Protesters demonstrated on Tuesday afternoon outside the Detroit metro office of an Israeli shipping company that is targeted nationwide by opponents of Israel.
“Free, Free Palestine,” chanted a crowd outside the Zim American Integrated Shipping Services office in Romulus, near the Detroit Metro airport.
Zim is an Israeli shipping company that delivers cargo to the United States and other countries. The rally is part of a larger effort nationally called “Block the Boat” that aims to disrupt the company’s shipments to the United States.
In Oakland, Calif., Last week, a group of protesters said they had succeeded blocked a boat Zim unloading after workers refused to unload their goods in support of protesters, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. The coalition is now trying to prevent freighters from entering other ports in the United States
Sahar Faraj of the Detroit Palestinian Youth Movement spoke at the rally, saying she was there to support an international call to action by Palestinian unions.
“Intifada, intifada, long live the intifada,” Faraj said, using an Arabic word that is often used to describe Palestinian uprisings against Israel.
The protest in Romulus was organized by several Arab-American and leftist groups, including Detroit’s Moratorium Now. It is one of many that took place in the Detroit subway against Israel over the past month following the recent 11-day war between Israel and the Palestinians. The crowd size was smaller on Tuesday compared to previous gatherings, with around 50 people.
“I support the Palestinians 100%,” said Mike Shane, from Detroit, who attended the rally. “They have a right to their land.… I am here to support the struggle.”
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Shane said he supported the movement in the 1980s against apartheid in South Africa and now supports the movement known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Israeli officials have maintained that such a comparison is not accurate and that it is an unfair distinction of their country partly rooted in anti-Semitism.
Large banners at the rally read “#SanctionIsrael” and “Stop US funding for Israeli apartheid.”
“We believe that the moral and principled position demanded by Palestinian workers is not to offload this cargo,” said Danya Zituni of the US Palestine Community Network. She said that Israeli society sometimes delivers weapons to Israel that are used against Palestinians.
It is not known what type of merchandise Zim ships to Michigan, organizers said.
A person who answered the phone Tuesday afternoon at Zim’s office in Romulus made no comment. An email sent to Zim’s media contact was not returned on Tuesday evening.
A local Jewish leader said boycotts were not the solution.
“Rather than boycotting and dismantling commerce and relationships, we must strive to connect with each other and hear each other’s stories and needs,” said Rabbi Asher Lopatin, executive director of the Jewish Community Detroit Metro Relations Council / American Jewish Committee.
“Israel exports essential medicines, medical equipment and technologies to save lives. These protesters seem to think Israel’s shutdown takes precedence over any other cause, including saving American lives and fighting COVID, which threatens us all. When boycotting Israel becomes more important than any other challenge in our world – including the million Muslim Uyghurs detained in concentration camps in China or the hundreds of thousands of Rohingja Muslim refugees threatened with death, or death and starvation thousands in Yemen – then attacking Israel becomes an unhealthy obsession. “
The Detroit Metro Jewish community has held two rallies in recent weeks in West Bloomfield in support of Israel and against anti-Semitism.
Lopatin said that instead of boycotting, “people should encourage more trade with Israel and more trade between Israel and the PA and Gaza to improve the lot of the Palestinians and strengthen them economically.”
Iman Saleh of the Yemen Liberation Movement said that “we are listening to the call of Palestinian workers as well as our comrades” among Palestinians, Yemenis and protesters in California.
Saleh led the crowd chanting “Free and Free Palestine” and “All Power to the People,” linking the Palestinian struggle to labor issues and other economic causes. Saleh went on a hunger strike in March and April to protest the policies of the United States and Saudi Arabia in Yemen, where war has left hundreds of thousands dead.
Saleh said at Tuesday’s rally that “we are here today to raise the demands of the Palestinian people.”