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An Israeli cargo ship arriving in Oakland today was forced to sit idle and not offload its containers when longshoremen joined forces with a coalition of communist and Islamist groups who picketed the port in protest against the recent violent incident off the coast of Gaza.

The ship, owned by Zim Lines, was not carrying any controversial cargo, nor is Zim involved in politics in any way; it was targeted simply because the shipping company is based in Israel.

The planned protest and blockade were organized by The Free Palestine Movement (one of the same groups which organized the Gaza “flotilla” in the first place) as well as a rogues’ gallery of nearly every communist, anti-Israel and radical Islamist group in the Bay Area:

Oakland, CA: Join the Labor and Community Picket of an Israeli Zim Lines Ship

Sunday, June 20, 5:30am
Port of Oakland,Berth 57, Middle Harbor Rd.
Protest Israel’s Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla!
Boycott Israeli Ships and Goods!
Lift the Blockade NOW – Let Gaza Live!
Bring Down Israel’s Apartheid Wall!
We call on everyone who stands for justice and against occupation and apartheid to join the June 20 picket at the Port of Oakland. This is a moment of great opportunity. In San Francisco in 1984, a picket line and refusal to unload cargo of a ship carrying South African cargo was a key event in mobilizing the anti-apartheid movement worldwide.

Sponsored by: Labor / Community Committee in Solidarity with the People of Palestine:
Arab American Union Members Council, ANSWER- Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, Palestine Youth Network, US Palestine Community Network, Al Awda- Right to Return Coalition, Arab Youth Organization, MECA-Middle East Children’s Alliance, Students for Justice in Palestine, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, International Solidarity Movement, San Jose Peace and Justice Center, International Socialist Organization, Peace and Freedom Party – SF, Transport Workers Solidarity Committee and many labor activists in the Bay Area

However, you wouldn’t know any of this if you had just read the mainstream media’s reportage. For example, the San Francisco Chronicle described the protesters as “peace and labor groups”:

“Our view is that the state of Israel can not engage in acts of piracy and kill people on the high seas and still think their cargo can go anywhere in the world,” said Richard Becker, an organizer with ANSWER, one of many peace and labor groups involved in Sunday’s action.

From the list of sponsors above, I don’t see too many “peace” groups, but instead radical Islamic and Arab organizations dedicated to the extirpation of Israel, and some far-left political groups, a couple of which use the word “Peace” in their names as an Orwellian euphemism for “destroy the capitalist system.”

Here’s a video taken at this morning’s protest:

DailyKos also has breathlessly excited updates about today’s action. A follow-up second protest is happening as I write, at 4:30pm on Sunday.


The protesters carried Turkish and Palestinian flags. Peace!

Another false narrative found in the mainstream coverage of today’s incident is the implication that the longshoremen were taken by surprise when they showed up for work this morning but out of principle refused to cross a “picket line.” Again, according to the Chronicle,

The demonstrators want to block the unloading of the Zim ship for a full day. After convincing the day shift of longshoreman to honor the picket line, the demonstrators dispersed around 10 a.m.

First of all, it seems from the online listings announcing the event that labor union groups were among those who organized the protest in the first place, so the longshoremen most likely knew about it ahead of time and had already agreed to blockade the Israeli ship.

Secondly, the phrase “picket line” is being somewhat abused here. Picket lines are traditionally defined as “a common tactic used by trade unions during strikes, who will try to prevent dissident members of the union, members of other unions and ununionised workers from working.” In other words, picketing is supposed to be done by employees, ex-employees, or union members against a business engaging in what they claim are unfair labor practices. But if a group of non-workers and non-union members show up to demonstrate against something they don’t like on purely political grounds, that’s not really a “picket line,” but rather just a “protest.”

The seemingly inconsequential distinction between a “picket line” and a “protest” is significant in this instance, because union members are expected to “not cross a picket line,” but there are no similar enjoinders against “crossing a protest.” If all unionized workers are prohibited from crossing anything self-defined as a “picket line,” then all it would take is three people with homemade signs to shut down any business or corporation by standing out front and declaring themselves to be an uncrossable “picket line,” even though their protest has nothing to do with labor practices or union-busting.

But by using the phrase “picket line,” and ensuring that the media repeats the phrase, it gives cover and plausible deniability to the longshoremen’s union to join in and effectively implement the blockade, without overtly taking credit. “We have nothing against Israel,” they could claim, “but we simply could never cross a ‘picket line’!”

Uh-huh. Right.

Even though the evidence is already overwhelming and continues to grow every day that the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” was actually a planned jihad attack, the anti-Israel forces are doubling down and hoping that this grotesquely misrepresented incident will be the spark which finally causes the West to turn on Israel and actively work toward its destruction.

This morning’s protest was co-organized by Paul Larudee (paste this URL into a browser window: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/06/20/18651338.php — incoming links to Indybay are disabled), one of the very people who was on the Gaza flotilla itself, and who was given a hero’s welcome upon his return to the Bay Area from a short stint in an Israeli jail. But again, you’re not supposed to know that.

Today’s blockade of the Port of Oakland by anti-Israel forces, in collaboration with the Longshoremen’s Union (ILWU), is the opening of another front in the war on Israel — economic, politcal, propagandistic, and military — which escalates week by week. Will it ever end? Not according to the masterminds of the flotilla:

Meanwhile, Yasser Kashlak, a Syrian businessman of Palestinian descent who heads the “Free Palestine Organization” and is funding this boat, as well as another that is to carry journalists and parliamentarians, said over the weekend on Hizbullah’s al-Manar television station that he was more and more optimistic that one day these same boats would take “Europe’s refuse [the Jews] that came to my homeland back to their homelands.

“Gilad Schalit should go back to Paris and those murderers go back to Poland, and after that we will chase them until the ends of the earth to bring them to justice for their acts of slaughter from Deir Yassin until today.” Kashlak, a fervent Hizbullah supporter, called Israel a “rabid dog sent to the region to frighten the Arabs. He said he had a message for Israelis: ‘Get on the ships we are sending you and go back to your lands. Don’t let the moderate Arab leaders delude you, [you] cannot make peace with us. Our children will return to Palestine, you have no reason for coexistence. Even if our leaders will sign a peace agreement, we will not sign.’”

Clear enough for you?

UPDATE:

Keep in mind that the Port of Oakland is not some minor, backwater city-owned port: it is in fact the fourth busiest container port in the country and a major linchpin in the economy of California and the West, serving as the gateway for much of the materials coming from Asia into the United States. A threat to the proper functioning of the Port of Oakland can effect the economy nationwide. It’s not a good sign that fringe groups can dictate which countries get to ship goods into the US. What if someone protested at the port against China‘s human rights record? Would the longshoremen stop unloading Chinese ships and bring most West Coast imports to a halt? Obviously not. Pragmatism dictates that you can bully a small trading partner, but not a big one.

UPDATE II:

The protesters’ plan all along was to protest at the port prior to the arrival of the Zim Lines ship, to ensure that the shift of longshoremen who would be on duty when it did arrive would have already agreed not to do their jobs. But as reported in Israel National News and Gateway Pundit, the Israeli ship arrived several hours later than scheduled, and as things turned out, it was so late that it would not have been unloaded until Monday morning anyway. So the protesters ended up most likely having little or no effect on its actual timetable. Instead, an unrelated Chinese ship at the same berth had its unloading delayed, because the same longshoremen who didn’t cross the “picket line” could not work on it either.

It’s not known if the Zim ship’s late arrival was accidental or if it purposely idled a few hours off the coast to avoid a confrontation at the docks.

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