[News] Zionist Organization of America head calls for arrest of Block the Boat protesters

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 10 12:45:08 EDT 2014

  Zionist Organization of America head calls for arrest of Block the
  Boat protesters

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 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/zionist-organization-america>, wrote 
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."

    JCRC intervention

In August, another Israel advocacy group, the Jewish Community Relations 
(JCRC), issued a press statement 
<https://jcrc.org/uploads/JCRC_Block_the_Boat_Statement.pdf> condemning 
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 
<http://forward.com/articles/203519/-back-israel-at-san-francisco-rally/> in 
the Bay Area and vocal opponent 
of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/bds>) movement.

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 
from it.

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.

    Port shutdowns

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 
<http://documents.scribd.com.s3.amazonaws.com/docs/5fxvlbnutc41macj.pdf>, the 
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.

    Undeterred protests

Activists in California prevented two vessels belonging to Israel's 
largest shipping company 
<http://documents.scribd.com.s3.amazonaws.com/docs/5fxvlbnutc41macj.pdf> from 
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 
consecutive days 
<http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/charlotte-silver/israeli-ship-blocked-unloading-oakland-four-straight-days> say 
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 
this month.

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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863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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