Monthly Archives: November 2014

BDS: reply to Jack Heyman (Labournet)


BDS: reply to Jack Heyman

Report by Greg Dropkin
Published: 17/11/14

Jack Heyman has written a full account on Counterpunch of the actions against Zim on Oakland docks in August and September, along with his critique of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

From Liverpool, I can’t quarrel with Jack’s account of what actually happened with theZim Piraeus in mid August or the Zim Shanghai in late Sept. From what I know of the second action, Jack is certainly right there. He is also right to say “It’s not easy to build solid links with waterfront unions but Palestinian activists are trying.”

Jack has done great work on Oakland docks to deliver real solidarity with Palestine. But there are several other aspects of his polemic with which I disagree.

First, on what role community pickets have actually played in some of the other Oakland actions. The first para under the heading “Workers’ Action: The Most Powerful Solidarity” gives the impression that the action in June 2010 in response to the slaughter on the Mavi Marmara had nothing to do with a community picket line. Yet as Jack acknowledges only much later on, it was a mass community picket involving the wider trade union movement in the Bay Area, which Oakland longshore workers chose to honor. I wrote about that in Blockade: Dockers respond to Israel’s Flotilla Massacre and Gaza Siege, and here’s a paragraph from that report:

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.

That sounds like a mass community and union Palestine solidarity picket. And in fact, a number of other historic actions in Oakland have used similar tactics. For example, here is a report by David Bacon on the action in solidarity with Liverpool, a boycott of the Neptune Jade in Sept 1997. Consider these excerpts:

Starting early Sunday morning, twice each day the Centennial Stevedoring Company called out a crew of longshoremen to work the ship. As each crew arrived at the terminal, it was met by a picketline organized by the Committee for Victory for the Liverpool Dockers. The crews of longshoremen and ships clerks, members of Locals 10, 34 and 91 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, refused to cross the line. As specified in the contract between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, an arbitrator was called down to the terminal to determine whether the workers had to go in to work. On six occasions, the arbitrator ruled that the picketline constituted a health and safety hazard for the dockworkers, and sent them home. Twice he ruled the workers had to go to work. But even on these occasions, the men and women of the waterfront refused.…Some of those new members, who call themselves the Youngbloods, were impatient at the tactic of refusing to cross the picketline because of a supposed health and safety danger. “We should be picketing ourselves,” said Eric Wright, whose father and uncle were longtime dockworkers. “We should just refuse to handle the cargo.”

Longshoreman Jack Heyman responded that while directly refusing might be best, “there’s something to be said for involvement by other unions and community supporters. It makes us stronger.”

And here is Jack’s report on the anti-war action in April 2003. It begins:

Last April 7, just as the morning sun was rising over the hills east of San Francisco Bay, Darth Vader-clad riot police in the port of Oakland opened fire on some 700 people demonstrating peacefully against the war in Iraq. Police fired lead-shot bean bags, wooden dowels, rubber bullets, tear gas and stinger grenades. Dozens were injured. Twenty four demonstrators and one longshore official were arrested.A Bay Area group called Direct Action to Stop the War that organized the “community picket line”, had specified that it was “not a civil disobedience action” and the goal was “not to get arrested”. But the bloody police response turned the demonstration into what The New York Times called “the most violent (clash) between protesters and authorities anywhere in the country since the start of the war” (NYT 4/8/03).

In Sept 2014, turning back the Zim Shanghai was indeed a victory for workers action, pure and simple. But more than once, the community picket line has been an essential ingredient.


The second disagreement begins when Jack moves from Oakland docks to generalities about the BDS movement. I haven’t heard the Palestinian Boycott National Committee demanding an ongoing continuous boycott of all Israeli shipping, which I think is very far from achievable in the current situation. It would have been helpful to know who exactly is making this demand, and what level of real contact with dockworkers they have. But Jack then writes “And what of Palestinians who work for Israeli companies in Israel and in Palestinian territories. Should they quit their jobs or demand the companies close?” Now it gets serious. By Jack’s argument, we should have sided with Scarlet Johansson on behalf of the Sodastream workers in the settlement industrial zone of Mishor Adumim, instead of mobilising the boycott which has resulted in the company quitting the West Bank.

