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The Economic Incentive: Blocking Israel’s Supply Chain

If demography is destiny, as Auguste Comte tells us, then economics must be current, pinching reality. The Israel-Gaza conflict is invigorating a global protest movement against the state of Israel which is seeing various manifestations. From an economic standpoint, Israel can be seen as vulnerable in terms of global supply lines, potentially at the mercy of sanctions and complete isolation. Both imports and exports are of concern.

Israel, however, has been spared any toothy sanctions regime over its conduct in Gaza. If anything, the Biden administration in Washington has been brightly enthusiastic in sending more shells to the Israeli Defence Forces, despite Congressional reservations and some grumbling within the Democratic Party. This has made such figures as Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who has a long-standing association with the health system in Gaza, wonder why the wealthy states of the West exempt Israel from financial chastisement while economically punishing other powers, such as Russia, without reservation. “Where are the sanctions against the war crimes of Israel?” he asks. “Where are the sanctions against the occupation of Palestine? Where are the sanctions against these abhorrent attacks on civilian healthcare in Gaza?”

The retaliatory initiative has tended to be left to protests at the community level, typified by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement created in 2005. The war in Gaza, however, has resulted in a broader efflorescence of interest. Israeli companies such as Elbit Systems have become specific targets of international protest. On December 21, a global coalition of groups under the umbrella of Progressive International took a day of action against the country’s largest arms company, drawing attention to the tentacular nature of the enterprise in the US, UK, Europe, Brazil and Australia.

Restricting the docking of Israeli shipping at ports, notably from ZIM Integrated Shipping Services, has also presented an opportunity to the protest movement. Actions have been organised as far afield as Australia where “Block the Boat” measures have taken place. During the early evening of November 8, several hundred protesters flocked to the entrance of Melbourne’s international container terminal. On catching sight of a ZIM-branded shipping container, the protestors staged a blockade lasting till the morning of the next day. A similar action was repeated in Sydney on November 11, involving several hundred protestors holding the line on the shores of Port Botany and delaying the arrival of a ZIM vessel.

The assessments that followed the protest were mixed. Zacharias Szumer, writing in Jacobin, admits that such blockades, on their own, “are unlikely to cause a major dint in ZIM’s bottom line.” That said, he is confident enough to see it as part of a globalised effort which “can cumulatively make a difference.”

Then came the sceptical voices who felt that these actions fell dramatically short of substance and effect, a product of righteous, ineffectual tokenism. An anonymous contribution to the New Socialist, purporting to be from one of the protestors, went so far as to call the “Block the Boat” strategy misguided, since it never actually entailed blocking vessels. The promotional materials for the events “indicated that the purpose was actually to say somebody should ‘Block the Boats’, and to ‘call for’ a boycott – a message addressed to ZIM and Albanese.” The writer, clearly agitated, also took issue with the choice of locations (they “weren’t conducive to disruption”) and the “suspiciously rigid, and convenient” timing of the rallies.

Short of these efforts, it is precisely the absence of responses at the highest levels that has precipitated a more global reaction that is upending the order of things. Beyond the protests of activists, community groups, and the more generally outraged come the more direct, state-sponsored measures that have rattled financiers, the carriers and the operators. The crisis in the Red Sea, for instance, where Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels (Ansar Allah), are putting the brakes on international shipping, is the stellar example. While the measure initially began on November 14 to target Israeli-affiliated merchant shipping, largescale operators have not been spared. “Unlike previous piracy related events in the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden this is a sophisticated military threat and requires a very sophisticated response,” states a briefing note from Inchcape Shipping Services.

The disruptions are significant, given that 30 percent of all container ship traffic passes through the Bab al-Mandab Strait off the coast of Yemen, the point where both the Red Sea and Indian Ocean meet. The actions and threats by the Houthis have seen various oil and gas companies reroute their tankers. Decisions are even being made to suspend shipping through that route in favour of the safer, though costlier and longer route via the Cape of Good Hope. Insurance premiums are also on the rise.

The Egyptians are also raising fees for those using the Suez Canal for the new year. In an October announcement, the SCA promised an increase of between 5-15%, effective from January 15, 2024. The measure is applicable to a fairly comprehensive list of vessel categories, including crude oil tankers, petroleum product tankers, liquefied petroleum gas carriers, containerships and cruise ships.

