More than 150 men, women and children squeezed into tiny wooden boxes opposite Parliament this morning to put pressure on the Government to help lift the blockade on Gaza.
The protest sought to show the conditions Palestinians were currently living in, and kicked off a national campaign of action by the charity.
Oxfam released a statement saying: “Under the blockade, the entirety of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility.
“This constitutes collective punishment and is illegal under international law.”
It, along with other members of the Disasters and Emergency Committee, is delivering urgent humanitarian aid to the area after weeks of conflict in the region, with rocket fire and air strikes destroying towns and killing more than 1,000 people.
Oxfam said now more than ever the seven-year blockade should be lifted, with a huge reconstruction effort needed.
The demonstration in Parliament Square this morning is part of a challenge to the UK government to clarify what it is doing to bring an end to the blockade and work towards a lasting peace.
Indirect talks are currently going on between representatives of Hamas and Israel in Egypt at ending the current conflict, as a five-day new ceasefire.
Nishant Pandey, head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, said: “The international community will be guilty of a dereliction of duty if it stands by and watches the blockade continue to impose further misery on Palestinians in Gaza.
“Israel does have legitimate security concerns, but punishing everyone in Gaza will not achieve lasting peace and security for either Palestinians or Israelis.
“Enough is enough – the blockade must be lifted now.”
The Port of Oakland, California is one of the busiest shipping ports in the United States. On 16 August, it will also be a flashpoint of the growing global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
A diverse coalition of groups is coming together to shut down the port and prevent the offloading of an Israeli vessel scheduled to dock Saturday morning. They are targeting Israel’s largest cargo shipping company, Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd.
They join several other West Coast port cities including Seattle, Vancouver and Long Beach in organizing port shutdowns. If all actions are successful, the US and Canadian West Coast will be effectively locked out to Israeli commercial shipping.
On 30 July, the Palestinian trade union movement called on Palestine solidarity activists to work with US labor rights activists to oppose Israel’s onslaught in Gaza.
As of 11 August, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports that 2,008 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since Israel’s attacks began on 7 July. The Bethlehem-based International Middle East Media Center has published the list of names of those killed.
More than 8,100 Palestinians have been injured, and 386,000 internally displaced. The damage to buildings, homes, schools and infrastructure is, thus far, estimated at $6 billion, not accounting for the decimation of people’s jobs and livelihoods in Gaza.
The direct action at the port is a direct response to the Palestinian trade union movement’s call and Israel’s current assault on Gaza. But Bay Area organizers emphasize that this is just one part of a coordinated escalation of efforts to mobilize for Palestine.
“We really want to take the conversation beyond the massacre in Gaza, and to the whole Zionist project in Israel and what it is being imposed on Palestinians because we know this is cyclical,” Reem Assil, an organizer with the Bay Area’s Arab Resource and Organizing Center, told The Electronic Intifada.
“It’s not just about the military offensive in Gaza. That sparked an international outrage, but we know this is nothing new. The ceasefire is still up in the air, and we want to make sure to use this point in our history to make sure this never happens again. Part of doing that is to isolate Israel,” she said.
Since the Palestinian trade unions released their letter, organizers have been working closely with the members of the local chapter of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union, ILWU-10, to build and create a sustainable coalition.
“This is the kick-off of what we hope to be many. We hope this is the beginning of a continued coordinated strategy of working with local rank and file and educating union members,” Assil said.
A shutdown of the port scheduled several weeks back was postponed in order to build more solid ground support, seen as a critical part of an action of this magnitude.
“Symbolically, the port shutdown is a way to build solidarity with civil society and trade unions all over the world,” Assil said.
According to Assil, ILWU-10 members have been coming to meetings, flyering the port and helping to mobilize their rank and file members. “We hope the workers will be on the picket line with us on the day of [the action],” she added.
On 6 August, the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee declared its full support for the picket, writing:
“The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee calls on transport workers the world over to refuse to work Israeli cargo on ships, rails, planes or trucks on August 16. If we can stop the Israeli capitalists’ profits, even for a day, we send a message to the racist Zionist regime that we will not oil their bloody war machine.”
Furthermore, the workers’ vision doesn’t stop with Oakland: “It needs to be a whole West Coast strategy; it can’t be just one port but needs to be coordinated on the West Coast,” they stated.
Over the next week, Long Beach, Seattle and Vancouver all have upcoming actions planned at their respective ports. Activists with Labor for Palestine, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, New York City Against War and Al-Awda: Palestine Right to Return Coalition are planning to demonstrate in New York at the Israeli consulate in solidarity with the Oakland port shutdown.
Assil told The Electronic Intifada that Zim offloads at the Oakland port every Saturday, carrying goods that are made on confiscated Palestinian land — both in settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and within present-day Israel.
Activists will meet at 5am at the West Oakland BART (the Bay Area’s subway) station, from where organizers are providing shuttles to the port’s entry.
