Bay Area activists again prevent unloading of Israeli ship

Protestors at the Oakland Port.

Charlotte Silver

Labor and Palestine solidarity activists in the San Francisco Bay Area came together again in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning to greet a cargo ship from the Israeli line Zim at the Port of Oakland.

With roughly 75 people dispersed across the five entrances to the berth, activists hoped to prevent longshore workers from unloading the cargo. Zim Integrated Shipping Services is Israel’s largest cargo shipping company and has become an increasingly popular target around the country among Palestine solidarity activists.

As the sun rose over the small gathering, no workers seemed to be arriving for the shift. Nevertheless, organizers kept the picket lines moving, expecting some workers would eventually arrive.

But as the window for the shift came to an end, Jack Heyman, chair of the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee and a retired member of the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union), made an announcement: only one longshoreman chose to work the shift unloading the Zim line this morning — no other union members wanted to work it.

Every day longshoremen go to the hiring hall in San Francisco to choose the shifts they will work. Organizers for today’s actions spent the last week flyering outside the hiring hall, letting the workers know why they would be picketing on Saturday and asking them to respect their protest.

The ILWU Local 10 has been out of contract since July, which means workers will not get paid if they do not work a shift, regardless whether there is a picket line or a health and safety concern. But it also means union members do not have to defer to the port authority to determine whether or not they do cross a picket line. The ILWU has a long history of lending its union power in solidarity to outside causes.

According to Toby Blome, an activist and organizer with the antiwar group CODEPINK, many workers responded favorably to the flyers and were happy not to take Saturday’s shift working Israel’s Zim line.

While mobilizing efforts for Saturday’s action were last minute, local Palestine solidarity activists have been nurturing their coalition with labor for months.

New coalition

Earlier this month, the Block the Boat coalition that had staged August’s port shutdown announced 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.”

Picket at the Oakland Port.

Charlotte Silver

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.

Power of blocking Zim

In August, activists prevented a Zim ship from unloading for four straight days, during which time the ship remained anchored in the Bay trying to wait out the protests. And while the port was able to sneak the vessel in to dock on the night of 19 August, it remained unclear how much cargo had actually been unloaded.

An Al Akhbar investigation revealed that several of the businesses which were waiting for cargo on the Zim ship never received their goods. As a result, some businesses told Al Akhbar that they were ceasing work with Zim and were looking for other shipping companies to use.

There is another opportunity for the Zim ship to unload in Oakland this evening. Organizers are asking people to gather at the West Oakland BART Station at 4:30pm where there will be carpools taking people to the port.




I am proud of the boycott and I am proud and grateful to the longshoremen who are refusing to cross the picket line and unload the ship. This show of moral strength is amazing. Israel depends on export and with boycott, divestment, and sanctions Israel can be brought to its knees just as South Africa was. We can end apartheid in Israel just as it was ended in South Africa. BDS. Thank you, San Francisco and Oakland. Thank you!


The fact that ILWU workers honored the picket is a breakthrough. It's time to think about how to break the siege of Gaza using such methods. If Israel knows that its shipping will face this level of opposition in ports around the world, and that the future holds even greater promise of collective action globally, maybe the lesson will start to be absorbed. This is how it feels to have your goods interdicted, left to rot unloaded. This is how it feels when you can't receive or deliver key products. When Israeli ships are treated as pariahs everywhere- when not a crate moves in or out- then and for the first time what Israel does to Palestinians every day will be brought home to them. They put Gaza on a diet. Let's steadily apply pressure to extend that policy to the ones who created it.

To those who took part in this action, and to the longshoreman who chose not to unload Zim cargo, many thanks and congratulations.


Good. If All People in America will do this. They will be able to Save this wonderful Country called USA fro the Zionist.


This is great, through pacific resistance and support to the jewish and non jewish people struggling for the end of ethnic discrimination and cleansing we will get to the pacific dissolution of the zionist-terrorist state of Israel. Together we can...


blocking of israeli transportcompanies. Not just shippinglines but planes aswell


This is really good and refreshing news. The last one that was prevented from unloading went out from the dock in a figure eight and came back to the same dock, but the protesters were still there. Then it left Oakland and went north from Oakland to Seattle where it received the same treatment at the Seattle dock! No telling where IT went to after that! Watch for them leaving where they were blocked and going out looking for alternate ports everyone! Maybe even Canada!


Heartfelt thanks to the brave men and women who made this happen, both the protesters and the union workers who refused to cross the line. This is democracy in action. Your courage will NOT go unnoticed and unrewarded! If an Israeli ship were to attempt to dock in a Great Lakes port (unlikely), I'd be there with bells on.
The good people of California seem to always be a decade or so ahead of the rest of this country. So TAKE NOTICE, Israel! Your time is coming to be held accountable for your war crimes!

Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.