Why block the boat? Resistance from Ferguson to Palestine to the Philippines

Katrina Pestaño (with bullhorn) at the Port of Tacoma Saturday morning during a protest action to delay the unloading of cargo from an Israeli shipping company. (Photo by Derek Dizon)
Katrina Pestaño (with bullhorn) at the Port of Tacoma Saturday morning during a protest action to delay the unloading of cargo from an Israeli shipping company. (Photo by Derek Dizon)

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.

Friday night the Zim boat was delayed from coming to port in Tacoma, costing the company approximately $500,000. Blocking the boat puts a dent in the profits being sent to power Israel.

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.

(Photo by Derek Dizon)
(Photo by Derek Dizon)

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.”

(Photo by Derek Dizon)
(Photo by Derek Dizon)

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.netThere’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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  1. This is not an article. This is a piece of propaganda written by a person tied to what’s happening. This website went from being a voice for all people, to a mouthpiece for its propagandist views. Several people were interviewed here, not one of which is from the other side of the story. This is just one anti-Israel comment after another. Shame on you for publishing this.

  2. There is no explanation here for why there is a blockade. All Israelis left Gaza in 2005. Israelis are not allowed in to Gaza at the price of death. 1.5 million Arab Israelis live in Israel with the right to vote, serve in government, education, health care. You call that Apartheid? Check the definition of Apartheid, and read your history books on what happened in South Africa. Israel did not implement the blockade right away. Not until boats were used as a means of smuggling in arms to the Gaza Strip. 807 rockets have been fired at Israeli homes in the last week; where do you think they got them from? Smuggled in. Is Israel smuggling in arms to the US on their boat? No? Ok, so then you are choosing to just be anti-Israel, and it stops at that.

  3. Comparing the colonial history of the Philippines to Israel? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but the writer of this article and the people interviewed fancy themselves entitled to their own facts. There has always been a Jewish presence in Israel, which can’t be said of the Spanish going to the Philippines. There was no land that ever was run by the present-day Palestinians. It was British land, and before that it was Turkish. The land was called Palestine based on the ancient people that Goliath came from due to their strength; that civilization is no longer around. The State of Israel was formed in 1948. The whole Middle East was cut into pieces of land, and the area now called Gaza was offered to be a country as well, but the people there and in the West Bank rejected it, making them become territories. There are several dozens of years of history here totally ignored for a sensationalist story.

  4. Learn what Apartheid is and then I’ll take anything this says seriously.

    This online rag is a haven for hatred toward Israel.

    Hamas has in their very charter that they want to destroy Israel and kill every Jew, and yet this article glorifies people holding signs claiming “Israeli hatred” and ignoring the people in Israel who have had rockets shot at their homes for 14 years, and tunnels dug under their homes, and suicide bombers at their cafes?

  5. While I am a strong opponent of the Israeli government’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza, is it too much to ask that the author presents a perspective from the other side? The article reads like a press release from the Palestinian Authority.

    If The Seattle Globalist wishes to be taken seriously, perhaps it should feature articles from writers who have the professionalism to present the nuances of a difficult subject.

  6. Maybe the staff at the Globalist and the authors of this story who can’t take the time to educate themselves on both sides of this matter should read this article and learn what its like to be Jewish victims of hate crimes right at home in the US:


    Articles like this on the Globalist only serve terrorist apologists and advocate for more hate. Do you think its a new thing to be Anti-semitic (come on now, do you really believe Israel is worse than the actual genocides happening in multiple states all around it right now? No? Then you’re anti-semitic, plain and simple)? It’s not new, or edgy, or against the grain. It’s the oldest long-standing hatred in world history, and you are staunch advocates, from looking at your wealth of one-sided stories from the last few weeks.

  7. I was first suggested to read this publication by a friend who was excited about the idea of a grassroots website “representing Seattle to the world”. But it seems this website is only interested in the world as they see it. My brother’s home getting a mortar shot at it two weeks ago in Israel and nieces and nephews terrorized daily is a-ok in your books. My friend’s family who was killed by a suicide bomber at a cafe several years ago: you want to celebrate that too? How do you think those weapons got into the terrorists’ hands? By sea, on a boat. The children of Gaza already live in a terrorized environment, and Hamas wishes they had their hands on even more weapons. Americans are so high on their horses, taking a supposed moral high ground on an issue they know nothing about. This website disgusts me. Did you pay to receive this hateful content?

  8. You lost me on this one. I have reached out for months following you and supporting the articles you have printed ever since the Great Typhoon, but I’m saddened to say that your comments here have separated us and our support of your website. You obviously have ties with those who want to annihilate the hands that feed you. Without those whom you are insisting a evil, your cultural beliefs will eat yourselves from the inside out like a parasite that cannot exist without your blood. Enjoy your self destructing lives while you exist, because soon you will not.

  9. i appreciate this article and its authors for connecting transnational issues of violence to each other so that we can understand larger systems of oppression and work toward change.

  10. Agree with the comments here. The authors need to think long and hard about the filth they’ve just published.

  11. Don’t equate being anti-Israeli Occupation/war crimes, with being anti-Jewish or anti-semitic. One commenter said Globalist readers know nothing about the history of Israel and Palestine and the conflict there. That is incorrect. Maybe Globalist readers aren’t surprised by the vitriol and attempts at intimidation in the Comments section here, but like me, many probably were. It’s apparently what this news source suffers from the Israeli community in Seattle when covering regional protest activities.

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