Let’s take a step back. The aim of the BDS movement is to impose a real economic price on Israel’s wide ranging violation of international law and Palestinian human rights. One part of that system of violation is the Occupation. The settlements are illegal. The human rights of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, as a whole, are adversely affected by the presence of the settlements and the brutal military regime which sustains them. The fact that some Palestinians work in the settlements as construction workers or date pickers or for companies in the industrial zones does not rehabilitate the settlements or the firms which profit from them or the wider regime of Occupation. They remain legitimate targets.

Surely, if Scarlet Johansson’s argument, which Jack inadvertently echoes, had any real force then Palestinian unions would have broken from BDS. But far from doing so, they have intensified their appeals to the outside world. Here is what the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions-Gaza, General Union of Palestinian Workers, Union of Professional Associations, and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions wrote on 30 July. Their appeal includes:

We ask you to consider the following actions: Stop handling goods imported from or exported to Israel, Divest your trade union pension – and other – funds from Israel Bonds as well as from corporations and banks that complicit in Israel’s occupation and human rights violations, Dissociate from Israeli trade unions which are complicit in the occupation, Support our call for a military embargo on Israel, Share information with your members about the siege and destruction of Gaza and ask your members to boycott Israeli products and to share their knowledge with family, co-workers, and friends.

Whatever argument Jack is having with Palestine solidarity activists in San Francisco, this is what Palestinian workers organisations are saying, and it does include divestment, consumer boycott, an arms embargo, and breaking links with Israeli trade unions complicit in the occupation.

Jack refers to the Durban dockers boycott of the Israeli ship Johanna Russ which sailed from Haifa in January 2009 at the height of Israeli massacre in Gaza, Cast Lead. Interviewed in Cairo during the Gaza Freedom March in 2010, Zico Tamela, the International Secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, the COSATU affiliate which carried out this action, spoke very warmly of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. For example

“I would like to urge all fellow transport workers throughout the world, to assist in the struggle for the liberation of our brothers and sisters in Palestine. One of the things we must do is to 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.”

Jack says “A serious working class program to end Zionist depredation of the Palestinian people would require Palestinian and Israeli workers linking up in a struggle against their common enemies, the Israeli and Arab capitalists”. But where is the evidence that Israeli workers are even contemplating such an alliance? The fact that dockers in Haifa have struck against port privatization does not imply anything about their attitudes on Palestine. The Histadrut supported Cast Lead and the attack on the Mavi Marmara. The Israeli “social justice” protests over housing and cost of living in 2011 refused to mention the Occupation, let alone equality for Palestinian and Arab citizens of Israel or the Right of Return.

In South Africa, the formation of the independent trade unions which culminated in the birth of COSATU in 1985 was the single most important step towards ending apartheid. The arguments for socialism, now resurfacing in the South African unions, were intense. And what was the attitude of the COSATU unions, including NUMSA, to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against apartheid South Africa? They appealed for it, time and again.

After the General Secretary of the Mineworkers Union of Namibia Ben Ulenga called on Liverpool dockers to target Namibian uranium, Liverpool blockaded containers of uranium hexafluoride derived from Namibian and South African supplies. Japanese electricity companies declared they would not renew contracts, and Rössing Uranium (owned by RTZ) told workers that Ulenga was going to cost them their jobs. Should Liverpool have held back on the grounds that the boycott was threatening miners employment?

And what is the attitude of NUMSA now to BDS against Israeli apartheid? On 16 July 2014 NUMSA issued a press statement on the Gaza massacre, demanding the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from South Africa but going much further and endorsing BDS. I ask everyone to read it.

Jack, please think again.

Greg Dropkin

Israeli shipping giant Zim suspends operations in Long Beach (Hellenic Shipping News)

Hellenic Shipping News


Israeli shipping giant Zim suspends operations in Long Beach

Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd., Israel’s largest cargo shipping company, has temporarily suspended operations at the Port of Long Beach, according to an employee in Zim’s Long Beach office.

Though the company has not offered a reason, the decision comes after protests in Long Beach and Oakland by the anti-Israel protest group, Block the Boat, which formed in August and is aligned with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Block the Boat protestors, who felt motivated to organize during this summer’s war in Gaza, have repeatedly made it difficult for Zim to unload its cargo at the ports of Long Beach and Oakland during scheduled unloading days for the past three months.

