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California protesters block Israeli-owned ship from docking

From Al Jazeera News (source link):  Officials say a group of pro-Palestinian protesters are again blocking an Israeli-owned ship from unloading its cargo at a port in California.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) spokesman Craig Merrileessaid dockworkers at the Port of Oakland did not unload cargo from the ZIM Shanghai on Saturday because of safety concerns raised by the presence of police and protesters.

He said the protesters blocked workers from driving into the terminal during their morning and evening shifts. An ILWU statement later said the workers “were threatened physically” by the demonstrators.

The action was organized by Block the Boat, a loose Oakland-based coalition of grass-roots organizations. The protesters are demonstrating in response to recent Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.

Last month, protesters blocked cargo from unloading off the ZIM Piraeus for nearly five days before the ship apparently departed to Los Angeles.

The consul general for Israel in San Francisco, Andy David, told the San Francisco Chronicle in August that Israeli shareholders only own 32 percent of the company.

“Mostly they are not hurting Israel,” David is quoting as saying, “they are hurting the local business community.”

Block the Boat organizers allege that Zim has a history of supporting Israel’s occupation of Palestinians.

“From its founding in 1945 by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Histradut, Zim has served Israeli settler-colonialism, bringing settlers to Palestine and serving as Israel’s only maritime connection during the 1948 war, supplying ‘food, freight, and military equipment’ used of course to carry out the Nakba. The worldwide commerce conducted by Zim today funds the occupation of Palestine with revenue generated on every continent,” a statement issued last month by the activist group read.

The Nakba, or catastrophe, is how Palestinians refer to the events that led to the founding of Israel in 1948, when attacks by armed groups led to the displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinian civilians.

An email message from The Associated Press to a ZIM representative was not returned.

ILWU, a labor union that represents the longshoremen who unload Zim ships at the targeted ports, has a long history of supporting human rights causes. In 1984, workers refused to unload shipment from an apartheid-era South African vessel.

And in 2010, workers cooperated with a similar action by refusing to unload a Zimcargo ship. That action was in response to Israel’s deadly 2010 attack on the MaviMarmara, a Turkish-led flotilla that attempted to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, which has struggled with an Israeli-imposed economic blockade.

This time, however, the ILWU said in a statement that it was “not among the groups organizing the protests, and the leadership and membership of the ILWU have taken no position on the Israel/Gaza conflict.”

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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