Activists gather at Port of Tampa to protest Israeli shipping company

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SJP’s Laith Abdel Hader addresses the crowd at the Zim protest at the Port of Tampa.Dave Decker

10 activists gathered at the port of Tampa to protest yesterday Zim, an Israel-based international shipping company that regularly sends ships to the port.

Local Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) led the event, pointing out that Zim often deals with military technology, weaponry and logistics equipment manufactured by Israel, to be present about 30% of Israel’s economy.

“This protest is an opportunity to tell people that opposing Zim’s operations can help save Palestinian lives,” said SJP member Laith Abdel Hader.

Protesters spoke of the United Nations cbask Israel violates international law and is complicit in human rights violations through its occupation of Palestine. They carried out several songs about the occupation and the crowd shouted.

Zim’s ships enter the Port of Tampa several times a month, said SJP members, who were being watched by several Hillsborough County Sheriff’s officers. The agents had established a conical perimeter around the demonstrators to warn them not to enter the roadway leading to the entrance to the port.

Protester ZimA protester watches the entrance to the Port of Tampa and law enforcement vehicles.Dave Decker

CL contacted Zim’s media department to ask what they are shipping in Tampa and who they are shipping them to, as well as if they have a response to the protester’s claims, but has not received a response.

Ayman Salhab with SJP said they believed a Zim ship was due to arrive at the port on Friday afternoon around 3 p.m. the company helps support Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

“It affects me personally, because I, my family and our people are displaced from our homeland by the actions of Israel,” Salhab said. “We shouldn’t have to keep watching our people suffer. “

Ayman SalhabAyman Salhab discusses the plight of the Palestinians.Dave Decker

Salhab, Hader and other SJP members went to the International Longshoremen Association (ILA) building in downtown Tampa at 6 a.m., when workers gathered, to explain the difficult situation to which their people are facing. They had heart-to-heart conversations and many longshoremen identified with the problems faced by Palestinians.

“At the end of the day, it’s really in the hands of the dockworkers,” says Salhab. “They can choose not to participate in Israel’s crimes against humanity.

The SJP demonstration was titled “Block the boat” on a leaflet, which traditionally involves the use of direct actions such as forming a picket line at the entrance to the port to make it more difficult to dock or unload a ship. But the protest was more aimed at talking to dockers – many of whom were leaving work – and explaining why SJP protesters believe they shouldn’t be complicit in Zim’s operations.

Around the world, “Block the Ship” protests have taken place in the name of stopping Zim’s expedition. From the early 2000s until today, protests around the world have disrupted the unloading of Zim’s shipments. In South Africa, in Italy, and San Francisco, the dockers refused to unload the ships from Zim.

Where protesters succeeded in affecting Zim’s operations, there were often coalitions formed between activists and unions, which brought large numbers of people to the protest.

Although Thursday’s rally was small, there were members of several groups who were in alliance with the SJP, such as Students For a Democratic Society (SDS), Freedom Road Socialist Organization and The Party For Socialism and Liberation.

The SDS and SJP are currently asking the University of South Florida to withdraw from Israeli trade relations and American companies that help displace Palestinians. The group also supports the “Block the Boat” campaign.

Activists say this is just the start and there will be more actions to come.

“It’s great that more people are getting involved,” said SDS member Simon Rowe. “It is important to make sure that our community does not support the oppression of the Palestinian people.

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