As a humanitarian disaster ravages Gaza, activists around the world have taken a wide range of actions aimed at pressuring Israel, from mass marches and “die-ins” to blockades and sit-ins. Unions have also ramped up solidarity actions in a range of sectors. While the scale of these actions is unprecedented, they follow on the heels of years of organizing and education campaigns by rank-and-file labor activists. Among the most celebrated labor actions have been those launched by dockworkers in a number of countries — including the United States, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Italy, South Africa, Belgium, and Tunisia — who have refused to load Israeli ships and cargo and transport arms to Israel.
Block the Boat
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was a year of accelerated boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigning, successful grassroots actions and significant legal victories for Palestinian rights. Pension funds dumped Israeli firms, cultural figures refused to cross the picket line and a major ice cream maker pulled its products from illegal Israeli settlements. Sustained direct actions in Oakland, California successfully exacted a price on Israel after it carried out a lethal 11-day attack on Gaza during May. In early June, as part of an international wave of protests under the banner of #BlockTheBoat, activists and longshore workers prevented an Israeli cargo ship from docking at the city’s port for more than two weeks after its scheduled arrival date.
Last weekend activists activists held an action at a port in Elizabeth, New Jersey, attempting to block an Israeli-operated cargo ship from unloading. The Haifa-based shipping company ZIM has been targeted by the BDS movement over its connection to Israeli apartheid and last month Bay Area protestors successfully stopped ZIM from offloading in Oakland.
A small town in northern British Columbia was recently the backdrop for a chilling display of how Emirati influence and power can be used to attempt to suppress popular support for Palestine. On June 14, Prince Rupert was the scene of a Block The Boat community picket against the Israeli Zim Volans ship that had been chased away from Oakland. For a day and a half, members of ILWU 505 had respected the picket line and the Volans had sat idle. Eventually, an emergency injunction was granted, and the Volans was finally unloaded and left for Shanghai, China. A week later, DP World, the company that handles the specific terminal in Prince Rupert Port where the Volans docked, sent out notices delivering a 3-day suspension to 94 port workers who had respected the picket.
In recent weeks, people of conscience in Canada watched in horror as the Israeli regime ruthlessly targeted Palestinians from all regions of historic Palestine. What started as a popular movement to #SaveSheikhJarrah residents from further ethnic cleansing expanded into a broad unity of Palestinians from Jerusalem to Gaza to Haifa to Toronto and Vancouver all sending the same message. Palestinians will no longer accept the status quo of Israeli apartheid. As part of this burgeoning movement, Palestinian-Canadians and their supporters have actively participated in rallies, pickets and #BlockTheBoat actions. The latter refers to the efforts to stop Zim-operated ships from either docking in, or unloading, at U.S., Canadian and other international ports.
An Israeli container ship was prevented from docking Monday at the Prince Rupert, B.C., port after a group of about 10 protesters — whose aim is to block Israel from shipping goods to North America — formed a picket line at an entrance to the Fairview container terminal. The container ship, the Volans — owned by Israeli shipping company ZIM — was anchored in Prince Rupert's harbour for most of the day Sunday. The protesters said they were acting in solidarity with a movement called Block the Boat, which aims to block Israel from shipping goods to this continent as a reaction to the recent conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants. The ship was unable to dock as protestors set up a picket line at the terminal's entrance, which unionized longshore workers would not cross.
A community picket line in support of Palestinian rights and liberation has succeeded in delaying a vessel operated by Israel’s largest cargo shipping company from docking at the Seattle Port for over a week. The ship, which belongs to Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. (ZIM) and is known as the Zim San Diego, was originally scheduled to unload its cargo in Seattle on June 2, but has postponed docking in response to the ongoing #BlockTheBoat picket line organized by Falastiniyat, a Seattle-based Palestinian feminist collective. Hundreds of people are expected to show up in protest of the Zim San Diego if it eventually manages to dock. The current picket line in Seattle comes on the heels of a #BlockTheBoat victory in Oakland, California, where a community and worker coalition led by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) successfully blocked an Israeli ZIM ship on June 4 after 17 days of delaying the ship from attempting to dock.
After their success blocking an Israeli ZIM cargo ship from unloading at the Port of Oakland on Friday, pro-Palestine activists held the first-ever pro-Palestine protest in the Port of NY-NJ. The newly formed Block the Boat NY coalition organized a protest against the ZIM Tarragona, which was scheduled to arrive at the port Sunday morning. The protest has been organized as part of the International Week-of-Action called by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) of San Francisco. Hundreds of pro-Palestine protesters had prevented the unloading of the Israeli container ship from Asia at the Port of Oakland on Friday, with the cooperation of the local longshoremen’s union, which refused to unload the vessel.
Hundreds of picketers and protesters marched Friday morning in front of the Port of Oakland to keep cargo on an Israeli ship from being delivered. Approximately 1,000 people from the Arab Resource & Organizing Center and the local union for longshoremen spread out across six gates at Berth 30 near the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in the 2700 block of Middle Harbor Road. “Our goal today is to show the city of Oakland that we do not want them to do business with and allow Israeli apartheid money to come into our city,” group spokesman Wassim Hage said by phone. “It’s part of an international picket movement at port cities around the world that will be going on over the next couple of weeks.”
Earlier this month, the Block the Boat coalition that had staged August’s port shutdownannounced plans that they would be holding another action at the port on 25 October. But some members within the coalition wanted to plan an earlier action for September and branched off into a new coalition called Stop Zim Action Committee. “The momentum that we had going in August should be continued,” Steve Zeltzer, a labor activist and journalist, told The Electronic Intifada. “We have to build a movement to shut down Zim everywhere.” Zeltzer said that he is currently in conversation with activists in South Africa and Spain about coordinating similar actions against Zim ships. “This is the most effective action I’ve ever been a part of,” Blome told The Electronic Intifada, referring to last month’s historic four-day shutout of the Zim line. “It taught me that just a few dozen people could hold back a ship, which is just incredible.” Block the Boat actions have spread across the country. In addition to the West Coast, Tampa, Florida successfully delayed the unloading of a Zim line ship on 20 September.
ALL USA Activists! Heres a comprehensive guide to all #BlockTheBoat Ship - ZIM schedules, maps, tools, guidelines #gaza Hello! This is a care package for anyone interested in helping to spread the #BlockTheBoat Movement. Hopefully this will make it a bit easier to get started. Included are links to useful online tools, lists of resources, schedules of ships, names of ports, texts from flyers, poster graphics, and more. Good Luck!
In August, 2014, an ad hoc coalition and ever-changing group of autonomous activists prevented the Zim Piraeus from offloading for four days and caused subsequent entanglements that prevented the vast majority of its cargo from touching dry Oakland land. Much has already been said about the relationship between labor and the BTB coaltion that was necessary for such a monumental win. I would like to speak of another hand in hand relationship that received less attention or press, but was just as important, and perhaps even more so, to the final impact of the Block the Boat coalition’s unprecedented victory in Oakland. That relationship between organizations in the Bay Area organizing scene that comprised the Block the Boat coalition and action taken through existing solidarity networks and individuals, acting autonomously. To understand the remarkable victory of Block the Boat, Oakland, one has to first trace the line of this uneasy partnership, and the incredible feedback loop it unintentionally unleashed, amping the Block the Boat signal higher and higher towards success*.