Monthly Archives: October 2014

Palestinian activists claim victory for ‘Block the Boat’ campaign (Middle East Eye)

Middle East Eye

Palestinian activists claim victory for ‘Block the Boat’ campaign


An Israeli ship redirected its course to Russia, avoiding a port in California, after the ‘Block the Boat’ campaign

Activists at a ‘Block the Boat’ in the San Francisco Bay Area (Twitter/@violentfanon)

Last update:
Friday 31 October 2014 16:11 GMT

Pro-Palestine activists in California’s San Francisco Bay Area declared a “decisive victory” on Tuesday after receiving news that an Israeli ship had redirected its course to Russia.

It was the first time that the Block the Boat campaign – which had planned to picket the Zim Beijing upon its arrival at the port of Oakland – had forced a ship to change its course entirely.

While the long-term significance was not immediately clear, supporters and opponents of the campaign have said another success in preventing a ship owned by Israel’s Zim Integrated Shipping Services from unloading in Oakland could drive the company out of the port altogether.

“All indications lead us to believe that it is possible for Zim to withdraw its operations from the port of Oakland,” Lara Kiswani, executive director of San Francisco’s Arab Research and Organising Centre and a spokesperson for Block the Boat Oakland, told Middle East Eye.

Sam Levine, executive director of the Zionist Organisation of America Western Region, agreed that the campaign was on the verge of pushing Zim out of the port.

“This situation is unacceptable, and cannot be allowed to continue,” he told MEE. “Either the police need to arrest these protesters who are blocking commerce, or the union workers need to grow up and do their jobs. If this happens again I think the Zim ship will have no choice but to stop coming to Oakland.”

“You can hear it in their voices”

Launched in Oakland on 16 August, during Israel’s summer military offensive against the Palestinian Gaza Strip, the Block the Boat campaign aims to prevent vessels owned by Zim, Israel’s biggest cargo shipper, from unloading their contents in North American ports.

“The Israeli assault on Gaza during July and August 2014, and the resistance of the Palestinian people, was the catalyst for a series of actions in solidarity with Palestine,” Kiswani said.

It follows a similar demonstration in 2010, when Oakland protesters kept a Zim ship from unloading for 24 hours to protest a lethal Israeli naval attack on a “Freedom Flotilla” bound for Gaza.

Participants cite Zim’s partial ownership by the Israel Corporation, a quasi-public body, and its services to the Israeli government and Zionist institutions, as well as a broader Palestinian call for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israeli enterprises and contractors.

“The role that Zim ships played in establishing the illegal and immoral occupation of Palestine is well-documented,” Vicki Tamoush, a Block the Boat Los Angeles organiser, told MEE. “Our message to Zim and to the Israeli government is that we oppose apartheid and the Zionist regime by blocking these ships every time they attempt to dock.”

Since 16 August, the protests have spread as far north as Vancouver and as far south as Tampa, preventing or delaying Zim ships from unloading for several days in the ports of Oakland, Los Angeles, Tacoma, and Seattle.

Roqayah Chamseddine, a journalist in Sydney, investigated the financial costs of the campaign for Lebanon’s al-Akhbar newspaper, finding deep losses to Zim and its customers.

“After accessing the list of businesses, I began calling, and leaving messages until someone would speak to me,” she told MEE. “Those who did speak to me allowed me to see for myself as to how much damage a BDS action can actually have.”

“When I spoke to those business owners, and with workers, a number of them were troubled and you can hear it in their voices,” she added.

An Oakland organiser, who asked to remain anonymous, estimated Zim’s losses alone as “likely in the millions at this point.”

“It is hard to put a dollar amount on the damage to their corporate reputation and future lost clients now that they are the target of a large and public boycott movement,” Tamoush said.

These mounting losses have thrown Zim’s future in Oakland, and on the West Coast generally, into doubt.

“An injury to one”

The protests are unique among pro-Palestine campaigns, especially in the United States, because of the role of organised labour.

While the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, whose members unload ships on the West Coast, has declined to support the picket lines, its rank and file have usually honoured them, refusing to cross and handle Zim cargo.

“The ILWU leadership has generally been more conservative than Local 10,” Jack Heyman, a retiree from Local 10, the ILWU branch in the port of Oakland, and chair of the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, which supports the campaign, told MEE.

In 1984, he added, Local 10 members refused to unload South African cargo to protest that country’s apartheid government, an action opposed by the ILWU leadership, which called it illegal.

“The rank and file defied the leadership and took the decisive action anyway,” Heyman said. “And our experience has been similar in the fight against Israeli apartheid.”

Michael Letwin, past president of New York’s Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (United Auto Workers Local 2325) and a co-founder of Labour for Palestine, told MEE, “By honouring Block the Boat’s picket line, rank and file ILWU members have upheld the most fundamental labour principal of solidarity: an injury to one is an injury to all.”

“From Gaza to Ferguson”

Oakland activists also cited the campaign’s ties to community issues as a reason for its strength there.

“There is a growing Bay Area movement against state violence, and the US-Israel relationship has been exposed as instrumental to that violence,” Kiswani said. “That is why we have been so successful in our actions at the port. Communities of colour, workers and the poor, are standing on the side of justice and mobilising with us to stop Zim.”

“We are seeing law enforcement, surveillance, and counter-terrorism tactics exported across the world, with the US and Israel playing a central role in this global repression,” Mohamed Shehk, national media and communications director of Critical Resistance, a prison abolition group, and another spokesperson for Block the Boat Oakland, told MEE.

“What this looks like here is that the long-time violence and repression against black and brown people is being supplemented by the increased militarisation not just of police but of everyday life,” he added. “But as a result, we are also seeing enormous solidarity being expressed among those who are resisting, from Gaza to Ferguson.”

