This weekend, activists will attempt to block the unloading of a container ship in Oakland, California. Here's what's going on, and what's behind it.
What is Block The Boat?Block the Boat is a political campaign of nonviolent direct action against the state of Israel that bills itself as similar to the anti-apartheid movement against white South Africa — one of the first major boycotts of which also happened at the Oakland port back in 1984. By throwing sand in the gears of the Israeli economy, Block the Boat seek to change Israeli policy towards Gaza and the West Bank.
Which company is being targeted?Zim Shipping, the largest shipper in Israel and the 10th-largest shipping company worldwide. The company was outright controlled by the Israeli government for many years, and though it was privatized in 2004, the Israeli state still owns a large "golden share" in the company and regards it as a national security asset. The golden share allows Israel certain rights over the company, such as a veto power over the transfer of 35 percent or more of Zim shares, and the ability to draft Zim ships into military service.
Zim has been in some trouble since the 2008 financial crisis, which caused a glut in world shipping capacity due to ships ordered before the downturn. It had to undertake an enormous debt restructuring earlier this year, and has not been able to secure membership in any of the East-West alliances that have been constructed by major shippers in an attempt to deal with the excess capacity.
What is the objective?This weekend, protesters will attempt to block the unloading of a Zim container ship in Oakland. Through the use of public tracking data and investigative work, they have determined which berth the ship will be using, and set up a picket line there — though workers who so wish will be allowed through. According to movement organizers, they have a good relationship with the local branch of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, so they think few workers will break the picket, at least at first. (Sympathy strikes are illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act, so the union leadership can't do anything official.)
What do the protesters want?Broadly speaking, justice for Palestinians. Since 1967, Israel has occupied Palestinian lands in the West Bank and Gaza. In line with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, they want an end to occupation, the restoration of human rights to all Arabs and Palestinians under Israeli control, and the right of return.
They also have more specific demands with respect to Gaza,http://theweek.com/article/index/270569/how-block-the-boat-is-fighting-the-israeli-government-mdash-in-california?