ROMULUS, MI – Activists in Michigan highlighting mistreatment of Palestinians on Tuesday called for a boycott of an Israel-based shipping company operating in the Detroit area.
Activists from the Palestinian youth movement and other organizations called on ZIM Integrated Shipping Services employees to stop unloading shipments from Israel to disrupt what they called the activation of apartheid. The protest is part of a larger campaign to stop ZIM ships from delivering goods to the United States.
Pro-Palestinian protesters closed a section of the Port of Oakland in California last week, preventing a ZIM container ship from unloading its cargo. The company had not sent any ships to Oakland since protests opposed its operations in the Port of California in 2014.
ZIM is Israel’s largest shipping company, headquartered in Haifa, Israel, and a North American headquarters in Virginia.
Activists claimed the company was involved in delivering weapons to Israel. Italian dockers last month refused to load a cargo of weapons onto a Zim ship bound for Israel.
The company, which could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, was once part-owned by the Israeli government but has since been privatized.
A few dozen protesters outside ZIM offices in Romulus, a western suburb of Detroit, waved Palestinian flags and placards calling for a boycott of Israeli companies. Sahar Faraj, lead organizer of the Palestinian Youth Movement, said the campaign against Israel-related businesses in Detroit was just beginning.
Thousands of people participated in the recent protests sparked by a bloody 11-day fight between Israel and Hamas that left civilian lives. Activists said first-hand accounts of the violence spread through social media helped raise awareness of the plight of Palestinians in Gaza and East Jerusalem, but footage of destruction will not produce the change they seek. .
“The only way is to get the money,” Faraj said. “The only way is to organize to prevent their profit, because that’s the only way to get accountability. “
The event also brought together organizers with other social justice organizations. Abayomi Azikiwe, an organizer from Detroit with Moratorium NOW! Coalition, compared Israel’s occupation of the West Bank to South Africa’s historic apartheid system.
Azikiwe said activists in Detroit took similar boycott and divestment measures to oppose institutionalized segregation in South Africa decades ago. He said that the struggle of revolutionaries in South Africa was closely linked to that of those seeking Palestinian liberation.
Anne Weinstein Garcia, an Ann Arbor member of the Jewish Voice for Peace group, said she attended the event to show that many Jews do not support the Israeli government’s attacks on civilians.
“Maybe I’m an idealist, I would like to think that we could actually find a way for Palestinians and Jews to coexist,” she said. “We live in a very diverse America and it’s very difficult, but we’ve been doing it for 300 years.”
Jewish organizations and allied organizations staged a rally against anti-Semitism days earlier. Protesters cited an increase in anti-Semitic incidents amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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