Palestinian Unionists Hail Oakland Action
Mass Picket Blocks Israeli Cargo!
On Sunday, 20 June a mass labor picket totaling 700-800 workers and activists successfully prevented the Israeli Zim Lines ship Zim Shenzhen from docking for 24 hours in the Port of Oakland, California. The labor/community picket against the Israeli-owned national shipping line blocked four entrances to Berth 58, where the Zim Shenzhen was scheduled to dock. A union/employer contract area arbitrator called out by the Pacific Maritime Association to investigate the situation declared a “health and safety” hazard for the morning shift of dock workers of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, who had refused to enter the pier.
The Oakland picket marked the first time an Israeli vessel was blocked in a U.S. port, and it was the first international blockade against an Israeli vessel since the attack on the Marvi Marmara. It follows in the example of dockworkers from the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) who refused to load an Israeli vessel in the Port of Durban in February 2009. Port workers in Norway are set to “hot cargo” Israeli shipping for two days beginning on 23 June, while Swedish maritime unions have announced plans to take similar action from 23 to 29 June.
This mass picket in a major American port, which sends a powerful message of international solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian masses, is an expression of outrage over the murderous assault on the Gaza aid flotilla in late May. The recent action recalls a similar event in March 1986, when 150 trade unionists, leftists and community activists picketed Pier 80 in San Francisco for 24 hours and successfully prevented the unloading of apartheid cargo from South Africa aboard the Nedlloyd Kembla. Bay Area supporters of the Bolshevik Tendency (today the IBT) helped initiate and organize the blockade (for a report of the event, see 1917 No. 2).
The March 1986 blockade had been inspired by the 11-day boycott of South African goods aboard the Nedlloyd Kimberley in November-December 1984 initiated by IBT supporter and longshore militant Howard Keylor. That “illegal” action, which involved some 300 longshoremen of ILWU Local 10, helped reignite the anti-apartheid movement in the U.S. (For a detailed account of the action, see Bulletin of the External Tendency of the iSt No.4.) In reporting on the mass picket of the Zim Shenzhen, a local television station (KTVU) recalled the 1984 boycott and even included footage of that action.
The Oakland blockade points to the importance of trade-union action to defend the Palestinians from their Zionist oppressors. It also demonstrates the power of exemplary labor solidarity action. The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) sent a message to Bay Area militants which included the following stirring passage:
“Dear brothers and sisters, trade unionists, workers, and people of the San Francisco Bay Area, we remember and salute your historic and massive action on the docks in 1984, when you acted to boycott the apartheid regime in South Africa.
“We look to you today from the Gaza Strip and all of Palestine, and call upon you to repeat that courageous stand today. This genuine solidarity is something we have longed for and expected.”
Such solidarity actions against the Israeli apartheid system weaken the Zionist rulers, embolden the oppressed and provide a glimpse of the capacity of the international working class to open the road to a future of material security and social equality for all.
Defend the Palestinians!
Swedish & Norwegian Dock Strikes Against Israeli Ships Show the Way!
For a Socialist Federation of the Middle East!
Posted: 22 June 2010