“We know we are making an impact”

On Sunday, Block the Boat activists in Oakland, where the Zim Beijing had been scheduled to dock Saturday, marched and rallied to celebrate its delay.

Also on Sunday, Labour for Palestine and other groups held a picket line to support Block the Boat protests on the West Coast outside the Israeli consulate -general in New York.

On Monday, Block the Boat activists marched to Zim’s local office in Seattle, delivering a letter demanding that the company “use [its] position of power within the State of Israel to make Israel comply with the demands of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

“We know we are making an impact,” Kiswani said. “And we are encouraged by the wave of Block the Boats spurring up throughout North America. Oakland has proven to be successful in stopping Zim. We hope that other cities will continue to build on this success.”

Shehk said the campaign’s relevance had continued as the Gaza offensive that sparked it disappeared from headlines.

“We are continuing this action because even as the recent bombing of Gaza has stopped, Gaza is still crippled by an Israeli siege, and Israel continues to colonise and ethnically cleanse Palestine through murder, imprisonment, Jewish settlement expansion, and home demolition,” he said. “The anti-colonial struggle in Palestine is not about one particular bombardment, it’s about liberating Palestine from Israeli oppression that has been ongoing since 1948.”

“A victory that is very practical”

The demonstrations, which usually occur early in the morning, can take a toll on their participants, Tamoush said.

“It’s not the easiest form of protest. In order to make the drive to Long Beach and be out at the port by 5:30 a.m. to greet the participants as they arrive, I have to get up at 3:45 a.m. each time we do this. But when that alarm goes off and my eyes don’t want to open, I think about Gaza. I think about that family I know in Nablus. I think about the checkpoints.”

With one of the most significant victories for pro-Palestine activists in the United States to date apparently drawing close, the campaign is unlikely to abate soon, organisers agree.

“Kicking Zim out of Oakland for good would be an enormous victory for us, but a victory that is very practical,” Shehk said. “Zim would be foolish to continue coming to Oakland.”

– See more at:

N1: Block the Boat Activists to Occupy Port of Tampa in Showdown Against Israeli Shipments

btbblue-300x300For immediate release October 31, 2014
Contact: Bettejo Indelicato  352-340-8739

Block the Boat Activists to Occupy Port of Tampa in Showdown Against Israeli Shipments.

PORT OF TAMPA– Zim Integrated Shipping, Israeli’s largest shipping company, will be the target of  another large picket at 5:00 AM on November 1, 2014, as union Longshoremen from Local ILA 1402 file in to unload the cargo ship ALABAMA. Block the Boat Tampa, a group of diverse Palestine Solidarity activists from across Florida, will stage the picket in the entrance of the Port at 2002 Maritime Blvd. This action is to bring attention to Zim’s support of Israel’s Apartheid system, the Occupation of Palestine, and the seven year Siege of Gaza.

Block the Boat Tampa is part of a nationwide campaign began in August of this year in Oakland, California, when activists and Longshoremen (ILWU) stopped the Zim Piraeus from unloading its cargo and the campaign quickly spread to other ports on the West Coast and Tampa. Zim was chosen as a target because the company is a financial supporter of Israel and ships weapons and other munitions across the world. Specifically, Zim ships munitions to the US as well as materials to make White Phosphorous Gas, which was used against the civilian population of Gaza.

“The Occupation of the West Bank of Palestine and the Siege of Gaza are illegal under International law and negatively affect every aspect of Palestinian life. Land is stolen, homes are demolished, farmland is uprooted and innocents are massacred by the thousands,” says Bettejo Indelicato, an organizer with Block the Boat Tampa who spent a year and half in the West Bank participating in Palestinian resistance to the Occupation and documenting Israel’s human rights abuses.  Dezeray Lyn, another organizer with Block the Boat Tampa, says this issue goes even beyond Palestinian welfare. “Israel is arming the world via Zim Integrated Shipping Services and we in Tampa refuse to allow another Zim ship to unload Apartheid onto our shores”

Zim supports the Apartheid state of Israel by transporting products, including weapons used against International Law, across the globe. Block the Boat Tampa activists will not allow the unabated transfer of products by Zim to the Tampa Bay area.


A Small Band of Activists if Humiliating an Israeli Shipping Giant (The Intercept)

The Intercept, October 31, 2014


Zim Ship

Capping a series of victories by a modest band of pro-Palestinian activists, an Israel-based shipping company has re-routed a container ship from the Port of Oakland, where protestors had vowed to keep the ship from unloading, to an alternate destination in Russia.

The company, Zim Integrated Shipping Services is one of the largest cargo shipping outfits in the world, but of late it has seen its operations seriously disrupted by a small group of activists motivated by the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement (BDS), which targets companies implicated in Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Zim is an Israel-based company, and the “Block the Boat” movement – a combined effort of labor activists and Palestinian solidarity groups – has successfully stopped its ships from docking at Oakland ports several times since this summer.

Zim has drawn particular ire for its role in shipping Israeli armaments. In the words of Block the Boat organizer Lara Kiswani in an interview about the movement earlier this year: “…Zim also transports weaponry: Israeli-made weaponry and Israeli-made military vehicles into the United States”, adding that, “some of the more consumer-based products are not Israeli, but the weaponry and the military products are Israeli.”

Activists associated with the movement at least temporarily prevented Zim ships from unloading in August, when a ship was blocked from unloading and headed toward Los Angeles before turning back and successfully unloading, and again in September. But what appears to be their greatest victory came this week, when Zim decided reroute its cargo Russia rather than attempt to dock in Oakland once more. Their decision came just nine days after the company vowed to dock, in defiance of protests.

The protests appear to be aided by sympathetic longshoremen. Some of Oakland’s unionized dockworkers have expressed sympathy for the demonstrators’ position in the local press, and have at times declined to unload Zim ships during protests, citing safety concerns.

