Following apartheid Israel’s massacre in the besieged Gaza strip last month, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and all other notable Palestinian trade unions have urged fellow workers around the world to refuse to handle Israeli goods and build Israeli weapons.
Dock workers in Livorno and South Africa took heed of this call last month when they refused to offload cargo from a ship owned by the Israeli company ‘ZIM’, the eleventh largest shipping company in the world. These actions are part of the the international ‘#blocktheboat’ campaign which is led by the Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), a campaign which has received over 60 endorsements from labour unions, faith, and community organizations. AROC is part of the broader movement to press for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel and seeks to use pickets and solidarity with dock workers’ unions to prevent Israeli owned ships from unloading at ports throughout the world.
AROC began the #blocktheboat campaign in Summer 2014 after Israel murdered 550 Gazan children in ‘Operation Protective Edge’. In 2014, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) refused to offload ZIM’s cargo in solidarity with AROC in Oakland, California. ILWU dockers and AROC picketers have also worked together again this week in Oakland to prevent a ZIM vessel from unloading there, the first time that the company has attempted this since 2014.
ZIM has now been unable to dock for 10 days in Oakland due to the solidarity between ILWU workers and AROC picketers. Earlier today, AROC tweeted: ‘It’s officially after 8AM in Oakland, but no longshore workers have crossed our picket! The apartheid-profiteering ZIM ship remains fully loaded, cranes remain idle. Every minute we keep cargo from being unloaded, ZIM loses money!’.
As local ILWU worker Jimmy Salamy has said, ‘an injury to one is an injury to all. Just as ILWU local 10 workers refused to unload cargo from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, we honored community pickets asking us not to unload cargo from Israeli ZIM vessels in 2014. Just this month, dockworkers in Durban, South Africa and Italy have also refused to unload Israeli ZIM vessels. Rank and file members of ILWU local 10 stand against Israeli apartheid and with our brothers and sisters in Palestine.‘
AROC is trying to build on this momentum by calling for a worldwide week of action from the 2nd – 9th of June to ensure cities around the world #blocktheboat by organizing community pickets to prevent ZIM ships from being worked and unloaded globally. In the US alone, AROC has organised actions in Tacoma, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Vancouver.
Alec Smith, is a member of the YCL West Yorkshire branch