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Outraged at treatment of Palestinians, protesters try to waylay Israeli ship at Seattle port

Protesters are trying to prevent the unloading of a ship at Harbor Island operated by an Israeli company. Ten protesters were arrested Thursday.
Guy Oron
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Protesters are trying to prevent the unloading of a ship at Harbor Island operated by an Israeli company. Ten protesters were arrested Thursday.

Protests attempting to stop the unloading of a cargo ship operated by an Israeli company have been happening for about a week at the Port of Seattle.

The protesters are trying to prevent the unloading of a ship at Harbor Island operated by ZIM Integrated Shipping Services.

A grassroots feminist group known as Falastiniyat organized the protests in response to Israel’s recent bombings of Gaza and what they say are other forms of Palestinian oppression. 

Similar protests have happened in other countries and cities, including Oakland, Calif.  

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant took part in the protests on Thursday, when police arrested 10 protesters. 

Sawant said her decision to participate is connected to a letter she recently sent to the Biden administration demanding that it cut off all military aid to Israel.

“Actions like the Block the Boat campaign point towards the need to do that, which is, prevent weapons and ammunition and armament from being sent,” Sawant said in a recent interview.  

Unlike in other cities, ILWU Local 19, the local longshore workers union, has not publicly supported the protests, saying only that it respects the First Amendment rights of those peacefully assembled. 

Aisha Mansour of Falastiniyat, however, said individual workers have stood in solidarity with them and have refused to cross the picket line.   

Sawant has called on union workers everywhere to act. Activists say the original call to action came from Palestinian labor unions.

“If we are going to end this oppression, it is going to happen, at least in part, because the international union movement mobilized against it,” Sawant said. 

“And that requires a lot of courage. It requires unions to collectively act because no one worker can shoulder the risk that comes with this kind of peaceful blockade.” 

In a statement, the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which manages terminals in Seattle and Tacoma, said it expects the ZIM cargo ship to be fully unloaded over the weekend. 

Mansour of Falastiniyat said her group won't be dissuaded.

“We are going to continue this campaign whether that means physically picketing at the port or if that means putting our energy toward our elected officials,” Mansour said.