The company claims that their last-minute decision to reroute was unrelated to the protests. But its foes aren’t buying it. “When a country’s shipping concern can’t come to the port because of the popular resistance it will face there, you can feel that the tables are turning,” said Jamie Omar Yasin, a Block the Boat activist.

The successful protest action against Zim is part of a global movement for an economic boycott of Israel. Modeled after similar efforts conducted in the past against apartheid South Africa, the BDS movement seeks to put pressure on the Israeli government to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. “They can look forward to more and more resistance wherever they try and operate,” Yasin says.

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Nov. 5: Labor for Palestine at UCLA

lfp-sizeWednesday, November 5 at 5:00pm
Labor for Palestine at UCLA!
Franz 2258a

Labor for Palestine co-founder Michael Letwin will speak on the connection between the labor movement and Palestinian human rights. In addition to co-founding Labor for Palestine, Michael is the former President of UAW Local 2325, co-founder of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, founding member of Block the Boat NYC, member of the Organizing Committee of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and a former UCLA South Africa anti-apartheid student activist.

UAW 2865 members are encouraged to attend and learn more about this issue in anticipation of our December 4th union vote on joining the BDS movement!

Pro Palestinian Protestors Continue Blockade of Israeli Cargo Ship in Oakland, Have High Hopes for Near Future (Golden Gate Express)

Golden Gate Express


28 OCT 2014  


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators protest in front of the Port of Oakland shipyard in an effort to block Israeli cargo company Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. Alma Villegas/Xpres.

A crowd of pro-Palestinian protesters rallied last Sunday in West Oakland as part of continued efforts to deter the unloading of an Israel-based shipping line.

Participants at Block the Boat, the blockade event, initially prepared for the arrival of Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd., a major Israeli cargo company, at 5 a.m. Saturday. When the ship delayed its destination at the Port of Oakland, the organizers made a last minute call for supporters to rally at West Oakland BART station to keep discouraging the ship’s arrival.

The blockade of Zim shipping lines is part of a global strategy by pro-Palestine organizers to boycott Israeli products called the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which SF State’s General Union of Palestinian Students aligns itself with. According to the Palestinian BDS National Committee, participants pressure corporations to divest financial investments with Israel and sanction policies disapproving of Israel’s violation of international law.

Nearly 100 protesters assembled outside the BART Station at 3 p.m. Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center and one of the main event organizers, said she believes the ship continues to delay its arrival because of the protesters’ actions.

“Since our demonstrations have been so successful in showing community power and also the support of the workers in terms of honoring our picket, the ship itself, Zim, and the port of Oakland are realizing that it’s costly for them to continue to have them here,” Kiswani said.  “We’re trying to deter them further from even considering coming.”

She added that workers of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have been working with protesters to prevent the ship from unloading its goods by choosing not to cross the picket lines.

An hour of speeches passed by before the crowd marched down 7th Street and turned at Mandela Parkway, chanting “Free, free Palestine. End, end the occupation.” The march concluded at the Port of Oakland where seven police cars waited for the crowd, though the demonstration remained peaceful.

At the port, several more spoke and established a pattern of solidarity between people in Palestine and those in Ferguson, Mo. protesting the death of Michael Brown.

“Now we have a lot of these issues that we see today, high policing and high militarization and high police brutality, and what are students doing?” said SF State GUPS President Lubna Morrar in preparation for Saturday’s rally. “We shouldn’t even be in classes. We really shouldn’t. We should be every day raising hell in the quad.”

While Morrar and GUPS members couldn’t show yesterday after the ship rerouted, California College of the Arts students held up signs that read “Art Students in Support of Palestine,” and other students from UC Santa Cruz arrived in Oakland after a three-hour bus ride.

Maga Miranda, a member of the student group Autonomous Students at UC Santa Cruz said their student government passed a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions bill this spring, which was overturned within a week when a pro-Israel student organization pressured the student government to revise the bill.

“It’s important to be here now. We’re building momentum,” Miranda said. “We could very well be a week away from delivering a victory against the apartheid state of Israel.”

The event ended at about 6 p.m. with participants marching back to the West Oakland BART station. Kiswani said they expect the ship to arrive Tuesday and urged Sunday’s participants to stay tuned for future actions.

“We are prepared to fight for our dignity, for our self-determination, for all oppressed people! So stay on alert, keep close to your text messages, stay up on social media, call your friends and ask around,” Kiswani said.

Block the Boat Declares Decisive Victory Over Apartheid Israel (Oakland)



Oakland has made history once again with another BDS victory for Palestine against the Israeli Zim shipping line. This latest round of organizing has been the most momentous and historic. Members of ILWU Local 10 informed Block the Boat organizers that the Zim Beijing which was headed to the Port of Oakland, has been re-routed to Russia to avoid disruptions at the SSA terminal. For the first time ever, an Israeli ship has been completely turned away before reaching its port of destination due to sustained overwhelming community organizing.

The damage to Israel’s credibility can’t be exaggerated–the Zim line, though privately owned, is an Israeli “security asset.” Israel exerts control over the corporation through a “golden share” which it uses to prevent the sale of the company into foreign hands. The Zim line is mandated to be part of Israel’s critical supply chain during protracted military conflicts. The brand and economic impact on Zim has yet to be calculated, but is surely devastating. Goods have been rerouted, and undelivered for months. ILWU workers have honored our pickets and sided with the community against US complicity in Israeli apartheid. Zim has been disrupted and confronted by anti-Zionist protests in Seattle, Tacoma, Los Angeles, Vancouver, New Orleans, New York and Tampa. Ports all over North America are making it clear that Israel can no longer conduct business as usual because Zionism is simply not welcome on our coasts.

