Editorial | Ship has sailed, but more are on the horizon

For their latest act of mischief, anti-Israel protesters this week tried to prevent an Israeli-operated vessel from unloading at the Port of Oakland.

As our story on page 3a details, in the end, the activists were outsmarted.

It began Aug. 16 when protesters from the Block the Boat Coalition showed up at the port where the Piraeus, operated by Israeli shipping company Zim Integrated Shipping Services, was to dock.

Several hundred people turned out, only to learn the ship was still at sea. It finally docked the next day, met by protesters and a phalanx of law enforcement officers. That scene intimidated dockworkers, who chose not to unload the ship in such a conflict-prone situation.

After four days of stalemate, the Piraeus departed in the afternoon of Aug. 19, cargo intact, seemingly driven off. Protesters went home satisfied they had stuck it to Israel.

Then, before protesters could reassemble their forces, the ship returned to port that same evening. As soon as they could, workers unloaded the “Zionist ship.”

Throughout the protest, organizers trumpeted their belief that International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers at the port had aligned themselves with their cause. Turned out that was not the case. As our story explains, the union does not take political stands of this sort.

The story ended well, but the tactic of impeding the free flow of commerce, though not new, marks an ominous turn in the BDS movement. The group that organized the Oakland blockade is planning similar protests against “Israeli ships” along the West Coast.

Until now, boycott, sanctions and divestment activists in this country have won puny victories: a toothless student resolution here, a church resolution there. Such actions have no practical impact, although their symbolic effect is worrisome.

However, a successful effort to prevent ships associated with Israel from unloading at U.S. ports could have a seriously adverse effect.

The BDS activists either fail to understand or don’t care how their antics impact an economy. Officials say 73,000 Bay Area jobs depend on the free flow of goods out of Oakland’s port. That number balloons to 827,00 nationwide, with millions of jobs at stake around the world.

S.F.-based Consul General of Israel Andy David had it right when he called it “political terrorism.”

One thing is certain: Anti-Israel activists will be back once they get wind of another Zim ship sailing to Oakland. While it is their right to protest, it is also the right, and the duty, of the Jewish community and all who oppose the insidious goals of the BDS movement to speak out forcefully against them.