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.
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.”
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.”
Pro-Palestinian activists in the San Francisco Bay Area are planning to block the Port of Oakland this Saturday to prevent two commercial shipping tankers partially owned by the Israel Corporation from docking and unloading.
Protesters plan to block two Zim Integrated Shipping Ltd. commercial vessels, because 32 percent of the company is owned by Israel Corporation — Israel’s largest holding company, the San Jose Mercury Newsreported.
Organizers of the event include the Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice, which describes itself as an anti-war group that “works actively to promote a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” It says its membership includes trade unionists, labor and social justice activists and retired union members from around the Bay Area.
A Facebook event for “Block the Boat for Gaza” says the demonstration is meant to show activists’ “solidarity with the Palestinian People.”
Protesters will meet at the West Oakland BART station at 5 a.m. Saturday and march to the Port of Oakland at 5:10 a.m. sharp, organizers said.
The hashtag #BlockTheBoat is being used on Twitter to promote the event.
A flier for the event read: The Palestinian people are under attack by the state of Israel, with the support of the U.S. government. Palestinian children are being murdered, their hospitals are being bombed, and Palestinian workers are being fired, beaten, arrested, and killed for striking in response. We call on a broad coalition of Pro-Palestinian labor, human rights, and anti-war organizations to join us for direct actions and pickets against the Israeli Shipping company ZIM!
A similar protest against a Zim ship in 2010 was held by hundreds of Bay Area activists condemning Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, the Mercury News reported.
The police were out in force in the city centre today as hundreds of Gaza protesters clashed with campaigners carrying Israeli flags.
Tactical Aid Units were called in as Palestinian flag and banner bearers tried to boycott city centre shops they claimed are linked to the Israeli campaign against Hamas in Gaza.
Speakers in the Palestinian camp spoke out against the bombing of Gaza, hailed the protest as peaceful and not racist, and appealed to participants not to engage with any objectors.
Even child speakers were handed the loud speaker to appeal for peace.
Police and security guards formed a human guard outside M&S, H&M and Barclays bank, as the protest moved down Market Street, before stopping on King Street outside Kedem – a shop selling Dead Sea beauty products from Israel.
Here, Israeli supporters came face to face with the pro-Palestinan cohort.
Police formed circles around the opposing factions as they shouted chants at each other. The Palestine Solidarity corps called for shop boycotts while the Israel flag-bearers appealed for ‘more shoppers’.
John Nicholson of Longsight and from Palestine Solidarity said: “we are here for the sixth day running to try and close down Kedem, a shop selling Israeli goods. We are here to say stop the bombing of Gaza. We are here to say if the Israelis want peace they should stop the bombs. They are bombing Palestine, women and children. And the US government and our government are doing nothing about it.”
Simon Salisbury, from Whitefield, who was wrapped in an Israeli flag, said: “I am a British born Jew. I was born and live in Manchester.
“I’m supporting Israel and I have come here to demonstrate against these protesters who are basically biased against Israel.”
He said he was also there to support beauty shop Kedem, adding: “it is a British registered company selling products from Israel.they have been protesting here for days and I’m fed up, it’s not fair.”
Two weeks into the campaign, more than 700 Palestinians have been killed, at least 4,000 injured and 150,000 displaced, according to the UN. The Israelis have lost at least 32 soldiers and three civilians.
Activists carried out some actions in solidarity with the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement which targets Israeli apartheid. Ronan Burtenshaw sent us this report from those involved.
As Israel’s massacre in Gaza intensifies, activists carried out BDS actions after yesterday’s Dublin demo.
Here they explain their motivations and encourage others to join the boycott campaign against Israel:
This morning, after massive demonstrations of solidarity around the world with the people of Gaza, including thousands marching through the streets of Dublin, we woke to images of corpses lying in the streets of Shejaiya from Israel’s latest massacre. The media are reporting that at least forty people were killed over night, including many children, and tens of thousands have fled their homes.
Marches are important and it was encouraging to see so many people across the globe taking a stand against the violence Israel is committing – but the latest atrocity happening just hours afterwards shows that marches alone won’t be enough. Israel is an apartheid state, inflicting terror on Palestinians, and needs to be isolated from the international community.
For Palestinians to free themselves from Israel’s violence and achieve self-determination they will need decisive international solidarity. We need to build a mass campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of the kind that helped to overthrow apartheid in South Africa.
Yesterday a number of us took a step in that direction. It was small but that’s how campaigns begin and it’s easy for people angered by what’s happening in Gaza to replicate it.
After the demonstration in Dublin we dropped into two Marks and Spencers, Grafton and Liffey Street. We gathered up all of Israeli products we could find – chopin potatoes, yellow plums, ripen-at-home plums, Bin merlot wine, deri and medjool dates – and filled trolleys. We took these trolleys to the checkout, asked to speak to the shop manager and made formal complaints about Marks and Spencers stocking products from Israel.
The workers were receptive (it’s important to be respectful to them in any action, they don’t decide what gets stocked) and other customers in the shop were made aware that it stocked Israeli goods – but it will take a wave of actions like this to make a chain like M&S change its policies. Other shops like Tesco, Aldi and Lidl also stock Israeli goods, you can find out more about them at this link.
You can also simply sticker Israeli goods as shown below – those stickers were produced by the Cork branch of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Consumer boycott is only one part of BDS – we also need the Irish government to expel the Israeli ambassador and break economic ties, Irish companies like Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH) to divest and to build a comprehensive cultural and academic boycott. Many groups like the IPSC and Gaza Action Ireland organise actions in support of the boycott. Whichever way you can get involved the message is: Palestinians need your help.
Not a euro, not a dime – no more funding Israel’s crimes! Get active in the boycott campaign today!
Andy Moore (Sinn Féin – Republican Youth)
Paddy Moloney (Sinn Féin – Republican Youth)
Ronan Burtenshaw (ICTU Youth member)