August 2014: Pro-Palestinian protesters at the port of Oakland attempt to prevent an Israeli ship from docking. Photo by Justin Benttinen/The Guardian
The unpublicized impact of a successful BDS action
In Homage to the Struggle
By Roqayah Chamseddine, Al Akhbar
September 04, 2014
There is no question as to how immensely successful the Block the Boat protest at the Port of Oakland, led by Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and arranged with the help of countless organizations, was. Unless you are a supporter of Israel or a journalist at the Oakland Tribune. Thousands of protesters, including an estimated 5,000 who marched on the Port of Oakland on August 16, prevented the Zim Piraeus from unloading by keeping workers from crossing their picket line to enter the port for a historic four days, making it “the longest blockade of an Israeli ship” according to AROC.
The Oakland Tribune, Haaretz, and a number of other outlets, reported that the Israeli-owned Zim Piraeus unloaded its cargo after “delays” but after speaking to a number of distributors whose cargo was being transported by Zim Piraeus I found this to be unmistakably false and misleading.
According to a document from PIERS, a database of US international trade which provides maritime logistics, at least 23 companies are clearly listed as having goods aboard Zim Piraeus – ranging from cucumber pickles and sparkling wine to ceramic tiles and solar swimming pool heaters – with some goods originating in Israel. Though building materials and agricultural produce were listed by PIERS it should be noted that Zim Integrated Shipping Services imports ammunition “manufactured by Israel Manufacturing Industries by Federal Cartridge (Federal Premium Ammunition)” which makes defense ammunition used by U.S. law enforcement and has a weapons contract with the Department of Homeland Security. Federal Premium Ammunition is a subsidiary of Alliant Techsystems, which produces Bushmaster autocannons used by U.S. forces and NATO, the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (an air-to-surface missile), Hellfire missile upgrades, and provides other weapons services to the US military and allies. The import report for Zim shows that the ammunitions originated in Israel, at the Port of Haifa and arrived at the Port of Savannah in Georgia.
Zim’s first ship, the Kedmah, was purchased in 1947, before the creation of the State of Israel, and would carry thousand of immigrants to Palestine. In 1948 Zim ships would carry arms and ammunition used to carry out the Nakba, and according to a video published online by Zim Integrated Shipping Services “Zim would play this crucial role every time Israel faced conflict.” Ze’ev Shind, a key Mossad activist who would become managing director of Zim Israel Navigation Co., president of the American-Israel Shipping Co., and Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Communications and Ministry of Defense was the organizers and principal figures organizing immigration to Palestine, according to The Canadian Jewish Chronicle. The role of Zim in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is well documented, even by Zim sources.
Esteson Co., a direct food and beverage importer and distributor in California, posted on their Facebook page that their “garlic is now rotting on its way to Russia to be offloaded unto (sic) another vessel,” and when contacted for comment it was mentioned that a container of Zeos beer never arrived due to the Port action. All in all, Esteson Co. has not received any of their products as of September 3.
Good Stuff Distributors, located in San Francisco, California, told Al-Akhbar English that not only did they not receive their shipment of Zadona cucumber pickles as of September 3 they do not know where the cargo is and are still waiting to hear from Zadona as to where the items are. A spokesperson for Good Stuff Distributors informed Al-Akhbar English that not only were they unaware of Zim’s ties to Israel they have made it clear to Zadona, of Sinokrot Food Company, that they are to “find another vessel” as Good Stuff Distributors will no longer be using Zim.
Alfa Omega Co., which has trading partners in France, Spain and Greece, disclosed to Al-Akhbar English that their business was “greatly affected”, as they did not receive any of their products, including olives. The spokesperson was clearly unhappy, stating that the targeting of Zim by the Block the Boat protesters, specifically, is the reason that they will now look for another vessel to use for their products, despite having worked with Zim “for years”.
The sales and marketing manager at Carmichael International Service, a customs broker and freight forwarder with laminated glass aboard Zim Piraeus, told Al-Akhbar English that customers did not receive their products as of September 3, but it was due to “delays” and “port congestion,” which is undoubtedly a brazen spin on what transpired at the Port of Oakland. When examining the vessel schedule for the Zim Piraeus, dating back to July and after August 20, we find that there are no analogous delays as there was in Oakland as the vessels usually left the same day or a day after, unlike at the Port of Oakland where the “delay” was at least four days long.
Cynara Worldwide Sourcing Inc., located in Fresno, California, said that all products on the Zim Piraeus were not only never unloaded but that they were sent to Shanghai and they wouldn’t receive them until at least the end of the month. As a result of Block the Boat, the spokesperson told Al-Akhbar English that they have put an immediate halt to “everything on Zim” and will now be looking for other vessels they can use.
The most curious case in regards to Block the Boat is that of American Metals and Chemicals, located in Hollywood, Florida. A representative told Al-Akhbar English that they did not receive their shipment of alkyl sulfonic acid, and that the cargo was diverted to Russia. When asked who they were contacted by the representative stated that a letter was delivered from an attorney’s office, though they could not find the letter at the time of the phonecall so as to disclose which office. The letter stated, in part, that their shipment was “turned away because of the strike” at the Port of Oakland. There was also a follow up telephone call from the same office, letting them know that their products were being diverted.
The remaining consignees listed as having cargo delivered to the Port of Oakland by the Zim Piraeus during the Block the Boat campaign were contacted by Al-Akhbar English but did not immediately return calls for comment on the whereabouts of their goods – based on what was revealed by the 6 companies that did supply information it is not difficult to assume that they faced comparable circumstances. Regardless, Block the Boat was not only successful in keeping the Zim Piraeus from unloading the aforementioned cargo but due specifically to this action a number of companies are now either putting a hold on all products using Zim vessels or reconsidering using Zim, which is not only contrary to what the media has reported but an impressive achievement for the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
2010: Pro-Palestinian activists for the second day block an Israeli-owned ship from docking at the Port of Oakland in a protest against Israel’s military action in Gaza. A protest against a Zim ship in 2010 (pictured here) was held by hundreds of Bay Area activists condemning Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. (Facebook/Block the Boat for Gaza)
Roqayah Chamseddine is a Sydney based Lebanese-American journalist and commentator. She tweets @roqchams and writes ‘Letters From the Underground.’