A Zim employee in Long Beach, who answered a phone call to the office but would not give his name, said that the suspension is “not a long-term thing.” He did not say whether it was the protests that prompted Zim’s decision.

A statement from a company spokesman sent to the Journal did not directly address the issue in Long Beach, stating Zim “never stopped and will continue to serve its loyal customers in the U.S. West Coast.” The spokesman has not yet responded to a follow-up request for clarification.

Art Wong, a spokesman for the Port of Long Beach, confirmed that Zim suspended operations at the port, but added that he was not given a reason. He said that in recent months, protestors often would come to the dock on Saturday mornings in anticipation of an arriving Zim shipment — the locations of cargo vessels are easily tracked on the Internet — only to find that the Zim vessel that was en route had changed course at the last minute.

“I could never tell if it impacted the unloading of the vessels,” Wong said. “The protesters would come, but the ship wouldn’t even be there.”

He said shipping companies frequently change their ports of call at the last moment, without offering reasons.

In Oakland, where Block the Boat protestors also have been active, Michael Zampa, a spokesman for the Port of Oakland, wrote in an email, “As far as I know, Zim has no plans for leaving the Port of Oakland.” Asked whether he knows about any temporary suspension of operations at the Port of Oakland, Zampa recommended reaching out to a Zim spokesperson.

Container Management, a shipping industry publication, quoted Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), as saying, “That the Zim vessel can no longer come to Oakland or Long Beach is one of the biggest wins for Palestinian solidarity in the Bay Area in recent history.” In the same piece, Robert Bernardo, another Port of Oakland spokesman, said that the suspension could lead to lost wages for dockworkers and truckers who only work if there is cargo to unload.

AROC, located in San Francisco, has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Source: Jewish Journal

Why is Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) a Labor Issue? (Berkeley Graduate)

The Berkeley Graduate, November 14, 2014

Why is Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) a Labor Issue?


Michael Letwin, staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society and member of Labor for Palestine discussing the relationship between BDS and Labor organizing.

Pro-Palestinian student groups on the UC Berkeley campus continue their efforts to intensify the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions(BDS) Movement, as many Palestinians are still suffering from the devastation wrought by the Israeli government’s deployment of Operation Protective Edge—the ceaseless 50 day bombardment of Gaza Strip (from July 8th to August 26th) that claimed the lives of over 2,140 Palestinian civilians, injured around 11,000 others, and destroyed approximately 42,000 houses. Israel’s blockade of Gaza Strip renders Palestinians destitute of the resources needed to rebuild their homes, to restore the infrastructure of their livelihoods, and to provide adequate medical care and sustenance for thousands of displaced families.

On Wednesday, November 12th, the UAW 2865 BDS Caucus hosted a panel discussion among graduate student workers and labor union organizers to illuminate the significance of Labor organizing in BDS, to stress the exigencies of worker participation in BDS as part of an international solidarity movement against colonial occupation, and to encourage members of the graduate student union to vote yes on the UAW 2865 Ballot Initiative to join the BDS Movement on December 4th. This resolution calls on the University of California System and UAW International to divest from companies complicit in Israeli occupation of Palestine and calls on the US government to cease aid to Israel until it complies with international law.


Lara Kiswani, Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC)

“It’s a good reminder of where and how our struggle began. It was shaped by Labor. It was shaped by peasants, and it was led by workers. Disrupting the economy was the way in which they started the fight.”

Lara Kiswani, Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), provided a historical synopsis of the relationship between organized labor and the Palestinian liberation struggle. She explained how early resistance mobilizations even before the state of Israel was established—such as the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt against British colonial rule—were peasant-led uprisings. As the steady influx of settler immigrants systemically displaced indigenous families and forced them into poverty, peasant workers organized a year-long strike and boycott of British imported goods. According to Kiswani, actions such as this strike reveals the extent to which the historical legacy and continued efficacy of BDS tactics are rooted in organized labor efforts. Kiswani mentions that this historical survey of Palestinian resistance demonstrates the inseparability of labor from liberation politics:


Clarence Thomas, a long time member of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU)

Clarence Thomas, a long time member of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), shared his own insights as a veteran of ILWU solidarity organizing against projects of imperialist conquest and colonial occupation. He explained how the recent Block-the-Boat mobilizations against the Israeli shipping line, Zim, are a continuation of a rich 80 year tradition of labor organizing. He described how a community-organized picket line stopped the shipment of brass and nickel to Italy in 1935, when Italy invaded Ethiopia, and how another community blockade stopped the delivery of scrap iron to Japan In 1939 when Japan invaded Manchuria. Thomas went on to emphasize the significant role of organized Labor in the United States in challenging systems of colonial oppression all around the world.

