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Why we are blocking the boat

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Why we are blocking the boat.

Because it’s time to disrupt Israeli business as usual.  It has been time since 1948.  And the summer of 2014 only served us a reminder to the world that the Palestinian struggle for liberation is calling on us to join them in their fight to end colonialism.

During the summer of 2014 thousands of Palestinians lost their lives, hundreds of thousands were displaced, and entire neighborhoods flattened to rubble. The physical destruction compounded with the environmental and psychological impact of the Israeli assault on Palestine is now etched in the story of the Palestinian struggle for liberation. People all over the world flooded the streets in protest, demanding an end to the siege on Gaza, an end to the colonial occupation of Palestine, and the freedom of all our political prisoners and the right of return of all of us Palestinians refugees.  People in Palestine heard our chants, they felt the rumble of our marches.  But Israel continued its assault.  What forced Israel to stop their bombings was indeed the resilience and resistance of Palestinians. So this leaves us to wonder what exactly is our role as activists, allies and Palestinians in diaspora?  Beyond massive demonstrations, many of us know that we must economically, politically and culturally weaken the state of Israel. And we see Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as the way to do just that—de-normalize Zionism and end apartheid once and for all.

In July and August 2014, the San Francisco Bay Area saw some of the largest local demonstrations for Palestine. We raised our anti-Zionist and anti-colonial slogans and together and raised the bar on Bay Area solidarity with Palestine.  And with Block the Boat, we raised the bar on BDS.


By Blocking the Boat we are disrupting business as usual at ports throughout North America and we are putting BDS into action. Direct action.  By stopping Zim we are disrupting international commerce and an asset to Israel’s national security.  We are not only choosing to refrain from buying an Israeli product, or engaging with an Israeli institution, we are choosing to take action to stop Israel in its tracks.  And we are doing so in struggle with workers, with Black and Brown communities, and with all those impacted by the role of Israel in global repression. The Block the Boat campaign is not only an escalation of BDS tactics; it is bringing BDS into the streets and into our communities.

After successfully blocking the Zim ship in August 2014, activists blocked the ship again and had it turned away in September. And now, on October 25, 2014, the last scheduled Zim ship is to arrive at the Port of Oakland. Alongside the wave of actions at ports throughout North America, we are confronting Israel at the Port of Oakland.

We are making an impact. We have learned from the freedom fighters that ended apartheid in South Africa.  We are committed to the values of worker solidarity and the legacy of ILWU who have always waged struggles for justice from the memories of Bloody Thursday to their solidarity with the anti apartheid movement in South Africa in 1984. We are inspired by the resistance to state violence by our brothers and sisters from Ferguson to Oakland. And from the ports of Long Beach, Tampa, New York, New Orleans, Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma and Oakland, we are holding the US government accountable for its role in making Israel possible. And together, we are building a movement for self-determination.

Block the Boat march in Oakland. (Photo: Bob Ristelhueber)

Block the Boat march in Oakland. (Photo: Bob Ristelhueber)

While we create a rupture in the system, those interested in power and profit are hard at work figuring out a way to stop us. As the Israeli consulate labels the ILWU workers “cowards” for honoring a community picket, threatening ILWU workers, working with the Department of Homeland Security to harass activists and workers, the Zionist organizations call on their allies in the Oakland Police Department to criminalize those standing in solidarity with Palestine at the Port of Oakland. The sides are clear. There is that of the state of Israel, the US and the police state and then there are communities of color, poor and working people. And despite the balance of powers, despite political repression, our movements are thriving through the streets of Ferguson and the Ports throughout North America. And we will continue to confront every institution and decision maker that chooses to profit off of our oppression. After all, our lives are at stake and the will of our peoples have proven boundless.

Update: The ship is delayed and the action is now planned for Sunday —

Lara Kiswani

Lara Kiswani is the Executive Director of the AROC: the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. Kiswani is a Palestinian born and raised in the Bay Area. She has been active in organizing around war and militarism, Arab feminisms, Palestine and immigrant rights.

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17 Responses

  1. seafoid on October 24, 2014, 1:47 am


    When activism comes to the States the bots have obviously lost their hasbara mojo.
    It’s just a matter of time now.

