana Bolden, John Parulis, and Marty Conlisk

For further videos, please see: ILWU10 EB Member Heyman Supports Swedish Portworkers Union Boycott Of Israeli Ships/Cargo

Voices of the Middle East and North Africa interviews Swedish dockworker

The June 30, 2010 Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, of KPFA 94.1 FM in Berkeley, featured an interview with Erik Heldesson of the Swedish Dock Workers Union conducted by Halil Bindi.

Heldesson discusses popular Swedish support for the dockworkers’ protest, and the importance of labor solidarity in confronting Israeli occupation and impunity.

Download the full program here! (10.3 MB)

The blockade of the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union: what was achieved

Report by Swedish Dockworkers’ Union
30th June 2010

The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union blockade of goods to and from Israel has ended. Altogether more than 500 tons of import and export goods were blocked.

At 24:00 on Tuesday evening the 29th of June the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union ended the week-long blockade against goods to and from Israel. The undramatic end of the action meant that blocked goods were made available in the computer systems of the ports and in the deployment parks.

The Dockworkers’ locals around the country have identified and blocked containers with a total weight of approximately 500 ton. Most of the containers have been identified in the port of Gothenburg, which is the largest port of the Nordic countries. The contents of the containers are unknown to the Dockworkers’ Union, which has not actively searched for such detailed information but has merely ascertained that the goods have been on their way to or from Israel. In addition to the containers, large quantities of Swedish wooden export goods have been kept under blockade during the week.

The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union will now initiate an evaluation of the blockade. The initial assessment is that the blockade has been successful. The practical implementation of the blockade has gone well and the action has gathered widespread international attention, which has contributed to refocusing media and public attention on the suffering of the Palestinian people subject to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The Dockworkers’ Union finds it difficult to estimate the economical consequences of the blockade since Swedish trade with Israel is relatively limited. However, after our contacts with the involved shipping agencies and others, we estimate that a large part of the Swedish imports from Israel have remained in trans-shipment ports on the continent (mainly Hamburg, Bremerhaven and Antwerpen) or have been redirected to land transport.

Concerning the humanitarian conditions of the Gaza’s civilian population, Israel’s announcement of an ease of the blockade is, according to UNRWA, completely inadequate for the reconstruction of the area. In addition, the seaway to the port of Gaza is still kept completely closed.

At the end of last week the Turkish Dockworkers’ Union Liman-Is decided that its members will no longer handle Israeli ships (more information at http://www. sendika. org/english/), which means that dockworker actions now involve both South Africa, USA (Oakland, California), Sweden and Turkey.

The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union has also informed the Swedish Ship to Gaza-organisation and others, that if aid ships to Gaza wishes to depart from Swedish ports in the future, the union will organize teams of workers to handle the loading on voluntary basis. The Dockworkers’ Union will also work towards making the employers provide cranes, space and other necessary resources for such loading free of charge.

“The blockade has had a large impact by gaining world-wide attention and by becoming another civil initiative that increases the pressure on Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza,” says the President of the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union, Mr. Bjorn Borg.

“I am satisfied that we have managed to carry out the task what we had undertaken by, to the best of our abilities, identifying and stopping seaborn trade with Israel for one week,” says President Borg.

“However, in one important aspect we, along with a large part of the world, have failed. None of the two demands we presented to Israel have yet been met, which is a tragedy for the 800 000 children that are enclosed in Gaza,” says ombudsman Erik Helgesson from the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union Local 4 in Gothenburg.

“Israel still does not allow any independent, international evaluation of the boarding of the so called Freedom flotilla. The ‘easing’ of the blockade of Gaza that Israel has spoken of, still renders any rebuilding of Gaza impossible. The seaway is still completely closed and many goods remain forbidden to deliver to the area,” says Erik Helgesson, Ombudsman.

“It has been an educational week. We have received hundreds of encouraging letters, phone calls and e-mails. Over 6000 Swedes have shown their support on Facebook. We are very grateful for the support,” ends Ombudsman Helgesson.

For more information about the ended dockworkers’ action please contact the Swedish Dockworkers’ general office in Stockholm or Local 4’s office in Gothenburg:

Stockholm: +46 (0)8-6678347

Gothenburg: +46 (0)31-515451