Thursday, September 11, 2014

Block the Boat Vancouver

For fifty days between July 7 and August 26, 2014, Israel viciously bombarded the Gaza Strip. This was the third time Israel launched a massive military attack on Gaza in four years. By the time the peace treaty was arrived at (since broken four times by Israel and yet to be commented on in the mainstream media) at least 2,131 Palestinians were killed in this massacre; 80% of casualties were civilians, including 501 children. Entire neighbourhoods were intentionally annihilated.

108,000 people have been left homeless as a result of thousands of destroyed homes, including the deliberate downing of high-rise apartment buildings. Schools, hospitals, news-gathering agencies, UN facilities and places of worship were all purposefully targeted and bombed. 1, 500 children have been orphaned. Not surprisingly, the psychological toll on children who have witnessed such unfathomable atrocities is huge. The UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affaires estimates that 373,000 children require specialized psychosocial support. 

People in Vancouver, like indeed in cities around the world, protested these war crimes in large numbers. People of conscience were moved to action in face of the brutality, and demanded both that Israel stop the savage attacks and that our own governments cease enabling the assaults by providing, military, financial and diplomatic support for the Israeli aggression. 

While the full-scale bombardment of Gaza may have now ended, the siege and blockade of Gaza remains intact. Nearly half a million people remain displaced and the medical and psychological healing is long-term; if not life-long. Moreover, the violence of the ongoing occupation in the West Bank continues with Israeli troops kidnapping children from their homes and unchecked settler violence traumatizes Palestinians. Just last week, one thousand acres of Palestinian land were stolen by Israeli authorities from Palestinian villages in the Bethlehem area to create additional illegal, racist settlements; an aggressive move designed to further block Palestinian self-determination. 

The massacre and ongoing siege of Gaza, along with the occupation and colonization of the West Bank - all facilitated by the Canadian Government's unconditional support of Israel, has reinforced the legitimacy of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Moreover as Palestinian trade unions issued an appeal to workers around the world to refuse to handle Israeli goods, a small coalition of Vancouver Palestine Solidarity activists decided to respond to the call by initiating an action targeting the Israeli shipping corporation, ZIM. Their container ships regularly conduct business in the Vancouver Area at Deltaport. Vancouver activists protested the arrival of ZIM ships four years ago and recently, the corporation had been picketted in three US West coast ports. A small group of Palestine solidarity workers decided to communicate to the firm that occupation profiteers are unwelcome in Vancouver and Block the Boat Vancouver was born.

From the onset, the group agreed that this was a long-term project and that the initial phase was one of public education. The plan was simply to have people standing by the side of the road with banners and handing out leaflets to workers on their way to the docks. The hand-outs outlined the reality of life under siege and occupation, the relationship between the corporation and the ongoing destruction of Palestine, and the role that civic society can play in ending oppression.

On Friday, September 5th, a day prior to the morning at the port, five activists (and a dog) gathered at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal (about 30 km south of Vancouver) to take a photograph with signs directly in front of the ZIM Djibouti. 

The ZIM Djibouti's cargo did not get unloaded in Vancouver.