US, Canada Labour Activists ‘Block the Boat for Gaza’ Succeed in Blocking Docking of Israeli Ship in California Port
By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | August 18, 2014 2:11 PM EST
Thousands of pro-Palestinian activists from the US and Canada rejoiced over the weekend, albeit temporarily, as the group managed to block the docking of an Israeli ship at the port of Oakland in California. The blockade campaign was dubbed "Block the Boat for Gaza."
Palestinians sleep at a United Nations school, where people who fled heavy Israeli shelling in the Shejaia neighbourhood sought refuge during fighting, in Gaza City July 21, 2014. Israeli forces killed at least 10 Palestinian militants on Monday after they crossed the border from Gaza through two tunnels, the military said, as the death toll from the two-week conflict passed 500. The overnight raids lifted the Palestinian death toll to 484, mostly civilians, since fighting started on July 8. Israel says 18 of its soldiers have also died along with two civilians.
Lara Kiswani, executive director of the local Arab Resource and Organising Center (AROC), said the blockade action was part of a greater plan to generate momentum for the boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli government following its violent attacks to Gaza.
"With the recent attacks on Palestine ... there's been a lot of discussion locally, particularly with Aroc, on how to escalate our tactics," The Guardian quoted Kiswani.
The protest and blockade action was joined in by the dock workers in the International Longshore Warehouse Union (ILWU).
"The workers themselves will refuse to load the ship and there'll be a big solidarity rally in support of those workers. This is happened before and now the mood against Israeli barbarism is greater than before," Transit Worker Marty Goodman told Press TV.
The targeted Israeli vessel was owned by Israel's largest cargo shipping company, Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd.
Bay Area organizers said the blockade action was just one part of several, coordinated efforts to mobilize for Palestine. Other West Coast port cities including Seattle, Vancouver and Long Beach had organized port shutdowns.
"We really want to take the conversation beyond the massacre in Gaza, and to the whole Zionist project in Israel and what it is being imposed on Palestinians because we know this is cyclical," portal electronicIntifada.net quoted Reem Assil, an organizer with the Bay Area's Arab Resource and Organizing Center.
"It's not just about the military offensive in Gaza. That sparked an international outrage, but we know this is nothing new. The ceasefire is still up in the air, and we want to make sure to use this point in our history to make sure this never happens again. Part of doing that is to isolate Israel," she said.
In 2010, pro-Palestinian activists formed picket lines against a Zim vessel in response to Israel's attack on a flotilla ferrying humanitarian outreach workers to Gaza. "After the flotilla was attacked by the state of Israel, we successfully were able to block the Zim Lines ship here, with the ILWU," Kiswani said. "So for years we were working with ILWU, with rank and file, and with the leadership, to try and raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians."
Assil said such blockade actions will continue for as long as Israel continues to be relentless in attacking Gaza. "This is the kick-off of what we hope to be many."
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said that as of Aug 11, Israel's attacks that started on July7 have killed around 2,008 Palestinians in Gaza, over 8,100 Palestinians injured, and displaced 386,000 people.
The Bethlehem-based International Middle East Media Center has published the list of names of those killed here.
The damage to buildings, homes, schools and infrastructure has been pegged to have reached $6 billion, so far.
More on the "Block the Boat for Gaza" movement here.
Video of the port blockade below.
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