“When you have international Labor solidarity actions, that means that workers in some part of the world are making a sacrifice, because solidarity is not an empty slogan. It means something.”

Michael Letwin, staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society and member of Labor for Palestine, echoed this sentiment and emphasized how active participation in organized Labor mobilizations – combined with consumer consciousness on the part of people living in the United States – is inextricably linked to the life outcomes of Palestinian people by virtue of the U.S. government’s subsidy of the Israeli military. He states that:

“Palestine clearly is a Labor issue—it’s a union issue—as any anti-colonialist, racial justice, or human rights issue should be. Because the most fundamental principle of Labor is that injury to one is an injury to all. So, it shouldn’t be a big leap to figure out why Palestine is a Labor issue.”

Graduate4In an interview conducted after the discussion segment, David McCleary, graduate student in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Department and organizer with the UAW BDS Caucus, explained how the UAW 2865 Ballot Initiative to join the BDS movement is an unprecedented gesture of democratization. All that is required for the endorsement to pass is a 50% plus one majority vote by the 83 elected members of the Joint Council, however, the Union has extended the process to a membership vote that will allow for the 13,000 rank-and-file union members across all of the University of California campuses to vote on the issue. David goes on to explain the imperatives for graduate students to vote “yes:”

“It’s about ending our complicity as union workers, as graduate students. It’s [about] ending our complicity with the oppression in Palestine. It’s about ending this global system of oppression, its not just about Palestine. The oppression in Palestine is connected to the oppression in our communities in Oakland and we need to fight this system of oppression in a wholesale way.”

About Gabriel Regalado

2nd year in the African Diaspora Studies Ph.D. Program with a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley.

Petition: Faculty Support Student-Workers of UAW 2865 in Standing in Solidarity with Palestinian Students and Workers and Voting YES on BDS December 4th!

Faculty Support

Petitioning Members of UAW 2865

Faculty Support Student-Workers of UAW 2865 in Standing in Solidarity with Palestinian Students and Workers and Voting YES on BDS December 4th!

Petition by Faculty For UAW 2865 Palestine

We are faculty in support of the UAW 2865’s efforts to stand in solidarity with Palestinian workers and students. On December 4, 2014, the UAW 2865 – the union representing teaching assistants, graders, readers, and tutors across the University of California system – will hold a membership-wide vote on a historic resolution to join the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (“BDS”) movement seeking to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands, end its settler-colonial policies, and comply with international and human rights law. As faculty members both at the University of California and beyond, we support the efforts of the UAW 2865 and support its members in voting YES on the resolution.

This summer during Israel’s devastating attacks on Gaza, the union’s elected leadership (the Joint Council) published an open letter in solidarity with Palestinian labor unions’ call for joining the global BDS movement as an act of solidarity and in protest of Israeli occupation and warfare. The goal of the movement is to restore the rights of Palestinians who are under siege and military occupation in Gaza and the West Bank and of Palestinian citizens of Israel who are racially discriminated against on the basis of over 50 laws, in everything from property ownership to family reunification rights, as well as Palestinian refugees who are barred by Israel from returning to their lands.

The UAW 2865 resolution calls on the University of California and UAW international to divest their investments, including pension from Israeli state institutions and international companies complicit in severe and ongoing human rights violations, and on the US government to end military aid to Israel. The UAW is also asking for its members to make an individual commitment, a pledge, to participate in the academic boycott of Israeli institutions.

