Thousands of protesters successfully blocked a commercial Israeli cargo vessel from docking and unloading goods in Oakland, California, late Saturday. The protest was staged in response to a call from Palestinian and South African unions to hold Israel accountable for what they allege are violations of Palestinians’ human rights — particularly during Israel’s latest offensive in the Gaza Strip, an operation that killed more than 1,900 Palestinians.
Saturday’s event, which drew between 3,000 to 5,000 protesters, was part of a series of actions planned by U.S. and Canadian activists across North America’s west coast.
“Palestine is calling us to action! Palestinian laborers [and the] Palestinian General Federation Trade Union have called on workers around the world to refuse to handle Israeli goods,” said a leaflet calling for the actions, collectively called “Block the Boat.”
Similar protests will take place in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, on Wednesday, and later in Vancouver.
The actions are part of a campaign launched by members of Palestinian civil society in 2005 for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands and to adhere to international law in its treatment of the Palestinian people. It is modeled after similar tactics that international activists used in the 1980s to pressure South Africa's former apartheid regime to accept majority rule.