The (ongoing) unpublicized impact of a successful BDS action

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (

Al-Akhbar Management

If Israel’s largest shipping firm Zim Integrated Shipping Services, self-described as being “one of the largest, leading carriers in the global container shipping industry,” thought troubles were over for them and their cargo, they soon figured out how wrong they were. Last month Al-Akhbar English reported on the steadfast Palestine solidarity activists of Block the Boat, who prevented the Israeli-owned Zim Piraeus from unloading its cargo. The investigative report highlighted the necessary work of the Block the Boat Coalition, whose members were spurred into action by shock over Israel’s latest crimes against the people of Palestine and the ongoing occupation, as well as the call by the Palestinian General Federation Trade Union (PGFTU), which asked for workers around the world to refuse to handle Israeli goods. The report detailed the results of the pickets, including the severe toll that the protests had on Zim and companies that shipped with them.

For four days, from August 16th to August 19th, protests organized by the Block The Boat Coalition and autonomous activists made history at the port of Oakland by preventing the Zim Piraeus from unloading most of its cargo. Kumars Salehi, a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, attended the historic four day action during which activists were told by a dockworker that “every twelve hours [they] delayed the Piraeus cost the company $50,000.” The myth of the unscathed Israeli shipping line was quickly dispelled.

Motivated by the success of the Block The Boat Coalition and others in August, a group calling itself the Stop Zim Action Committee began organizing to picket the arrival of the Zim Shanghai, a container ship registered in Hong Kong, on Saturday, September 27th. On that Saturday morning, there was an announcement made in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) dispatch hall which was meant to inspire workers to refuse jobs on the Zim Shanghai. Due in part to this announcement, it was reported that all but one longshoremen refused to take a job on the Zim ship, showing that rank and file were overwhelmingly on the side of the protesters. Statements made by ILWU Local 10 member Clarence Thomas at a recent panel discussion in Oakland indicate that the months of outreach to ILWU Local 10 rank-and-file by Block The Boat coalition participants were instrumental in motivating the longshoremen to stand down. Independent journalist Charlotte Silver, writing for The Electronic Intifada, notes that “the ILWU Local 10 has been out of contract since July, which means workers will notget paid if they do not work a shift, regardless whether there is a picket line or a health and safety concern.” One of the protesters, @violentfanon, who wishes to only be identified by his twitter username for privacy concerns, discussed the importance of the ILWU response with Al-Akhbar English, stating that “it wasn't that the workers refused to cross the picket line for health and safety reasons, as they usually claim, they didn't even take the dispatch tickets.”

Dispatch logs from San Francisco Bar Pilots, who are responsible for navigating the Zim Shanghai through the Bay and docking at the port, were provided to Al-Akhbar English and show that planned movements of the Zim Shanghai changed repeatedly, likely to interfere with the protest organizing. @violentfanon discussed what happened with Al-Akhbar English:

"The arrival time and destination of the ship were changed multiple times in an attempt to foil protestors, but these attempts were unsuccessful. The protesters had multiple ways of tracking the ship, including with inside information from sympathetic port employees, valuable relationships cultivated through months of outreach by participants in the Block The Boat coalition."

Supporters of Israel are reluctantly taking notice of a pattern of response by activists to Zim shipping, whose imports include ammunition and who is tied to the production of white phosphorous, used by Israel against the people of Gaza in the war of 2008-2009. A recent J-Weekly editorial goes as far as to say about BDS that “this is a pattern that must be stopped,” calling it “sheer madness.” A letter to Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent about Block The Boat authored by the Zionist Organization of America protested what they called “a serious and recurring problem in Oakland,” which the Oakland police department “should be addressing.” Such reactions show just how absolutely terrified Israel’s supporters are of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, especially in light of its back-to-back gains – from Block the Boat and the passage of university resolutions to the American Studies Association voting to endorse the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. BDS has gone from being dismissed as an unexceptional paper tiger to being characterized as a well-organized and particularly dangerous movement that ‘must be stopped.’

Block the Boat Coalition activists who organized the successful pickets of the Zim Piraeus are planning another action on October 25th to picket the Zim Beijing cargo ship, with hopes to draw in close to a thousand protesters in a strong showing similar to August.

Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), had this to say:

"As we build for October 25th, we are in coordination with Block the Boat organizers holding solidarity actions in Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles, Tampa, New Orleans, and New York. Collectively we see this as a long term campaign to disrupt Israel's flow of capital throughout North America. Our strategy is make it as inconvenient as possible for any port to do business with Zim and encourage the workers to help facilitate that process. And by centralizing the leadership of those most impacted by Israeli Apartheid, the Block the Boat Coalition is building a multi-racial, cross-sector grassroots movement advancing worker community solidarity and putting BDS into action."

According to @violentfanon, Zim has already removed all Zim ship arrivals from their online schedule at Oakland and LA ports following October 25th, done shortly after the announcement was made about the date for the October 25 action. “These protests in Oakland are demonstrating to Israel that, at a minimum, they will pay the price of economic isolation for their repeated violations of international law and human rights. A strong showing on October 25th could mean an end to all Zim arrivals at the Port of Oakland.

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Sydney based Lebanese-American journalist and commentator. She tweets @roqchams and writes 'Letters From the Underground.'


Barry would have supported south Africas apartheid and would have called Africans resistance in SA savages. He is the type who thinks they are so subtly racist that no one will know. Barry is a capitalist pig who cares about profit over people. Guess what CareBarry, the ILWU workers didn't cross the picket line. BDS is winning and you and your racist trash proIsrael gangs are losing :) this is why you keep coming to AAE and commenting because you cannot stand it.

First of all, thanks for being so obsessed with my once in a while postings that you write about me before I even comment! You rock!
In a similar vein, claiming that this action will hurt the Israeli economy is like saying that having a stuffy nose will stop an NFL player from suiting up on Sunday. Other anti Zim protests have fizzled. Only the Oakland guys are refusing, so good job obstructionists! Instead of building the Palestinian economy, you seek to wreck the Israeli economy. I am sure that their next sattelite launch will be canceled now!
PS- The stuff being offloaded in Oakland includes a lot of hardware and software used in the computer in your mom's basement that you are typing on right now. So make sure that Zim can offload in LA or somewhere nearby so you can get your new iPhone!

Probably some people said the same thing when south African police were beating and shooting black demonstrators off the street and treating them like second class citizens in their own land. Probably some people said, who cares about principal...those people were on the wrong side of history. There are times in ones life when a moral position must be taken..and taken without consideration of the cost, that is, taken because it is the right thing to do. Israel has excellent PR in the US and is very good at silencing dissent. They think they can erase the memories of the 501 children they murdered in gaza, and the 200+ they killed in the 2008 invasion from peoples consciousness. They think they can erase the fact of their complete arrogance and dismissal of human rights law, of morality, of proportionality, of decency. They think they can thumb their noses to the international community because the US political system is in their back pocket, thanks to the reach of their lobbyists; they think they can bully, intimidate and silence Jews who are appalled by what is being done supposedly in their name, brave people of conscience who are standing up to the runaway train of zionism that is making israel a pariah nation throughout the globe, a country that does not stand for good values but rather, allows racism and violence to flourish, a county where protestors are beaten off the streets by the fascist thugs that zionism has created. Of course its supporters sneer at BDS, of course they decry it, of course they scream and wail. Of course they alledge it is an irrelevance. Zionism has its head stuck up its own a*s, it sees only what it wants to see. It refuses to see what decent people throughout the world can see. For that reason BDS will be a painful journey of self discovery for people who forever live in denial of their immorality and criminality, people who think it is some fad that will pass. This is only going to get worse and worse for Israel, the more they refuse to join the civilised world and respect international law and basic morality, they more the knott will be twisted and money will be turned off, drip by drip. Israel has isolated from the world, eventually it will be isolated economically and politically until it is bereft of any friend, or anybody who gives the remotest sh*t about it.

So far, all this BDS nonsense has had only a very limited effect, mainly limited to the port of Oakland. There was a big call to BDS the ZIM Chicago in Vancouver on the 7th, but that came and went VERY QUIETLY, as the ship docked and did it's business without interruption. Similarly, in Tampa, Seattle and other places, the ZIM ships seem to be operating unhindered. The word was out in Tacoma for protesters to remove the batteries from their cell phones because of the Homeland Security anti-Terror surveillance. The sum result of all this nonsense is that Oakland will no longer be receiving business from ZIM until further notice. That's 150 ship visits a year going elsewhere. Jobs, money, it's all a loss for Oakland.

Meanwhile guess who transports export products for the West Bank and Gaza? ZIM shiplines. So if you succeed in delaying a ship in hopes of spoiling some perishables it's Palestinian Arabs who will pay a price too.

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