During the afternoon of Sunday, October 26, around 200 people marched from West Oakland BART station to the Port of Oakland to block the docking of a container ship from the Israeli-owned ZIM shipping company in protest against Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip and occupation of the West Bank.
The blockade was organized by the Block the Boat Coalition, with support from ILWU Local 10 members who respected the picket.
Israel’s blockade of Gaza prevents essential items from entering, such as steel, cement, and certain foods. Meanwhile, Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank places Palestinians under a regime of control that includes checkpoints and routine abuse and killings by Israeli security forces or settlers.
To make room for settlements, Israel regularly bulldozes Palestinian homes. There are currently over 500,000 settlers in the West Bank and settlement construction increased 123.7 percent in 2013. The United States annually gives Israel about $3 billion in, mostly military, aid.
The ZIM Beijing was originally scheduled to arrive at the Port of Oakland the day before but went off course to avoid the protest. Rather than dock at Oakland, the ship headed northwest toward Russia — marking the first time an Israeli ship was turned away before reaching its port of destination.
On Tuesday, Block the Boat declared victory in a statement, “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.”
This comes after protests at the port in August and September, latter carried by an autonomous group and not endorsed by Block the Boat nor ILWU.
Responding, a statement was released Monday by the Israeli Consulate of San Francisco condemning the protest:
“The planned disruption to daily business at the Port of Oakland is nothing more than a hate fest by those who do not think twice about the livelihoods of their neighbors and their city,” according to the statement, which also said the ZIM ships docking at the Port of Oakland “never sail to Israel” but, rather, transport goods between Asia and the United States.
The local Teamsters union also opposed the blockade, saying in a statement that they “suffered job losses over the last two years” because of successive protests at the Port.
ZIM ships to Oakland typically carry consumer goods. But that’s not all ZIM carries. According to bills of lading and a Truthout report, ZIM ships docking at the Port of Savannah regularly carried 5.56mm and 9mm ammunition manufactured by Israel Military Industries and imported by Federal Premium Ammunition, a subsidiary of Alliant Techsystems.
Alliant Techsystems and its subsidiary Federal Premium regularly sell ammunition to the U.S. military, federal agencies and local police.
Several Bay Area residents and activists from different causes, such as LGBT and women’s rights, also attended the protest. The crowd was also racially diverse with Latinos, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, whites, and other demographics marching alongside Arabs and Muslims. Several cars honked in support as they drove by the march.
Rhonda Ramiro, an organizer with BAYAN-USA, a national progressive Filipino alliance, told Oakland Post, “We’re standing in solidarity with the people of Palestine who are fighting for their self-determination and to be able to be in their homeland.”
Cyndi Mitchell, sister of Mario Romero, an unarmed black male who was killed by Vallejo police in 2012 also attended. “I stand in solidarity with anyone that’s fighting oppression, that’s standing up for justice, and equality for people,” she said.