Zim’s Maneuvers

The Zim Beijing, which was scheduled to arrive in Oakland on the morning of Saturday October 25, 2014, instead broke from its heading soon after it reached the north western coast of Mexico on Wednesday, October 22nd, and headed further northwest. Several sources, including Zim’s own online schedule, and port and union authorities confirm that the Beijing’s intended destination was Oakland, but that it changed its itinerary to avoid yet another humiliating defeat. In an article published on 10/26, headlined “Zim Beijing Avoids Oakland” the GulfShip News reported, “The ship was due to call on Saturday, but then delayed its call to today [Sunday]. Reports from Oakland suggest Zim has now decided to cancel the call altogether. Zim has been hit by protests at Oakland in August and September, disrupting its schedules.”

We also tracked the ship via satellite using an online marine tracking service and documented that the ship listed its destination as Oakland just minutes after it left the Panama Canal–the norm for Zim ships on the Asia Pacific line, which stop at either Los Angeles or Oakland before heading to China and Russia. Just days into its 9 day journey from the Canal, however, Zim abruptly removed Oakland from its online schedule, and headed northwest, taking it ever farther from Oakland.

Confronting Global Repression

It is clear that the Zim Beijing diverted course in response to the powerful Block the Boat organizing. In August, Block the Boat organized and inspired a series of historic night and day pickets, which with the support of ILWU workers, prevented the Zim Piraeus from unloading for 4 days, and eventually forced the ship to leave before even a fraction of its cargo could be unloaded. In September, Zim faced another set of pickets that forced the Zim Shanghai to offload in Los Angeles, rather than its intended Oakland destination. The Block the Boat coalition along with the broader Bay Area community has made it clear that we can determine what takes place in our towns. And business with the racist, exclusionary, Zionist state of Israel, which works alongside local and federal law enforcement to repress our communities, will not go unchallenged.

Activists remained focused throughout Zim’s obfuscations, organizing for a large turnout to picket the Beijing whenever it would arrive–Saturday, Sunday, or any day of the coming week. Given the convoluted maneuvers Zim used in August, in which it left the port under the cover of an Israeli consulate press release, only to return to another terminal less than an hour later, organizers now know to be thorough and patient. After tracking the Zim Beijing for several days, Block the Boat prepared for a week of possible pickets by staging a late day march of hundreds on Sunday to the Port of Oakland to show the strength and focus of this movement. It was a warning to Zim to keep going as it reached the 1000-mile mark from Oakland and a promise that the gates would be lined again with unstoppable anti-Zionist picketers if it returned.

As the Beijing sails beyond the horizon, it still bears the destination of Oakland, though it is over 1200 miles away from San Francisco Bay at the time of this statement. Our efforts have paid off; Zim Beijing does not appear to be turning around. Even if it did reverse course and head back to Oakland at this point, it would be a week late, and it would find us once again, prepared to stop it at the port.

BDS Victory

We are declaring a historic victory in our effort to block the Beijing. It is very likely that Zim has been completely prevented from doing any future business at the Port of Oakland. Only time will tell if Zim’s changes to its schedule reflect the real re-routing of its ships, or simply just another ruse to fool opponents of Israeli apartheid. Obviously, here in Oakland, we are ready for Zim’s return any time. Together with our brothers and sisters from Ferguson to Palestine, we are fighting back against state violence and apartheid and we are prepared to bring it down brick by brick, wall by wall, port by port.

@blocktheboat #blocktheboatpalestinedesignaction-1


UAW 2865 Announces December 4 BDS Vote

uaw local 2865At the October JC meeting, the assembly voted 40-0-7 to poll the Local membership on Dec. 4, 2014, regarding whether to support the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

Further information regarding this ballot will be placed online before the election.

The final text of the ballot was amended during the meeting and can be found here.

There were also a number of other proposals that were passed at the meeting, including:

* Adopt BDS FAQ Page.

* Adopt Academic Boycott Fact Sheet

* Adopt Labor Movement Statement.

* Equal representation of perspectives on the BDS proposal.

* Even Funding for Education on BDS.

All proposals that were presented, as well as commentary from the membership regarding the proposals, is available here.

Members are welcome to submit further commentary regarding the proposals, which will be made publicly available at that website.

Disrupting Apartheid (Jacobin)

Jacobin, October 27, 2014

Disrupting Apartheid

A conversation with Lara Kiswani about Block the Boat and the BDS movement.


Over the weekend, a ship for the Israeli company Zim was scheduled to dock and unload at the Port of Oakland. It never showed.

The ship’s absence was a result of the Block the Boat effort, a Bay Area initiative in accordance with the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). The no-show comes two months after activists prevented another Zim ship from unloading for four days, and in the interim, Block the Boat has spread to other US cities.

Kumars Salehi spoke with Lara Kiswani, the head of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and one of the key organizers behind Block the Boat about direct action, worker solidarity, and the future of BDS.

Let’s start with what happened in August during the first Block the Boat. How did it play out?

In August we planned for a one-day action to disrupt the Zim ships unloading at the Port of Oakland on August 16. It was during the time of the bombardment of the Gaza Strip, so there was a lot more public awareness about what was happening in Palestine, and there had already been several mobilizations locally, and of course nationally and internationally as well. We wanted to take it one step further and do some more direct action.

The Port of Oakland was a particular target because of the regular docking of the Israeli Zim ship. Given the groundwork, given the organizing, given the heightened level of awareness and public support for Palestine we had a very successful action that actually resulted in a historic victory, with four consecutive days blocking the Zim ship.

This was a clear indication that BDS is thriving here in the Bay Area. While it isn’t necessarily new to us, in the sense that there is a long history of Bay Area activism, what is new is the escalation of tactics around BDS, and seeing BDS not only as a personal choice, or a choice of investments, or corporate investments or otherwise, but actually a matter of popular resistance, popular mobilizations, and popular support that can actually disrupt international commerce and make an economic impact on Israel.

