Pro-Palestinian protesters delayed an Israeli ship for four consecutive days at the Port of Oakland, until it moved to a gate momentarily free of picket lines and began unloading Tuesday night.
Thousands kicked off the block with a march Saturday and prevented Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd., Israel’s biggest shipping company, from docking that day as part of West Coast ports boycotting the occupation.
A diverse coalition of dozens of Bay Area organizations, including a few SF State groups, came out to “block the boat, block block the boat” over the weekend. A collective of SF State students called Mujeres al Frente (Women to the Front) chanted ”Palestina escucha, estamos en lucha” along the way, meaning “Palestine listen, we’re in the struggle,” according to Natty.
“The Israeli government is waging a war, the US being part of the violence,” said Natty, Women to the Front member who declined to give her last name, of this summer’s assault on Gaza supported by decades of US military aid. “We need more international solidarity.”
Other SF State student groups such as El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana de Aztlán (MEChA), General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), and Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations (SKINS) were also present at the event Saturday.
The Israeli ship was scheduled to dock Saturday morning, but remained in the ocean the night before and prompted organizers to push the march from 5 a.m. to the afternoon. Before thousands reached the port, ship tracking service Marine Traffic showed Zim Piraeus located in Santa Cruz, avoiding Oakland.
At 5pm Sunday, Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), which organized the event, sent out a text message blast calling for people to stop the ship from trying again. Within a couple hours, they had hundreds forming picket lines at different gates until the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) sent their scheduled dockworkers home.
Protesters showed up in fewer numbers to picket the two shifts each on Monday and Tuesday, until Zim Piraeus seemed to set sail for Los Angeles but returned to a different gate with able workers Tuesday night.
Organizers say activists in Seattle, Vancouver, and Tacoma are also bracing for its arrival, aiming to completely shut it out from the Pacific. In a similar 2010 protest, Oakland demonstrators blocked an Israeli ship of the same company from docking for the first time in American history.
“We’re learning from South Africa, with more focus on hitting them economically,” said Linda Ereikat, incoming freshman and member of AROC-sponsored Arab Youth Organization. In 1984, ILWU workers refused to unload a South African ship against the government’s apartheid in a string of such actions around the world.
“Workers honored our picket and stood on the side of justice, as they historically have,” said AROC in a victory statement Sunday. Director Lara Kiswani added, “Every day they don’t dock, they lose millions.”