The strategy for Saturday involves picketing and peacefully blocking several entrances to the Port of Oakland. If an arbitrator — an arbiter from the Port Authority, which is not affiliated with the workers’ unions — determines that the presence of a significantly-sized picket line raises concerns of safety for the union workers, ILWU must cancel workers’ shifts with full pay.
Organizers are hoping to attract around 5,000 protesters to the port on Saturday. The number of participants is key — without the robust presence of a large number of people, it is difficult to be seen as sufficiently disruptive to call off work.
ILWU-10 are currently in negotiations for a new contract, but that has not affected union members from working with the Arab Resource and Organizing Committee and other organizing groups.
This is not the first time activists have attempted to shut down the Oakland port to an Israeli vessel. In summer of 2010, in response to Israel’s lethal attack on the Mavi Marmara — the Turkish-led humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza, in which ten activists were killed by Israeli navy commandos — Bay Area activists successfully prevented the Zim line from unloading.
It was the first time in US history that activists had stopped an Israeli cargo ship from unloading. The action was seen as a significant victory for US labor and Palestinian solidarity activists and their Palestinian counterparts, who issued a warm response of appreciation that was read to the crowd of participants. Activists had been marching for nearly twelve hours to make sure the ship was not allowed to complete its business at the port.
In addition to respecting the picket line in 2010, members of ILWU had issued a resolution denouncing the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, supporting union protests of Israel’s repression of Palestinians and demanding an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza and US military aid to Israel.
In a testament to the success of that action, representatives of the Israeli consulate and the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs requested to meet with ILWU to urge the workers to withdraw their solidarity with Palestine. However, heeding the calls of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, ILWU rejected the group’s request.
The ILWU has a long history of leveraging their union power to support global human rights struggles. In 1984, for example, they refused to unload cargo from apartheid South Africa.
International calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions have grown louder and more urgent amidst Israel’s brutal assault on the Gaza Strip and its refusal to grant basic demands put forth by Palestinian civil society: to give Gaza access to their own borders and to the outside world through land and sea.
Under Israel’s ongoing siege, Gaza’s fishermen are prevented from sailing more than three nautical miles off the coast, and, even then, risk being arrested or subjected to lethal fire by Israeli naval forces.
It is fitting, activists say, for Israel’s largest cargo shipping company to meet a firmly-locked door at US ports.
Joan Rivers has said she has no sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, declaring they ‘deserve to be dead’.
The 81-year-old comedian launched a furious rant outside a Los Angeles airport, saying that the Palestinians who do not leave their homes are ‘idiots’ and that ‘at least the ones that were killed were the ones with very low IQs’.
Rivers, the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, later released a statement where she claimed her words were taken out of context, but that she stood behind what she had said.
Rivers’ rant came when a photographer asked for her opinion on the conflict on the Gaza strip as she was leaving LAX airport on Wednesday.
The TV presenter first compared Gaza’s rocket attacks to going to Madonna’s house to ‘throw paint bottles’ and the civilian casualties to the victims of Hiroshima.
She then said the thought the nearly 2,000 Palestinian who have died on the Gaza strip since Israel launched military operations in the area a month ago ‘deserved it’.
‘When you declare war, you declare war,’ Rivers said.
‘They started it. We now don’t count who’s dead. You’re dead. You deserve to be dead. You started it. You started it. Don’t you dare make me feel sad about that.’
She then further attacked the Palestinian people for voting for Hamas in democratic elections.
‘You can’t get rid of Hamas, You have to say you do not recognise them, they are terrorists.
‘They were re-elected by a lot of stupid people who don’t even own a pencil.’
When questioned further about the civilian victims, she added: ‘You were told to get out, you don’t get out, then you know you’re an idiot, and at least the ones that were killed were the ones with very low IQs.’
After the video began circulating online, Rivers released a statement on her Facebook page, in which she made it clear she stood behind her words, but that they had been taken out of context.
‘I am both saddened and disappointed that my statement about the tragedy of civilian casualties was totally taken out of context,’ she said.
‘What I said and stand behind is, war is hell and unfortunately civilians are victims of political conflicts.
‘Along with every other sane person in this world, I am praying for peace. ‘
As of Thursday, 1,888 people, including 446 children, have died and 9,804 injured in Gaza in the past month, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
The United Nations has estimated that at least 70 per cent of the dead were civilians.
Israel has reported 64 military casualties, and three civilian.
This morning, Israeli military resumed strikes on targets ‘across Gaza’ in response to rocket fire from the territory that was aimed at Israel.
The new round of fighting came after a three-day truce expired on Friday morning and Israel-Hamas talks that have been underway in Cairo on a new border deal for blockaded Gaza hit a deadlock.
After the end of the temporary, 72-hour cease-fire, Gaza militants fired at least 17 rockets at Israel.
Gaza’s police say that Israel then resumed tank fire on northern Gaza and launched an airstrike that hit a farm south of Gaza City.