What do you think Block the Boat says about the role of direct action in the BDS movement? And also how has Block the Boat, in similar actions, begun to change the perception of BDS and what it can accomplish?

BDS has largely been about consumer products or investment, from student organizing. But what Block the Boat has done is it has taken BDS to the streets, it’s taken BDS into impacted communities and allowed them to take ownership of the BDS tactic or strategy to connect to their own struggles, and to actually make a political and economic impact on the state of Israel. So how we see this as different isn’t so much that it’s never happened before.

In 2010, Palestinian and Arab community members, activists, and allies stopped the Zim ship at the Port of Oakland for the first time in US history for an entire day, and that’s huge. And back then, we did consider that as part of a BDS tactic as well. However, given the shifts from then to now, there is a lot more cross-movement building, and a lot more awareness about the relationship between the US and Israel, and how that plays out in our local communities.

Blocking the boat and stopping Israel at the Port of Oakland, a ship that actually transports weaponry into the United States and a country that actually trains local police departments, and at a time where black and brown communities, and Arab and Muslim communities are joining forces to challenge those partnerships, it means something very different.

It also means something very different because we are not only choosing not to purchase something. We are choosing to act, to disrupt the system. That’s essentially what direct action really is about. So bringing BDS and direct action together, that intersection is extremely powerful and impactful, because not only does it involve more people and more communities, but it actually makes a direct, tangible intervention, and it disrupts the system. And we saw that happen.

Usually when you take part in BDS, you don’t feel that tangible result. You don’t see a shift, or you don’t hear a shift. Also, public perception doesn’t necessarily shift overnight. Whereas when we blocked the ship for four entire days, we knew there was already an economic impact.

When we blocked the ship for four entire days, we also knew we were shifting the culture in the Bay Area, where Zionism in and of itself was not welcome. And that was part of our slogan, and that was intentional. BDS is not about saving Israel from itself. BDS is about ending Israeli apartheid. And that’s where we think Block the Boat took BDS to the next level.

What can you say about the economic impact or the potential economic impact, and related to that, what are the stakes? What is the state of Israel’s investment in Zim?

Ninety-eight percent of Israel’s trade is maritime. Zim is its largest shipping line. That in and of itself tells you it has a huge stake in Zim itself, and it’s a security asset and they name it as such. The Port of Oakland is the fifth largest port. So those two things combined tell us that if we make a dent in that partnership, or that relationship, there is definitely an economic impact.

Now, the exact number is difficult to come up with because there are so many different factors. We do know that there are docking fees. So we know that each day that the ship is docked, or each hour that it is delayed, it’s losing money because there are docking fees. We also know that the workers themselves when they are trying to maneuver, for instance as they did in August when they moved the ship from one terminal to the next in order to trick workers into working the Zim ship, that entire maneuvering also was quite costly for the Port of Oakland. So it’s not only Zim now. The port is also engaged in that economic flow of capital.

But ultimately we don’t know the exact number. There are articles and information that came out about different consumer products on the ship that were not able to reach their destination.

In terms of the economic impact, another point of discussion and some dispute has been the responses of actual customers of Zim to the successful blockade.

Obviously there is the story of the poor lady on Twitter who didn’t get her furniture, but in addition to that there was an article that quoted six different companies saying they were either not going to do business with Zim anymore, or were going to reconsider.

What do we know about the cost to Zim or the potential cost to Zim in terms of lost future business?

What we know is that. We made it inconvenient enough that customers are reconsidering doing business with Zim. And that’s part of our objective: to make it as inconvenient as possible for Zim, or any Israeli business to conduct its business anywhere in the world. As folks here in the Bay Area we’re focused here, on the Bay Area.

At the time of the Block the Boat action in August, we were unaware of this particular impact, in terms of how delayed all these products would be, so it came as a surprise to us, a pleasant surprise that is, that not only were we able to impact Zim’s ability to unload at the dock, to even dock at the port, to unload its cargo at the port, and delay it for four entire days, but we also prevented a lot of products from being transported to their destinations.

So that is an economic impact, and that makes it less interesting and less attractive to want to work with Israel.

Broadly, what are other companies and other products that are on these ships? Is it all Israeli products? Does Zim really have a global customer base?

They do have a global customer base. So people assume that everything on this ship Zim, or all Zim cargo is actually Israeli products, and they’re not. Zim is transporting goods from all over the world to different ports. So it’s one thing to target Zim, and it’s another to challenge companies that are doing business with Zim and allowing their products to be transported by apartheid ships.

It also should be noted that Zim also transports weaponry: Israeli-made weaponry and Israeli-made military vehicles into the United States. So what’s interesting is that some of the more consumer-based products are not Israeli, but the weaponry and the military products are Israeli. Which shouldn’t surprise us, but it’s an important point of information, because it does go to show what the role of Israel and what the role of Israeli production is in the global economy.

That gets really nicely at the intersectionality of the Block the Boat Coalition. I’m wondering if you can say a little bit about the strategies for outreach, in terms of tying the oppression of Palestinians into the oppression of people of color in the United States that Zim is complicit with.

What are those discussions like, what is the outreach to different activist groups and communities like?

One thing is for certain: no one can turn a blind eye to what’s happening in Palestine, and it’s very difficult to justify the Israeli occupation of Palestine. So you talk to any average person, and they’re probably going to be aware of the Palestinian struggle, and be aware that Palestine is occupied, and be aware that Israel is an apartheid state.

But the more significant intervention that we can make is to connect that to local struggles. And the other thing that is clear today is that the oppression at the hands of law enforcement, the state violence at the hands of the US government against communities here is also something that no one can turn a blind eye to. What we’re seeing in Ferguson is a clear example of that.

