Longshoremen at the Port of Oakland have reportedly unloaded the Zim Piraeus, an Israeli vessel that radical activists had attempted to block for several days. The ship docked and unloaded Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, apparently after fooling anti-Israel demonstrators from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement into thinking they had actually succeeded in driving the boat away from Oakland.
“Angry protesters were helpless to stop the work; the ship had left port earlier this week and sailed towards the direction of Los Angeles but then made a U-turn and returned to the same harbor,” reported Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu of The Jewish Press. “Longshoremen were pulled off task from other ships in the middle of the night to unload the ZIM vessel.”
On social media, anti-Israel activists resorted to comforting each other:
— Carlos Morais (@CarlosMorais007) August 20, 2014
An early article by J.E. Dyer, a retired Naval Intelligence officer, documented the failure of the San Francisco area BDS movement against Israel. He noted that the Zim Piraeus, which is owned by Zim America Integrated Shipping Lines–the chief Israeli shipping company–is owned by Costamare, Inc., a Greek-headquartered fleet. Dyer noted the ship hardly carries any cargo from Israel, and probably has few if any Israelis on board.
Dyer recalls the first time Zim was targeted, in 2010, when protesters tried to block its unloading. The ship delayed its arrival and later unloaded successfully. Trying to emulate 2010, Zim waited until Sunday afternoon, after the first protest was over, but the protesters had waited and convinced the longshoremen’s local, International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU) 10, to eschew breaking through protesters’ lines.
Dyer adds that the customers of Zim America, who are waiting for their cargo, could have sued, and they would not be alone: Zim America could sue the port operator, which is SSA Marine. Because SSA Marine and the longshoremen are still negotiating their contract, neither side wants to get involved with the BDS actions.
Although the ILWU does usually align with radicals and other unions, the Oakland port only accounts for 9% of West Coast tonnage. So if Oakland had blocked the unloading, the cargo of the Zim Piraeus would simply have saiedl to southern California, leaving Oakland high and dry. If BDS had succeeded in blocking West Coast ports, all the freight-moving contractors would have gone elsewhere, and thousands of jobs will be lost.
It’s not in the union’s interest to see the Oakland situation develop into a standoff in which SSA Marine has to consider bringing in picket-line crossers. The “picket line” in question isn’t a labor picket line. And the ILWU is no longer affiliated with the AFL-CIO, so it lacks that political backing; if politicians got involved with this as a political-economic issue for their constituents, the commitment of even Bay-area stalwarts like Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown to “Palestinian” radicalism would fail the test.
Dyer also noted activists apparently lied to inflate their efforts: “Perennial BDSer Paul Larudee, co-founder of the Free Palestine Movement, managed as usual to convey false information about what was going on.”