Vancouver “Boycott Tour” protest marches for justice and liberation in Palestine

Photo: Patrick Schreck
Demonstrators gathered in Vancouver, on the unceded lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) peoples, on Sunday, 18 July for a “Boycott Tour” march for Palestine throughout the city’s downtown. The protest began outside the offices of ZIM Shipping, the oldest and largest Israeli shipping company that transports weapons to and from occupied Palestine while profiteering from colonized Palestinian land and labor.

The company has been targeted in a series of #BlockTheBoat actions, including a June protest in Vancouver as well as a blockade in Oakland that has kept ZIM out of their port for years, led by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC).

Workers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) refused to cross the community picket line to unload the ship in Oakland, and the same ship was later delayed for days in Prince Rupert, northern BC, as workers also declined to cross a community picket line despite threats of on-the-job sanctions.

Protests have taken place in New York/New Jersey, Houston, Seattle and Los Angeles against ZIM shipping, while dockworkers in South Africa and Italy have refused to unload Israeli cargo. This protest highlighted once again ZIM’s active role in Israeli colonization, occupation and apartheid.

Photo: Patrick Schreck
Speakers representing the Canada Palestine Association, Palestinian Youth Movement, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, BDS Vancouver – Coast Salish Territories, BAYAN Canada and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid Vancouver demanded that ZIM no longer be welcome in the Port of Vancouver.

The rally was emceed by Dalya al-Masri of the Palestinian Youth Movement, who urged participants to get involved and stay involved in building the movement for Palestinian liberation, not only at protest actions but through ongoing organization. Hanna Kawas of the Canada Palestine Association underlined the responsibility of the Canadian government for the ongoing war crimes in Palestine, emphasizing that people will take action at the ballot box to hold complicit officials accountable.

Nelli of BAYAN Canada emphasized the commonality of the struggles for liberation in Palestine and the Philippines, linking anti-imperialist movements, and Amal of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid Vancouver spoke about Palestine as an intersectional issue, highlighting the involvement of youth of colour in standing with Palestine and resisting Canadian settler colonialism.

Charlotte Kates, international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, spoke about the case of Khalida Jarrar, Palestinian feminist, leader and imprisoned justice activist, who was denied attending her daughter Suha’s funeral just last week by the Israeli occupation, urging freedom for Jarrar and all Palestinian prisoners. She also highlighted the case of Eyad Hraibat, Palestinian prisoner in a coma who has been subjected to severe medical neglect and mistreatment, calling for an end to medical oppression and injustice in occupied Palestine and urging boycott action to free Palestinian prisoners.

After rallying outside the ZIM offices and covering the stairs in chalked slogans demanding justice for Palestine and calling for a boycott of ZIM, demonstrators continued the Boycott Tour by marching to a BC Liquor Store, the government-owned and -operated liquor stores that sell, among other products, Israeli wines made in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and the West Bank of occupied Palestine in illegal colonial settlements.

Aiyanas Ormond of BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish and ILPS Canada emphasized, “This liquor store is the site of an ongoing war crime!” Speakers distributed information to passers-by, urging people to contact the BC government and specifically Finance Minister Selina Robinson to end the BC Liquor Stores’ complicity in Israeli war crimes.

The protest then proceeded through the center of downtown Vancouver, chanting enthusiastically and marching down the busy shopping streets of Robson and Granville before arriving at the London Drugs, a major drug and department store that sells, among other products of apartheid, Teva pharmaceuticals, SodaStream devices and HP technology.

Hanna Kawas returned to highlight these complicit companies, including Teva, Israel’s largest pharmaceutical corporation, which pours millions into Israeli government tax coffers each year; SodaStream, which manufactures its devices on occupied Palestinian Bedouin land in the Naqab; and HP, which has multiple contracts with the Israeli occupation to help it administer apartheid, including its ID card system and prison system databases.

The protest concluded with enthusiastic calls to action and to keep organizing for justice and liberation in Palestine, from the river to the sea.

Photo: Patrick Schreck