Not only are people no longer able to pretend that they don’t know that the police is in and of itself an arm of the police state, and the US government is complicit in the murder of black and brown people, and this is part and parcel of the architecture of this country, but also people can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that folks are going to resist. The mass rebellion in Ferguson, and they’ve been happening prior to Ferguson — after Oscar Grant’s killing in Oakland we also had mass demonstrations and mobilizations and direct action.

There is a history of resistance to state violence, and today we can make those connections really clearly, because they make the connections easy for us. It’s really easy to make these connections when the United States government and Israel are so explicit about their shared interests and so explicit about their partnerships.

So whether it’s the San Francisco city officials traveling to Israel to meet with government officials there and to discuss various different diplomatic relationships, economic relationships, or it’s the Israeli security forces and the Israeli government and the Israeli military coming to train local police here in Oakland, or to train people in Missouri, or to train people in San Francisco — these are connections that are easy for us to make.

And when people become aware of these connections, it’s no longer that Palestine is this occupied country in the distance, but Palestine is directly related to their struggle here. Because bringing down the state of Israel is actually weakening US imperialism.

At the heart of this all is the fact that the U.S. government is invested in maintaining its power and privilege all over the world, and instrumental to that is the state of Israel. That is why the plight of the Palestinians is so directly related to the plight of all oppressed peoples, because we really are in this together.

A lot of people say that the connection and engagement with labor was really instrumental to the success of the Block the Boat Coalition. Could you say more about what the relationship has been like and how worker outreach and relations have impacted the planning process?

Worker outreach didn’t begin in 2014, or it didn’t begin during the bombardment of Gaza. Worker outreach began years ago when the Palestine solidarity movement in the Bay Area began really organizing itself and building alliances in order to strengthen the BDS movement.

So that 2010 action at the Port of Oakland was part of that process, and part of the work that led to the success of August 2014. Our community members, AROC, and other organizations have worked closely with ILWU [International Longshore and Warehouse Union] to raise awareness about what’s happening in Palestine, and to draw on the connections, and also to bring the message from Palestinian workers on the ground about taking action here. We know that these governments and these states actually profit off our oppression.

The workers’ struggle is key to really developing that analysis and also building a movement that takes that into account, because we cannot really build a movement against all forms of oppression by discounting the struggle of workers. Especially if we are going to hold an action at the Port of Oakland. This is the livelihood of several workers who come in, day in and day out to unload those ships, and that is their bread and butter.

It takes a lot of work to build those relationships so we aren’t seen just as a bunch of activists taking action on a particular day, but more communities building relationships with workers to build a movement for social justice for everybody. What we did leading up to August 16, 2014, is we went to the union hall every morning and afternoon.

We had developed a particular flyer that was geared at addressing the concerns of workers and drawing on those connections, and also drawing on the links of different trade unions around the world that have also called on other workers to stand in solidarity with Palestine, everywhere from South Africa to Palestine itself, where people were actually making a call out for workers to stop allowing business to be done with Israel, because workers can really flex their muscles in that regard. They can stop international commerce.

So we went out every morning and afternoon. We went out with workers in our coalition, because our coalition was very broad-based, as you mentioned, and it had everyone working on economic justice, social justice, racial justice. We had youth organizations, we had adult membership, we had LGBTQ organizations. It was a very broad based organization that centralized Arab leadership, and within that, centralized worker outreach and worker solidarity.

That was one of our organizing principles and remains as such. So going out to the union hall made a huge difference. The workers not only knew that we were going to be out there that weekend, they also knew why we were going to be out there. They knew who was calling on them. It wasn’t simply individuals, it wasn’t just organizations, but it was communities, impacted communities both here and in Palestine and all over the world asking workers to stand in solidarity.

They also were able to ask us questions and engage in dialogue with us about what it would mean, what are the implications of this action, and what would that look like for them and their livelihood.

So, on August 16 when we mobilized five thousand people to the Port of Oakland, most ILWU workers didn’t even show up or take assignments that morning, because they already knew we were going to be out there.

That is really what led to the success of those four days, because the following day when we realized the ship was docking and we called for a last-minute, emergency mobilization or community picket at the Port of Oakland, and we were able within half an hour’s notice to get four hundred people to the port, the only reason that was successful was because all the workers had seen and heard, whether it was ILWU or truck workers, or otherwise, had seen or heard about the mobilization the day before.

They had seen the power of numbers, the power of our communities, the power of people, and how diverse the coalition was, so that also contributed to the workers making that decision and that choice to not cross our picket on Monday, on Tuesday, and on Wednesday.

It was very clear from being there that workers were not viewing us in an antagonistic way, in general. What I want to ask in closing is what all of this means going forward?

What is the Block the Boat Coalition looking for in the short term, and how are the relationships that we’ve built going to play into that?

One thing the Block the Boat Coalition has proven is that it’s reshaped BDS work. It’s shaped it in a way where it’s centralizing Arab leadership, its centralizing worker solidarity, and it’s also amplifying Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions within an anti-Zionist framework, and that is key.

So moving forward, our next target whether it is Zim cargo on any other form of transport, or whether it’s diplomatic relationships, or the relationships between the US police forces, local law enforcement, and Israel, ultimately, moving forward what we are doing is exposing the US-Israel relationship. We’re exposing Zionism as at the heart of it all.

How to challenge apartheid is to challenge the racist system that makes it up, and to do so, one has to be anti-Zionist. And furthermore, to centralize the work of the Arab community, because one thing that BDS has done in the past here in the United States, is it has sort of alienated the Arab community, and it hasn’t necessarily been a part of our organizing work.

