ILWU President Bob McEllrath
Dear Pres. McEllrath:
Labor for Palestine salutes ILWU Local 10 and its members for refusing to unload the Israeli ship that arrived in Oakland on June 20 (see reports below*).
Their action is in direct response to Israel’s May 31 brutal assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Taking place in international waters under cover of darkness, the Israeli attack targeted 750 unarmed volunteers from 40 countries seeking to relieve the humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s siege of collective punishment against the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.
Because of Israel’s attack on the Flotilla, scores were killed and wounded, while hundreds of survivors were abducted, jailed and deported. This act of piracy is a direct extension of the 2008/2009 Gaza massacre that killed 1400 people, most of them civilians, which has been condemned by the UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations, including those that are Israeli.
Workers in the United States have particularly good reasons to act. In the past ten years alone, the US government — with overwhelming bipartisan support — has given Israel $17 billion in military aid; over the next decade, it will give another $30 billion.
Top US labor officials — often without the knowledge or consent of union members — collaborate with the Histadrut, the segregated Zionist labor federation, and its mouthpiece, the Jewish Labor Committee, that defend every attack on Palestinian rights, including the Flotilla Massacre. These same leaders invest billions from our union pension and retirement funds in State of Israel Bonds.
Noting that “Gaza today has become the test of our universal morality and our common humanity,” the Palestinian trade union movement has specifically called on dockworkers around the world to refuse to handle Israeli cargo. Local 10 now joins with dockworkers in South Africa, western Australia, Sweden and Norway, who have answered this call.
This action stands in the proud tradition of West Coast dock-workers who refused to handle cargo for Nazi Germany (1934) and fascist Italy (1935); those in Denmark and Sweden (1963), the San Francisco Bay Area (1984) and Liverpool (1988), who refused shipping for apartheid South Africa; those in Oakland who refused to load bombs for the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile (1978); and those at all twenty-nine West Coast ports who held a May Day strike against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2008).
Israel deliberately carried out the Gaza Freedom Flotilla Massacre in order to silence opposition to its strangulation of Gaza. But just as the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre and the 1976 Soweto Massacre spelled the ultimate doom of South African apartheid, Israel’s attack has already had the opposite effect.
New waves of volunteers are coming forward to break the siege, which is already beginning to crack. The movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel is spreading. Already, it is clear that the Flotilla martyrs did not die in vain.
And just as labor solidarity played a critical role in toppling South African apartheid, it now has the potential to cripple Israeli apartheid. We urge the entire ILWU and all trade unionists to stand behind and expand on this critical issue of conscience and solidarity, and invite supporters to endorse “Labor for Palestine Condemns Gaza Freedom Flotilla Massacre, Supports Worker Action to Boycott Israel”: http://www.laborforpalestine.net/wp/2010/06/07/gaza-flotilla-massacre/.
On behalf of Labor for Palestine,
Monadel Herzallah, President, Arab American Union Members Council, California
Michael Letwin, Former President, ALAA/UAW L. 2325; NYC Labor Against the War; Al-Awda NY; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network/Labor
Brenda Stokely, Former President, AFSCME DC 1707; NYC Labor Against the War; Co-Chair, Million Worker March Movement
ILWU Secretary-Treasurer William Adams
ILWU Local 10 President Richard Mead
ILWU Local 10 Secretary-Treasurer Farless Dailey
ILWU Local 10 Executive Board member Jack Heyman
Reports on the June 20 Blockade of an Israeli Apartheid Ship in Oakland
Oakland Longshorman’s Union June 20, 2010
Union dock workers refused this morning to cross picket lines to unload an Israeli ship, in support of Palestinians everywhere. If the evening shift does the same, the ship will not be unloaded!
Protesters Picket Israeli Cargo Ship
ILWU members refused to cross picketline – citing “health & safety” provisions of their contract. Management demanded “instant arbitration.” The arbitrator took a look at the picketlines at each gate to the SSA Terminal and ruled that ILWU members were justified in refusing to cross. All dockworkers were sent home with FULL PAY.
Morning Picket Shuts Down Israeli Zim Lin Line at the Port of Oakland, 6/20/10: video
The blockade represents the first time in U.S. history that a protest has stopped an Israeli ship from unloading.
Picket to stop unloading of Israeli ship
ILWU Explains Why they’ve refused to unload Israeli ship
The union workers of the ILWU explain their decision to not unload Israeli goods in the Oakland port, citing past decisions to unload the goods of other countries that violate human rights on a massive scale with U.S tax dollars and heeding the call of Palestinian civil society which has called on the world to apply boycott divestment and sanctions akin to the actions that brought down apartheid south Africa until Israel ends it’s brutal military occupation of the Palestinian people, ends the siege on gaza, and grants equal rights and respects the human rights of all people living under Israeli jurisdiction.
Israeli Ship Blockaded at Port of Oakland!
Protesters Block Israeli Ship from Unloading at Oakland Port
“We want to send a clear message that if you commit acts of piracy on the high sea; if you go and attack civilians and kill them in cold blood, execution-style; if you put Gaza under siege; if you build an apartheid wall; we will not honor your Israeli commerce right here in this town.”
Demonstrators Prevent Unloading of Israeli Ship
OAKLAND, Calif. (KCBS) — Hundreds of protesters gathered before dawn at the Port of Oakland to prevent dock workers from unloading a cargo ship from Israel on Sunday.
Tom Vee’s Photos – California Says ‘NO’ to Israeli Cargo Ship
Hundreds in Oakland protest Gaza blockade
Hundreds of demonstrators, gathering at the Port of Oakland before dawn, prevented the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship. The demonstrators, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, picketed at Berth 58.
Message from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)
Your action today is a milestone in international solidarity from honest and brave U.S. workers and trade unionists.
Daybreak outpouring of Bay Area picketers stops unloading of Israeli ship
For veteran Bay Area activists, today’s victory echoed a historic milestone in 1984, when ILWU workers in San Francisco refused to unload a ship called the Nedlloyd Kimberley, because its cargo came from South Africa. Just 10 years later, Nelson Mandela was elected president, and apartheid – in its South African form – was dead.