At 6:30 a.m. bright and early on Saturday morning we joined hundreds in solidarity with Palestine in a community picket to stop the Zim Chicago ship from unloading its cargo at the Port of Tacoma.
This action came in the wake of a recent victory, when 2,500 Oakland activists blocked another Zim ship for four days with help from the ILWU longshore men.
“This is actually a call that came from Palestine Civil Society to boycott Israeli companies that are funding the Israeli occupation and war crimes in Gaza and Palestine,” said Amin Odeh from Voices for Palestine.
Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. is the biggest cargo shipping company in Israel, and 10th largest in the world with total revenue of $3.7 billion in 2013.
After three weeks of heavy shelling and bombing in Gaza by Israeli forces, people around the world can no longer stay quiet and complacent. More than 5000 homes were destroyed, and the death toll has reached over 2,000 Palestinians, including 450 children killed and almost 10,000 wounded. UNICEF estimates that 373,000 Palestinian children have had direct traumatic experiences from the attack and will require psycho-social support.
Although this recent situation has finally garnered widespread international attention, Palestine has long been suffering at the hands of the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Forces — the fourth most advanced military in the world.
The siege on Gaza has kept two million residents from access to clean water, food, medicine and much more. In between attacks, Israel continues to destroy homes to make way for new settlements in the West Bank and imprison and assassinate people who are resisting and calling to attention the Israeli apartheid.
For the Filipino activist community witnessing this, familiar feelings arise. Having survived a long history of anti-colonial struggle, we see ourselves reflected in the resistance of the Palestinian people. BAYAN Philippine Chair Carol P. Araullo compares the Israeli apartheid to that of Tacloban after Super Typhoon Haiyan — both are man-made, apocalyptic disasters.
Anakbayan Seattle Solidarity Officer and BAYAN PNW Co-Coordinator Nicole Ramirez sees the news this summer as a harrowing reminder of why she and other grassroots community organizers do what they do.
“In Seattle, we are hundreds of miles away from Ferguson, thousands of miles away from Gaza, and oceans away from our very own Philippines, where nine months since Typhoon Haiyan, survivors of the typhoon are still not receiving adequate relief,” said Ramirez. “Despite the distance and the sadness that comes from hearing the news, what I know to do is to continue organizing our communities locally, doing our part to expose the policies and practices of the U.S. government and its military that perpetuates state violence in this country and all over the globe.”
BAYAN is participating in the Block the Boat NW actions because we see this as a way to confront Israel and bring attention to their war crimes. We want to make it known that as Filipinos we also face state-sanctioned violence and human rights abuses supported by the U.S. government. U.S. imperialism continues to play a crucial role in suppressing people’s movements, from Ferguson to Palestine to the Philippines.
“For me the apartheid and the state of Israel for me has meant a loss of home,” alma khasawnih reflected as we marched in the picket line. alma is a PHD student at the University of Washington (and a Seattle Globalist founding member), whose family took refuge in neighboring Jordan when the Israeli occupation began in 1948. “I’m a granddaughter and a daughter of Palestinians who had everything taken from them. I’ve been barred from going to where my mother’s home was or where the orange groves were or where my grandfather’s radio station was.”
So what can we do?
The U.S. government upholds and maintains Israeli apartheid, contributing the majority of monetary support to Israel’s military — $3.1 billion in 2014 alone. This funding should be going towards much needed social services such as health care and education. We also see U.S. corporations powering Israel’s economy — from the California tech industry, to McDonald’s, to Boeing.
Since 2005, the Boycotts Divestment and Sanctions strategy (BDS for short) has been gaining momentum. This is a form of resistance by which people try to to cut off the funds that power the Palestine occupation and siege of Gaza. There has been an escalation in Boycott and Divestment, especially within the last year, and now we are intensifying our resistance by essentially creating a people’s sanction here in the U.S.
Actions like Block the Boat, which was modeled after anti-apartheid actions by the South African dock workers that spread across the west coast — are putting dents in the dollars funding Israel’s unconscionable actions in Gaza.
Though the Zim ship in Tacoma was eventually able to be unloaded at a different terminal with the assistance of police, Odeh says they will keep up the pickets and blockades, and are preparing for a Block the Boat action Monday night in Seattle.
“We hope that this will be a lesson to US companies and other foreign companies working with Israeli occupation that this is not going to be tolerated by people here in the U.S. We are going to be boycotting them, divesting, and we’re going to continue to do this until the occupation ends.”
“I am happy that people are out.” said khasawnih, “Being here makes me feel that I am not alone. That all people of different paths of life are also into this. They understand and there is a movement.”
For more information visit www.blocktheboatnw.wordpress.com and www.bdsmovement.net. There’s another Block the Boat action in Seattle, tonight (Monday 8/25) at 4PM, meeting at the Spokane St Bridge Fishing Dock.
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