Not because we didn’t start it: BDS came out as a call from civil society in Palestine. As activists and organizers here in the United States and all over the world, we took it on and really pushed it forward in our local communities. However, BDS took on various forms.

One form of BDS is to only target businesses or corporations that take place in settlements in occupied Palestine. That is a problem for us. Why should it be that we only target companies and corporations that do business in settlements, as if the settlements are the issue? Again that puts the question, what does it mean to be in solidarity with Palestine?

What we’re saying is to be in solidarity with Palestine, you must be anti-Zionist, you must be anti-colonial, you must be anti-imperialist, and you must draw on the connections between local policing, your local communities. So you cannot be anti-Zionist and be okay with the policing of black and brown communities in this country. And you can’t be anti-Zionist and be okay with the prison-industrial complex. You can’t be anti-Zionist and turn a blind eye to the oppression and poverty and displacement of people in your backyard.

In order to be anti-Zionist, you have to have a clear understanding about the intersections of oppression, and the role and the relationship that Israel plays in global repression. Israel is not an isolated state. In this day and age, one cannot speak about any state character without discussion of the global relationships that exist, and the flow of capital, and the interest in profit over people everywhere.

So, locally as Arabs, as Palestinians, we’re calling on all solidarity activists to take that call on. Do not stand in solidarity with Palestine simply to stand in solidarity with Palestine. Stand in solidarity with Palestine to bring down state violence everywhere, whether it’s state violence by the apartheid state of Israel or state violence by the US government, Oakland police department, or San Francisco or otherwise.

Kumars Salehi is a PhD student in German Studies and a member of UC Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine.

NYC Solidarity With Block the Boat for Palestine! (Photos)

10/25/14: NYC Solidarity With Block the Boat for Palestine!

Labor for Palestine, Block the Boat NYC and others show solidarity with Block The Boat for Palestine! (Oakland), and Block the Boat Los Angeles ongoing blockades of apartheid Israel Zim ships. #BDS!

NYC endorsers:
Block the Boat NYC
Labor for Palestine
New York City Labor Against the War
Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
American Muslims for Palestine
CODEPINK Long Island
Direct Action Front for Palestine
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
International Action Center
International Socialist Organization
Middle East Crisis Response
NYC Solidarity With Palestine
Peace Action Staten Island
Socialist Action







Zim Shipping “On The Ropes” In Oakland As Activists Prepare To Block The Boat Again (Mint Press News)


Zim Shipping “On The Ropes” In Oakland As Activists Prepare To Block The Boat Again

A diverse coalition of pro-Palestine activists and organizations prepare to return to stop Israel’s largest maritime cargo corporation from unloading cargo at the Port of Oakland, costing the Israeli shipping company money and time and hurting its reputation.
By  @KitOConnell |


AUSTIN, Texas — After multiple Block The Boat actions, even opponents of the blockade movement admit that Zim Integrated Shipping Services, Israel’s largest maritime cargo corporation, is on the defensive.

The next in this series of direct actions, which attempt to prevent Zim shipping vessels from unloading at U.S. ports in a show of support for Palestine, was scheduled to take place on the morning of Oct. 25. But Block The Boat organizers announced via Twitter that Zim Beijing, the latest vessel due in Oakland, California, had delayed its arrival.

There’s a long history of unions and activists collaborating to blockade business at the Port of Oakland, but the movement has spread in recent months. Attempts to prevent unloading, with varying degrees of success, have also occurred at the Ports of Long Beach, Seattle, Vancouver and Tampa Bay. There are signs that Zim may soon abandon Oakland entirely or may already be in the process of doing so.

In addition to the costs Zim incurs as a result of these actions, organizers suggest these actions damage the company’s reputation in international shipping circles just as it attempts to cement alliances with other similar corporations.


A movement grows after “Protective Edge”

The first Block the Boat action began in Oakland in 2010 as a response to the Israeli raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The flotilla was an attempt to bring humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza’s blockaded port. During the raid, nine activists were killed by gunfire. A United Nations report suggested that at least six people were killed “in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.” The report added, “Under the circumstances, it seems a matter of pure chance that there were not more fatalities.”

Since the beginning, Block The Boat has been organized by San Francisco’s Arab Resource and Organizing Center, which works closely with a diverse coalition of activists and groups. At that first action, the group succeeded in delaying unloading for a day. But the movement’s size grew dramatically after Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge,” its summer 2014 military campaign in Gaza that left thousands dead and displaced thousands more.

“During the last bombardment of Gaza we saw some of the worst atrocities and the greatest destruction that we’ve seen in recent years. That angered a lot of people and brought a lot of the community out,” Mohamed Shehk told MintPress News during a telephone interview.

Shehk is the media and communications director at Critical Resistance, a member of the Block The Boat coalition.

“Our organization is dedicated to the abolition of the prison-industrial complex and we understand this to be not just a struggle in the United States but internationally. We got involved from the beginning when Block The Boat came together.”

Shehk says the intersection between issues like prisons and Palestine is an important part of the movement’s growth and apparent success.

“We’re seeing a continuation of struggle not just in Palestine but here in the United States, with everything that has happened after the murders of Michael Brown and John Crawford, and the mobilizations that took place to kick Urban Shield [the law enforcement conference] out of Oakland,” he explained.



Activists rely on tacit union support

MintPress asked Shehk what to expect from the next action, now postponed from Oct. 25.

“We’re expecting to mobilize hundreds of people, meet up, and march down to the port where we’ll picket to prevent the Israeli Zim ship Beijing from unloading its goods in Oakland,” he said.

Earlier this month, Zim told JOC Group Inc., providers of news and analysis for the shipping industry, that they are “relying on local law enforcement to handle protests in Oakland.”

Block The Boat organizers are prepared for a police presence, but don’t expect heavy interference.

