Protesters slightly delay Israeli ship docking in Oakland

A protest at the Port of Oakland slightly delayed the unloading of an Israeli ship that came into port June 20.

Hundreds of protesters condemning Israel’s recent interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla picketed at the port the day an Israeli Zim Lines ship was expected to arrive at the dock. Demonstrators arrived at 5:30 a.m. with the goal of delaying the Israeli ship for 24 hours.

Pickets gather at the Port of Oakland on June 20, hoping to disrupt the unloading of an Israeli ship. photo/ap/oakland tribune/d. ross cameron

Protesters expected the ship to arrive in the morning, but it didn’t actually dock until 6 p.m.; crowds stayed all day until 10 p.m., said Marilyn Sandifur, spokesperson for the Port of Oakland.

The Israeli ship was supposed to be unloaded the evening of June 20, but instead was unloaded the following morning, June 21.

The protest also delayed by 24 hours the unloading of a Chinese ship. Workers scheduled to unload the ship that morning were advised not to by their union, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10. When conditions were deemed unsafe, longshoremen agreed not to cross the picket line.

“In 2003, there was an incident where a bunch of longshoremen were shot trying to get through a picket line at that very terminal, so we stood by on safety,” said Richard Mead, president of the Local 10.

In that situation, an anti-war demonstration at the port turned violent when protesters at the gates of two shipping lines refused to move, and Oakland police opened fire with wooden dowels, concussion grenades and tear gas. At least a dozen demonstrators and nine longshoremen who were standing nearby were injured, according to 2003 news reports.

Israeli Consul General Akiva Tor said he spoke to the Local 10 the morning of the June 20 protest. “They were very clear that they were not participating in the strike against an Israeli ship, but that a situation was created where they were not able to work safely.”

In contrast, Swedish dockworkers this week began a boycott of Israeli ships in protest of Israel’s interception last month of the Gaza-bound flotilla in which nine activists were killed. Eleven Swedish citizens were aboard the flotilla.

The boycott, which began at midnight June 22 and is scheduled to last for one week, covers all of Sweden’s ports. Israel ships fruit, vegetables, spices and skin care products to Sweden. Swedish-Israeli trade accounts for about .2 percent of Sweden’s total imports and exports.

The Oakland incident had some unitended consequences, Sandifur explained.

“Besides unloading imported cargo from a vessel, the Port of Oakland is a premier export seaport,” Sandifur said. “That means that U.S. exports are loaded onto container ships at Oakland for overseas consumers. Therefore, the delay of the China shipping vessel impacted U.S. exports headed to Asia.”

After being unloaded, the Chinese ship departed for international destinations June 21 and the Israeli ship departed June 22.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.