Activists in the US forced an Israeli cargo ship to turn around on Saturday and have vowed they will not stop before it is gone for good.
Hundreds of pro-Palestine protesters gathered in the Port of Oakland to stop a ZIM ship from being unloaded. ZIM is an Israeli-owned business and one of the largest shipping companies in the world.
The Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and the local branch of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) came together to picket at the docks.
The ILWU says none of its members crossed the picket lines.
Mohamed is an activist with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC).
He told Socialist Worker from the picket line that the action was organised to send “a clear message that Zionism, racism, apartheid and Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine will be met with resistance from every corner of the globe.”
“We are ensuring that Israeli companies are boycotted and that cargo on Israeli ships will not be welcome in the Bay Area or beyond.”
In 2014 activists, trade unionist and NGOs, who formed the Block the Boat coalition, organised a successful campaign to prevent ZIM ships from unloading at the port.
This year is the first time that ZIM ships have tried to return to the port since then.
Israel’s recent bloody assault on the Gaza Strip which resulted in the deaths of over 270 Palestinians has seen renewed calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.
The Palestinian Federation of Trade unions also issued a statement calling for US trade unions to mount a boycott last month. This included a call for workers to refuse to unload Israeli ships.
Mohamed stressed how important it is to answer that call.
“ZIM is Israel’s largest and oldest cargo shipping company. When ZIM was started in 1945 its primary purpose was to ship weapons and European settlers to aid in the settler-colonisation of Palestine,” he said.
“Our fight to bring down Israeli apartheid entails targeting the businesses and entities that allow it to keep going.
“We will continue to do so until it will no longer be possible for relations with the Israeli state to be normalised.”
And Mohamed added that more broadly US opinion about Israel is beginning to shift.
“In the US support for Israel has been so blindly accepted due to the relationship that the two countries have.”
“But the lie of Israel as a democracy, a narrative it has hidden behind for decades, is being torn apart because of the facts on the ground.
“It has physical apartheid walls and a system of dehumanising checkpoints, It continues to back settlers in routinely displacing and ethnically cleansing Palestinian homes and land
“And it maintains the world’s largest open-air prison known as the Gaza Strip.”
Mohammed also added that he believed the, “latest powerful uprising against Israel’s occupation that we saw in Palestine and across the world has been unprecedented.”
AROC say it is not stopping at organising pickets at the Port of Oakland and is organising similar actions in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and Vancouver in Canada.
More boycotts and protests to block Israeli cargo ships have the power to hit these companies hard as well as to build solidarity with Palestine among US workers.
Trade unionists everywhere should learn from this solidarity victory.