[News] Zionist Organization of America head calls for arrest of Block the Boat protesters
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 10 12:45:08 EDT 2014
Zionist Organization of America head calls for arrest of Block the
Submitted by Charlotte Silver on Wed, 10/08/2014
Activists preventing the unloading of Israeli cargo ships at the Oakland
Port in protest of violations of Palestinian rights have drawn the ire
of Israel advocacy groups.
Last week, Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of
a letter to the chief of the Oakland Police Department, Sean Whent,
chastizing his department for failing to "intervene and ensure that the
Zim ship could unload its cargo."
"Anti-Semitic protesters have been blocking vessels owned by Zim
Integrated Shipping Ltd., an Israel-based shipping company, from docking
at the Port of Oakland, and preventing dockworkers from unloading the
cargo," Klein complains in his letter. "This problem occurred for
several days in August and it occurred again last week."
Klein's letter, excerpts of which were printed in /The Jerusalem Post/
seizes on a dockworkers union's characterization of the protesters as
and questions why the police did not do more to squelch the demonstration.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union stated
after the last protest on 27 September that "Longshoremen and Clerks
trying to report to work were threatened physically at some points of
ingress and their personal vehicles were physically blocked."
The Zionist Organization of America's Klein writes:
"Why didn't the police intervene and ensure that international commerce
could proceed unimpeded? Why didn't the police arrest the protesters,
who may well have violated the law by physically threatening
dockworkers, physically blocking personal vehicles, and preventing the
ship from docking and unloading as authorized?"
Klein's public relations manager declined to give The Electronic
Intifada the full letter because he did not want his client to be
"conveyed in any negative context."
In August, another Israel advocacy group, the Jewish Community Relations
(JCRC), issued a press statement
the port protests as an "overt expression of extremism" that "unjustly
singles out" Israel.
A public records request <http://records.oaklandnet.com/request/5568> to
the City of Oakland reveals that the port managers met with leaders of
the JCRC on 31 July in preparation for the protests scheduled for August.
between Myrna David, JCRC East Bay Regional Director, and city
councilmember Dan Kalb indicate the latter was invited but declined to
attend the meeting.
Following the meeting, David wrote to Kalb, "We got the impression OPD
[Oakland Police Department] is expected on the scene and should be well
Rabbi Doug Kahn, executive director of the JCRC, was included on the
email thread. Kahn is a leading anti-Palestinian voice
the Bay Area and vocal opponent
of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS
The JCRC and Kahn have a long history of organizing against and stifling
Palestine support work in the Bay Area, as has been documented
previously by The Electronic Intifada
In 2006, the JCRC characterized a proposed mural at San Francisco State
University, designed to honor the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/edward-said>, as "threatening" to
Jewish students on campus. The group helped pressure the university
administration to censor the imagery in the mural.
Using a similar charge, in 2007, the JCRC worked with the
Anti-Defamation League to pressure the San Francisco Arts Commission to
compel artists working on a local mural to eliminate Palestinian symbols
And in 2011, the JCRC played a central role in pressuring the Museum of
Children's Art (MOCHA) in Oakland to cancel an exhibition of drawings
done by Palestinian children from Gaza which Kahn said could
"potentially create an unsafe atmosphere for Jewish children."
The JCRC did not respond to The Electronic Intifada's request for comment.
Seeking the intervention of the police and local government leaders,
port representatives have expressed concern that the site has become a
regular target for political protests since the Occupy movement emerged
in late 2011.
On 8 August
president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association wrote
to a handful of state leaders, including Governor Jerry Brown and the
Oakland mayor, that:
"The Port has become a focal point for demonstrators as an outgrowth of
two prior shutdowns of the Port due to the Occupy Movement. The Port of
Oakland was the only port in the United States in which operations were
halted due to the Occupy demonstrations. Given that well publicized
success, the Port of Oakland is now a constant target of those who want
to amplify their voice regarding their opinions of any number of issues."
Robert Bernardo, spokesperson for the Port of Oakland, told The
Electronic Intifada that he was not aware of any ongoing conversations
with community groups such as the JCRC, but emphasized that the port is
"working closely with law enforcement and our business partners to
ensure flow of commerce continues even in the case of a peaceful protest."
"We at the Port of Oakland support free speech, but our main priority is
to keep goods flowing," Bernardo said.
When asked to describe how they would "ensure" that, Bernardo conceded
that it was not possible to predict or go into the details.
Activists in California prevented two vessels belonging to Israel's
largest shipping company
unloading any of its cargo at the Oakland port for two weekends in the
last two months, and the Block the Boat Coalition
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/block-boat> is planning another
protest for 25 October.
The coalition which planned August's protest that brought out thousands
of demonstrators to the port and prevented the ship's unloading for four
they hope to build a broad base of support for the actions by
strengthening ties between the workers and Palestine solidarity groups.
"The Zim Line reflects the huge flow of capital from Israel into the Bay
Area and it is an opportunity for building a relationship between
workers and Palestine solidarity activists," Lara Kiswani, executive
director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, said in August.
And despite the language used by the International Longshore and
Warehouse Union in their 27 September statement, Block the Boat
organizers have stressed
their outreach to dock workers and organized labor for the protest later
Contrary to some media reports as well as a statement issued by the ILWU
the repeat of the picket line last month was not organized by the same
Block the Boat coalition which plannd the August action. A new group
calling itself the "Stop Zim Action Committee" called for the picket
line, and successfully convinced workers to abstain from working the Zim
Line on the morning of 27 September.
ILWU has a long history of refusing to load ships from countries
engaging in gross violations of human rights. In the 1930s, West Coast
dockworkers refused to load and offload ships belonging to Italy after
they invaded Ethiopia, and Japan after it invaded Manchuria.
In 1978 and 1980, ILWU refused to load military cargo headed for Chile
and El Salvador, respectively. And in 1984, the union refused to unload
a South African ship for eleven consecutive days.
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