Over 40 people staged a die-in while many others held large signs reading ‘Canada: STOP supporting Israeli war crimes’, ‘Canada: STOP arming Israel’ and ‘End Israeli Apartheid’. The message was loud and clear as people gathered together to stage this non-violent action to hold the Canadian government accountable and demand that Canada not remain silent in the face of Israeli state terrorism.
Join thousands of people in Toronto in raising our collective voices to demand an END TO OCCUPATION and an END TO SIEGE OF GAZA.
The Clarksfield community turned out in force this weekend to urge people to boycott Tesco because it stocks Israeli goods.
More than 40 people protested outside Tesco Express on Lees Road — holding banners saying “boycott Tesco” and “free Gaza” as well as waving Palestine flags.
The peaceful, yet powerful, protest ran from 1 to 5pm on both Saturday and yesterday and continued to grow in numbers throughout.
People involved in the demonstration said this was not a political statement but a promotion of human rights — stating that they have grown concerned that Israeli products purchased by the supermarket could help fund weapons to attack Palestine.
Sonny Arstan, a Clarksfield resident said: “This is part of a national protest but we are showing that our community cares about what is happening in Gaza.
“By selling their produce Tesco is helping Israel fund the production of weapons and innocent people are being killed everyday. This has to stop.
“The protest today is to show people that they can make a difference. We’re not here to cause trouble; we just want to alert people to what is going on.”
A Tesco spokesman said: “Like all major UK retailers, we sell some products that are sourced from Israel. We do this in line with the Government position on trade with Israel, and we mark all products clearly with the country of origin, so customers can make informed choices about what to buy.”
A number of residents expressed their concerns about the protest, stating that the mass presence was intimidating.
Rita Taylor said: “I feel for the elderly who rely on this shop and are being intimidated. This can’t carry on.”
Soros Fund Management LLC, the firm that invests the wealth of billionaire George Soros, sold its stake in SodaStream International Ltd.
The investment firm bought $24.3 million of shares of the Israeli maker of home soda machines earlier this year, according to a May 15 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Michael Vachon, a spokesman for the New York-based fund, confirmed it no longer owns the stock while declining to comment on the timing or reason for the sale. SodaStream shares fell 0.7 percent to $33.80 at 11:46 a.m. in New York.
Shares of the Lod, Israel-based company have declined 32 percent this year, the biggest drop on the Bloomberg Israel-US Equity Index, after a lackluster holiday season caused the company to miss 2013 earnings estimates and as deep discounts to move a backlog of soda machines squeeze margins. The stock surged 9.4 percent on July 24 amid reports the company is in talks with an investment firm about a buyout. SodaStream is negotiating a transaction that would value it at about $40 a share, Bloomberg News reported.
The holding of SodaStream shares made up about 0.3 percent of the Soros’s $9.3 billion U.S. stock portfolio at the end of the first quarter, according to the filing.
Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper first reported that the fund had sold SodaStream shares on Aug. 2. Nirit Hurwitz, a spokeswoman for SodaStream, declined via e-mail to comment on shareholder activities.
SodaStream has been criticized by activists for operating a factory in the West Bank, a territory Palestinians seek for an independent state.
Actress Scarlett Johansson, who was enlisted by SodaStream as a spokeswoman earlier this year, publicly split from Oxfam International after the humanitarian group criticized her role within SodaStream because of its plant in a West Bank settlement.
SodaStream’s second-quarter revenue rose to $141.2 million, surpassing the $140.6 million average of 10 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Net income fell to 43 cents per share, beating a mean estimate of 30 cents.
Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s in Whitechapel, East London was forced to shut up shop after protestors from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement blocked the entrance on Saturday.
Protesters demanded Sainsbury’s stop stocking and selling products made by companies with interests in Israel and settlement territory in Palestine. Security guards rolled down the shutters and declared the store closed after demonstrators entered the shop, attempting to put stickers on Israel-derived goods on the shelves.
Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, announced this week that it was to stop sales of its only West Bank-sourced product, dates.
Protesters occupied the entrance to Sainsbury’s, handing leaflets to shoppers urging them to boycott Israeli goods, particularly food grown in illegal settlements on Palestinian land and urging Sainsbury’s to stop profiting from Israeli war crimes.
Protesters have closed down a Sainsbury’s supermarket in Birmingham City Centre as part of a pro-Palestine demonstration.
Calling on the retail giant to remove products sourced from Israel, demonstrators gathered outside the Union Street store this afternoon.
Some protesters lay down on the floor in protest and security staff were seen pulling down shutters to keep others out.
Once closed, demonstrators stuck posters up in support of Gaza along the storefront.
They called for an end to the massacre in Gaza and for Israel to stop bombing the highly populated area.
The 26-day-old offensive, launched in response to rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza into Israel, has now killed more than 1,650 Palestinians – mostly civilians – with more than 8,000 wounded, according to local officials. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians, its highest death toll since the 2006 Lebanon war.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “On the advice of the police we temporarily closed the store. It was re-opened for customers shortly after and trade was not seriously disrupted.”