    They don’t have the mass of people behind them. They are just a well organized minority.
    They need darkness to function. خلص

    It’s the Wizard of (amos) Oz, it’s the march of folly, it’s a change in the wind, it’s the waters of March

    É pau é pedra
    É o fim do caminho
    É um resto de toco
    É um pouco sozinho…

    É madeira de vento
    Tombo da ribanceira
    É um mistério profundo
    É o queira ou não queira…

    It is wood, it is stone
    It is the end of the way
    It is the rest of a bole
    It is a bit in loneliness

    It is madeira de vento
    The fall of the bluff
    It is a profound mystery
    It is the “want it or not want it”

  2. just on October 24, 2014, 9:49 am

    خلص, indeed.

    “It’s the Wizard of (amos) Oz, it’s the march of folly, it’s a change in the wind, it’s the waters of March”

    You are amazing seafoid!

    Thank you Lara Kiswani, and all of the devoted activists of the campaign to end the injustice!

    • seafoid on October 24, 2014, 11:09 am

      Elis Regina died aged 36, Just.
      What a loss.

      Watching that video and the smiles between the 2 – Israel could be like that too, if they dropped the trauma . But they’d have to break the vested interests first.

      • just on October 24, 2014, 11:22 am

        The voice of an angel. RIP.

        The smiles and joy between the two of them are really very special.

      • bintbiba on October 24, 2014, 2:33 pm

        Really lovely… even delicious.I would say . Thank you for that ,seafoid.

  3. Abu Malia on October 24, 2014, 11:42 am

    Khalaas? Be careful you two. Here you’re talking about the paladins of western civilization and the paragons of morality – tikun-ers of the Olam itself. Why, they even own the “most moral” army in the multiverse.

    Zionisms reminds me of the “village fool who stole his neighbor’s drum sets”. He has the drums under his bed, just can’t quite enjoy it.

    • seafoid on October 24, 2014, 12:25 pm

      Khalaas and that sound people in the Levant make with their teeth to go with it.
      Zionism needs too many evenings.

    • seafoid on October 24, 2014, 1:45 pm

      Paragons of morality lost their way some time ago. Now they have lost control of the debate in the US. They can buy congress but they have little leverage over the ordinary people. the number of activists in the States is amazing.

      Throw in that vote in the UK and something is changing. Long way still to go but

      “Begun the end has”

  4. Mooser on October 24, 2014, 2:22 pm

    “As the Israeli consulate labels the ILWU workers “cowards” for honoring a community picket,”

    While simultaneously castigating the protestors for making the dockworkers lose pay!

  5. Palikari on October 25, 2014, 4:50 am

    Why don’t they block boats from other countries that really do violate human rights? Why are they singling out Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East?

    Hypocrisy and double standards.

  6. Michael Rabb on October 25, 2014, 4:52 pm

    Hey ! I’m in Oakland for Answer Coalition’s Block the Boat. If someone asks why we are blocking the boat I’ll hold up my sign that says, “Did you hear about Gaza? Jews killed thousands.” Michael Rabb

  7. CitizenC on October 26, 2014, 9:08 pm

    Jeff Blankfort makes these remarks on the Oakland actions on his FB page.

    ZIM NOW SCHEDULED FOR 10:10 am TUES. OCT. 28. That’s three days late and must be costing Zim some money. Clearly the changes in schedule are designed to put off potential picketers. The rally at the port tomorrow is not what concerns them –no more than a picket of the Israeli consulate, but the pickets who block the gates through which the dockworkers must pass to unload the ship and the dockworkers who honor the picket line and refuse to unload the Zim containers are becoming, I am sure, a major concern for the Israeli government..

    The two successful picket actions that have taken place thus far, Aug. 17-19 and Sept. 27 were carried out by the Stop Zim Action Com. and the Transport Workers Solidarity Com.not by Block the Boat. From what I gather, if and when the Zim ship does arrive they will be back on the job.

    I don’t believe BtB, judging on its actions in August and this time around, fully understands the significance of keeping Zim ships from doing business in the Bay Area and elsewhere (and this is not, apparently, a problem limited to BtB in the Bay Area) and that, like virtually every other outfit that emerges on the scene, it has become overly concerned with organization building and outreach which leads to placing a greater emphasis on holding large rallies with maximum publicity within a minimum circle than focusing, with less fanfare, on actually accomplishing something substantial such as preventing Zim ships from unloading their cargo. Those involved with Stop Zim Action and the Transport Workers Solidarity Com. are long time activists, some within or close to the radical sector of the labor movement, who are not out to build their organizations or claim credit for stopping Zim, which BtB has done and, no doubt, will claim at its rally today, but to do what needed and, in the case of Zim, could be done

    The same thing seems to be happening in the NY area. A BtB rally was held at the Israeli consulate Saturday, which is not on the waterfront obviously but on 2nd Ave in Manhattan near the UN.

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