As faculty members both at the University of California and beyond, we support the efforts of the UAW 2865 and its members in voting “Yes” on the current resolution, which is long overdue. To date, faculty across the country have taken a position on the right side of history by supporting Palestinian self-determination and supporting BDS as a vehicle to challenge Israel’s violations of human rights. Academic associations including the American Studies Association, the Asian American Studies Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, and the Critical Ethnic Studies Association have already overwhelmingly voted to endorse a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Over 1,200 U.S. academics have already joined the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel in response to the call from Palestinian scholars, students, and trade unions, including the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, the Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities’ Professors and Employees, and the General Federation of Trade Unions.

As faculty, it is now our turn to support our student-workers, teaching assistants, and advisees as they take this bold and courageous step to call on their employer—the University of California —and the UAW International to divest from companies profiting from the illegal military occupation of Palestine, as well as committing themselves to the academic boycott.

Israeli universities are complicit with the occupation and the state’s human rights violations in a number of ways. Many are built on occupied Palestinian lands or on illegal settlements (for example, Ariel University and parts of Hebrew University in Jerusalem) while universities such as Technion further develop the technological capacities and military doctrines that make the occupation possible. The occupation and siege of the West Bank and Gaza prevent Palestinian academics and students from accessing outside institutions of higher learning and professional conferences. Israeli policies, including West Bank checkpoints and the blockade of Gaza, impede students from getting to school, and travel abroad to study can be extremely difficult. Meanwhile, Palestinian universities are regularly targeted by the Israeli state with violence and repression. There is a long record of Israeli universities arresting, harassing, and repressing Palestinian student protests and political activities. Similar racism in apartheid South Africa led to students and professors in the U.S. engaging in boycott and divestment; increasingly, they are doing the same to challenge bigoted Israeli policies and laws that are upheld by unconditional U.S. support.

While many other unions around the world have already supported BDS, we are inspired that a “YES” vote on the UAW 2965 resolution would mean that the UAW 2865 will become the first labor union in the United States to join the BDS movement!

We, the undersigned faculty, support the UAW 2865 members who vote YES on the upcoming BDS resolution.

In solidarity,

The Undersigned

To:  Members of UAW 2865

Faculty Support Student-Workers of UAW 2865 in Standing in Solidarity with Palestinian Students and Workers and Voting YES on BDS December 4th!

[Your name]

UAW 2865 Vote Yes on BDS (Facebook Page)

This is a community of UAW 2865 members who are in favor of voting YES on December 4th to join the BDS movement and the academic boycott.
2865 Solidarity

Video: UAW 2865 BDS Caucus Panel Discussion, Nov. 12, 2014

AROC Executive Director Lara Kiswani, ILWU Local 10 longshore worker Clarence Thomas, and Labor for Palestine founder Michael Letwin discuss the role of organized labor in the Palestine solidarity movement. They discuss recent exciting developments including Block The Boat and the upcoming UAW 2865 member vote on BDS on December 4th, 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 9.13.16 PM

SJP-West Letter of Support for UAW 2865 BDS Initiative

SJP West LogoSJP-West Letter of Support for UAW 2865 BDS Initiative


The Zim Alabama Has Canceled All Their Scheduled Dockings at the Port of Tampa


After 4 demonstrations at the Port of Tampa against the Zim Alabama, the last one on November 1 which included a direct action hard block that jammed up vehicle traffic coming into the port, the Alabama isn’t coming back to Tampa. Originally scheduled to drop cargo at the Port of Tampa every three weeks through February 2015, after Block the Boat Tampa’s last action at the port on Nov.1, the Alabama was “phased out.” Each action used techniques that escalated from the previous action, culminating in a hard block and arrests that Zim and the Port of Tampa could not ignore.

Organizers of Block the Boat Tampa are calling this is a WIN.

It should be noted that Block the Boat Tampa did not have large numbers, nor was there support from the Longshormen’s Union-ILA Local 1402. What Palestine Solidarity activists with Block the Boat Tampa did have was persistence, passion and courage. They will take these attributes into the next level of actions to stop Zim from unloading Apartheid in Tampa Bay.

Tampa.1 Tampa.2 Tampa.3 Tampa.4

N21: Zim Customer Call In Day (Block the Boat Tampa)


In a continuation of sustained and steadfast pressure on the embattled ZIM Integrated Shipping Services, Block the Boat Tampa is calling for a GLOBAL CALL IN day against ZIM, who is complicit in the continued occupation, murder, theft and oppression of the Palestinian people-

The ZIM Alabama has cancelled all visits to the Port of Tampa for the rest of the year! The Maria Pia, a ship also leased and used by ZIM has also been phased out! We have them on the the ropes, DON’T STOP NOW!!

