Opposition to Gaza Blockade Comes to Oakland
Reminding us that “in 1984, a picket line and refusal to unload cargo of a ship carrying South African cargo was a key event in mobilizing the anti-apartheid movement worldwide,” more than 500 activists (with some estimates of 1,000) blocked the unloading of an Israeli flagged ship yesterday in Oakland harbor.
Answering a call from the Palestinian Trade Union Movement for “dockworkers’ unions worldwide to block Israeli maritime trade in response to Israel’s massacre of humanitarian relief workers and activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla, until Israel complies with international law and ends its illegal blockade of Gaza,” California activists picketed the berth of the Israeli ship.
Henry Norr reported at Mondoweiss:
Waving Palestinian and Turkish flags and chanting “Free, free Palestine – don’t cross the picket line” and “An injury to one is an injury to all – the Israeli apartheid wall will fall,” the demonstrators blocked three gates to the berth for more than four hours. The turnout was all the more impressive because the BART, the Bay Area subway system, doesn’t even start running until around 8 a.m. on Sunday, and even after people got to the assembly point in West Oakland, we had to walk more than a mile to get to the berth.
As workers refused to cross their picket line, an arbitrator was called in to decide whether work would go on or not – and citing possible safety concerns, the unloading of the ZIM was halted for the morning shifts and then again for the afternoon shifts. This allowed the activists to block the unloading for 24 hours – their goal – and deliver the message that Israel will face growing difficulties internationally – including in the US – if it does not end its blockade.
These events coincided with another round of press hoopla over news that the Israeli cabinet had approved some form of “easing” of the Gaza blockade. While Tony Blair was touting this as a step forward, the reality seemed weak at best. The major change is a shift from Israel maintaining a small list of approximately 119 items allowed into Gaza – a list that was never published – to maintaining a list of items to be refuse entry. There is no word on how many items will be on that list, what the actual criteria will be nor when that list will be made available.
And of course none of this addresses the core problem of the blockade itself which has been declared illegal by the International Red Cross and Israel is still blocking access even to international officials:
On Saturday, Israel barred Germany’s Development Aid Minister Dirk Niebel from visiting Gaza to inspect a German-funded water-purification plant. German officials called the decision a “grave mistake,” according to the Israeli news site Ynet.
While German ministers cannot visit Gaza, the White House “hailed Israel’s easing of its land blockade of Gaza” and announced a date for Netanyahu’s delayed visit, July 6.