“We have gotten a lot of support from the rank and file and we don’t expect any kind of tension with them, as they’ve stood with us in recent Block The Boat actions. There would be no reason for police to respond aggressively,” Shehk said.

However, on Oct. 1, the Zionist Association of America penned a letter condemning “the police department’s failure to intervene” during the Sept. 27 action that successfully prevented unloading.

Regardless of how many protesters show up, Block The Boat depends on union support. When a ship arrives in port, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union assigns workers to unload it. If the workers refuse, nothing gets done.

Publicly, the workers’ union does not support the blockade.

“ILWU Local 10 and 34 represented longshoremen and clerks dispatched to work the vessel ZIM Shanghai at SSA’s Oakland California Terminal were met with hostile demonstrators, effectively blocking all access to the terminal,” the union said in a statement in September. “The ILWU is not among the groups organizing the protests, and the leadership and membership of the ILWU have taken no position on the Israel/Gaza conflict.”

But Jewish media have called this statement into question.

“Looking at photos of the individual protesters, it is kind of hard to imagine them physically intimidating any Longshoreman,” quipped The Jewish Press.

San Francisco-area publication’s Dan Pine noted, “Robert Bernardo, a spokesman for the Port of Oakland, told J., ‘It was our understanding that all terminal gates were clear so that anyone wanting to enter and exit were fully able to do so.’”

Pine goes on to quote Andy David, consul general of Israel to the Pacific Northwest: “If you’re anti-Israel, you’re entitled to your opinion, but don’t be a coward and hide behind excuses like the safety excuse.”

Rather than cowardice, organizers say unloading is prevented because of outreach and union workers’ unwillingness to cross picket lines — a tactic used in previous Port of Oakland shutdowns, like those that occurred during the Occupy movement.

A union worker outreach flier shared with MintPress is headlined “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” explicitly linking the blockade to police brutality and the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting death of Michael Brown by a member of the Ferguson Police Department. It also appeals to worker solidarity with the following statement:

“‘We rely on our brothers and sisters in the trade union movement internationally to continue a proud tradition of international solidarity and to stand with us as you stood with the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.’ ~Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions”

Shehk said recent union outreach has highlighted the need for continued action despite the end of Israel’s latest wave of large-scale attacks.

“It’s not just about when Israel is assaulting Gaza with bombs and missiles. We need to continue to protest Israel’s ongoing occupation, its ongoing settlement expansions, its ongoing daily killings of Palestinians, and its ongoing blockade of Gaza,” he said.

“We’ve gotten a lot of support,” he added. “Many Longshoremen expressed that they won’t touch the Zim ship. They’ve supported us in the past and they’ll continue to support us when they see a strong presence out there.”


Lost profits and a damaged reputation for Zim

“Ninety-nine percent of imports and exports in Israel are through maritime trade,” said Shehk. “An action that will block or delay a Zim ship from unloading will definitely have significant effects on the Israeli economy and the Israeli state.”

The Jewish Press warned last month that “there are only losers in Oakland.”

“ZIM may not call on the Port of Oakland again, certainly not until the ILWU 10 has a contract and guarantees to unload ZIM ships. Other shipping companies wary of the port’s unreliability may also consider the same,” it said. “With an estimated 150 ZIM visits a year, that’s a lot of business and perhaps even jobs for the City of Oakland to lose.”

In their union outreach flier, Block The Boat cites this Al-Akhbar English report as evidence that some non-Israeli cargo is likely to return to Oakland on other ships. Even modest estimates suggest that Zim is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the repeated delays.

Writing in Jacobin about a previous Oakland blockade, Kumars Salehi said:

“One dockworker told us every twelve hours we delayed the Piraeus cost the company $50,000. That figure, too, is still unconfirmed, but what we know for sure is that the lost revenue greatly exceeds the operating costs. … It’s clear that Block the Boat isn’t just a flash in the pan: doing business with Zim can cause significant delays, and customers who don’t want to deal with that will take their business elsewhere.”

Beyond lost profits, the protests come as Zim, like all international maritime shipping corporations, is struggling with a weak market and seeking to form alliances with others to control market share. Zim is now in a unique position, according to JOC Group’s Grace M. Lavigne. “Excluding Zim Integrated Shipping Services, all traditional east-west carriers are now entrenched in alliances that cover all three east-west trades,” Lavigne said.

Meanwhile, Greg Knowler, JOC’s senior Asia editor, explains that Zim is in a precarious position of seeking these alliances while simultaneously undergoing major restructuring as the Israeli government gives up its controlling stake in the company. “Profitability may prove to be elusive. There is no panacea for the excess capacity in the container shipping business … All eyes will now be on which alliances Zim sets up as it is expected to move quickly to forge new partnerships,” he wrote at the end of August.

But protests like Block The Boat may be having an effect on carriers’ willingness to form alliances.

“David Osler reported that well-informed Israeli shipping sources have suggested that other container carriers may be wary of working with Zim because of its ties to Israel,” according to shipping news site Lloyd’s List.

“Zim chief executive Rafi Danieli confirmed in a recent interview with Lloyd’s List that the carrier … will be seeking to negotiate its way into one of the global alliances in due course. However, the Israeli offensive in Gaza may make Mr Danieli’s job that much more difficult,” it continued.

Block The Boat organizers like Mohamed Shehk openly hope that Zim’s next trip to Oakland might be its last.

“Since our first Block The Boat action in August, we’ve had Zim on the ropes,” he told MintPress. “They’ve taken their schedule off their website, they’ve had to delay their ships and they don’t even want to approach the ports for fear that they won’t be able to unload their goods.

“What we’re hoping for and we will continue to strive for is that it will be such an inconvenience at ports not just in Oakland but all over the United States that it will just be impossible for Zim to conduct business. We will continue to protest until the colonization of Palestine comes to a full stop.”