On November 21st, the day that the smaller replacement ship, the ISAO, will be docking, lets welcome them to Tampa by spending the day sending thousands of calls and emails, coming from EVERY PORT CITY THAT ZIM SHIPS DOCKS IN, this is both ports that have established Block the Boat mobilizations and those who do not, to their global customer base, those they lease the ship from, those who ship product on their ships and anyone else involved in a financial relationship with ZIM, will have their info posted on this event page and we ask for everyone to be prolific! Be steadfast! Let them know that they need to use another company and sever all ties to ZIM!

Pro-Palestinian activists declare “victory” as Zim removes Californian ports from schedule (Container Management)

Container Management, November 10, 2014 

BTB demonstrations at American ports are likely to continue

Pro-Palestinian activists declare “victory” as Zim removes Californian ports from schedule

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators based in California are celebrating news that Israeli shipping company, Zim Integrated Shipping Services, will no longer use its vessels to service the Ports of Los Angeles and Oakland.

Zim’s Container Service Pacific (ZCP) route between Asia and North and Central America had previously called at the west coast ports, but they no longer appear on its schedule.

The removal of services follows months of picketing against Zim vessels by hundreds of protestors at ports across the US, in conjunction with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against perceived injustices levelled by Israel to Palestinians.

Known as the Block The Boat (BTB) movement, the pickets appear to have been most successful on the West Coast, with a Zim vessel being delayed for several days at the port of Oakland in September and entirely skipping a scheduled call to move onwards to Russia last month.

Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organising Centre (AROC), one of the organisations running the BTB coalition, said: “The fact that the Zim vessel can no longer come to Oakland or Long Beach is one of the biggest wins for Palestinian solidarity in the Bay Area in recent history. We see our victory as a huge success for the BDS movement against Israel.”

She continued: “When the BTB coalition formed in August, our goal was to stop the Zim ship from coming to the Port of Oakland as a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to make a material impact on the state of Israel. Zim realized it was too costly and too difficult to continue docking its ships in our town given the strength of our community organising and mobilising.”

Zim, the tenth largest cargo shipping company in the world, became a target for activists following Israel’s highly controversial Operation Protective Edge this summer, with 2,200 people dying in the conflict.

The shipping line was founded by the Israeli government in 1968 but after privatisation and a recent restructuring, 68% of shares are owned by creditors and bondholders, while the remaining 32% belongs to Kenon Holdings, a spin-off of holding company, Israel Corporation.

Demonstrators have argued that the Israeli government’s ‘golden share’, which gives it a veto over Zim’s decisions and allows its ships to be controlled in times of war, makes the shipping line a legitimate target for protest.

Robert Bernardo, communications manager at the Port of Oakland, claimed the loss of port calls by Zim vessels would hurt the local economy and dock workers in particular. Speaking to CM after one of the picketing incidents, he said: “We power approximately 73,000 jobs in the northern California region. So it’s vital for us to keep the flow of commerce moving so that local jobs are protected.”

He added: “So when dock workers do not work, they lose shifts which result in lost wages for themselves and their families. From dock workers to truckers to people who rely upon the cargo arriving on time and everyone in between, the Port of Oakland supplies an entire supply chain of jobs. That is why what happened is unfortunate.”

Kiswani disputed the claims, saying: “We don’t believe Oakland should be profiting from apartheid. If they’re going to lose profit from apartheid, that’s a loss that is worth losing. We are also continuing our commitment to worker solidarity and do not intend to negatively impact International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) rank and file by regularly disrupting business at the port and targeting other shipping lines.”

While Zim vessels will not service Oakland or Los Angeles, there appear to be no changes to existing schedules at other ports in the US. Furthermore, multiple Zim services which use vessels belonging to other shipping lines will continue to call at Oakland and Los Angeles. Kiswani’s indicated that it is unlikely these vessels will be picketed.

BTB demonstrations at American ports are likely to continue with recent events organised at Tampa Bay, Seattle and Tacoma.