OAKLAND—Hundreds of demonstrators picketed yesterday in front of six different gates at the Port of Oakland to block an Israeli container ship from unloading in protest of Israel’s apartheid policies. The Volans ship, operated by Israeli shipping company Zim, was successfully blocked and pulled out of the port with its cargo at around 6 pm.
For weeks, the Palestine solidarity movement in the Bay Area, with efforts led by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), prevented the ship from arriving on its regular docking schedule.
“Our monumental victory against Israel’s largest cargo shipping company demonstrates that gone are the days that the apartheid state of Israel can expect to do business as usual,” said AROC’s Executive Director Lara Kiswani in a recent statement.
The action started at 6 am and was led by AROC and others as part of the global movement to fight for Palestinian rights. The action was planned in response to Israel’s recent attacks on Gaza, the ongoing ethnic cleansing and apartheid against the Palestinian people, and illegal settlements in which Israeli settlers — backed by state forces — forcibly take Palestinian land like in Sheikh Jarrah.
This was also part of a weeklong international campaign called #BlockTheBoat, which drew nationwide attention and expanded to other port cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, and Vancouver.
Longshore workers from ten different Northern California chapters of the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union), came out with a statement on May 25 to show their support and solidarity for Palestine while also condemning the violence against Palestinians by Israel. It also said the following:
“The recent Israeli-state sanctioned violence follows decades of systemic discrimination and violation of human rights of all Palestinians, including military enforced restrictions of movement for over 4.7 million Palestinians; a brutal blockade on Gaza; confiscation of land; economic exploitation; and suspension of basic civil liberties. These actions and more are deplorable and are flagrant and inhumane and a violation of all basic human rights.”
Members of ILWU Local 10 honored the picket line, without crossing it, and stood firmly during their shifts to prevent the Zim ship from docking. They, along with the movement, also successfully blocked Israeli cargo ships back in 2010 and 2014.
Another union, members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union in Durban, also blocked a Zim cargo ship last month. Italian dockworkers in Livorno and Ravenna also followed suit.
“For some reason or another, they [Zim] thought this was the time to try again,” said Kiswani at yesterday’s action. “And boy, did we prove them wrong.”
According to Kiswani, over 5,000 people subscribed to AROC’s text alerts to prepare to mobilize immediately when news of the Zim ship arrival is confirmed.
“We demonstrated what it means to show international solidarity. At the end of the day, we’re in this together, we’re in this for the long run. But know today’s victory we do not take lightly. This is huge. This is huge not just for Oakland. This is huge not just for Palestine. This is huge for all our movements for justice.”
Photos by Savannah Kuang