On December 20, Malaysia, as if heeding the “Block the Boat” protests, announced that it would be preventing Israeli-flagged cargo ships from docking at the country’s ports. Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced the decision in a statement, with a specific reference to ZIM. “The Malaysian government decided to block and disallow the Israeli-based shipping company ZIM from docking at any Malaysian port.” Such sanctions were “a response to Israel’s actions that ignore basic humanitarian principles and violate international law through the ongoing massacre and brutality against Palestinians.”

Malaysia also announced, in addition to barring ships using the Israeli flag from docking in the country, the banning of “any ship on its way to Israel from loading cargo in Malaysian ports.”

Blockade, barring, embargo, constriction – all these measures are familiar to the Israeli security establishment as it seeks to strangle and pulverize the Gaza Strip. While closing ports to Israeli shipping is modest in comparison to starving and strafing an entire population, it is fittingly reciprocal and warranted. The Israel campaign against Gaza, and Palestinians more generally, is no longer a local, contained affair.


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  1. Phil Pryor

    Cutting off food, water, energy, machinery, weapons, blood flow, medical gear, repair and support, seems correct and justifiable in connection with wilful murderers. All those eye symbols for a tooth or ten…and.., all murdering regimes everywhere. (Hear that Yanks?)

  2. Roscoe

    so where are the wharfies? cowed into behaving themselves? once they would have been at the forefront of blockading Israel shipping

  3. New England Cocky

    The military action initiated in the Gaza Strip by Bibi is STATE SPONSORED GENOCIDE by the IDF to ”push ALL Palestinians into the sea” or as a second best outcome, into concentration camps in the Egyptian desert where they would become the responsibility and expense for international aid organisations.

    Have no doubt that after the cessation of hostilities by the IDF there will be many willing & able American and European entrepreneurs wanting to fund the clean up and re-building of residential premises on land of Indigenous Palestinians who were displaced then dispossessed by the Israeli government in favour of fresh ZION@ZI colonist settlers escaping from American political chaos or European antipathy.

  4. Douglas Pritchard

    I`m in 2 minds about the justifiable blowback aganst Israel in the Red Sea.
    Netenyahoo has been banging on forever trying to get USA to take on Iran, and USA is the one place folk listen to him.
    Well, members of their Congress anyway, and they hold the purse strings.
    Maybe the 7th October was ‘let it happen”., rather than “make it happen?
    So USA have moved their weapons of mass destruction into the middle east to protect poor little Israel.
    Complicit in genocide.
    Now its blowback time, and all of the surrounding countries are reacting, and I dont think its a shoot from the hip situation such as we see from Uncle Sam.
    This is a bit like the spider inviting the fly into his web, because to keep the USA on full alert is costing the US taxpayers plenty, but time is on the side of Israels neighbours.
    As the body count increases the anti-Israel recruiting drive just gets stronger.

  5. GL

    I reckon all the Israeli leadership and troll army has to do is drop hints with two words, “Holocaust and anti-semitic.” and most, if not all, the Western countries will go quiet for fear of being labelled. The rabid right and religious fanatics have helped to turn the country into just about everything they rail against. Netanyahu is not going to happy until he’s driven the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza and out of the country.

    There has to be a ceasefire because sooner or later it could all boil over and drag the Arab nations, and the rest of the world, into a full on war.

  6. Andrew Smith

    JulianP, Caitlin Johnstone is no geopolitical expert on Israel Palestine, nor Russia – Ukraine of which she has written much about, she is an ‘astrologer’.

    ‘In today’s #vatniksoup, I’ll be introducing an Australian “citizen journalist”, astrologer and conspiracy theorist, Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz).

    She’s best-known for promoting outlandish conspiracy theories, and for blaming the US and the West for absolutely everything.’


  7. Steve Davis

    Andrew Smith has smeared Caitlin Johnstone by, you guessed it — character assassination.

    She has an interest in astrology — so what?
    Isaac Newton had an interest in alchemy and the occult.

    So she’s not a geo-political expert, but has she ever claimed to be?

    Johnstone has the courage of her convictions, and unlike Andrew Smith does not hide her views behind evidence-free guilt-by-association slurs and endless rhetorical questions.

    If Andrew Smith was not happy with the Johnstone article that JulianP linked to, he could have pointed out the errors.

    He chose not to. Why?

  8. New England Cocky

    @ Andrew Smith: I think your opinion is unfair. To my reading of Caitlin Johnstone articles she gives an objective evaluation of politics, including the STATE SPONSORED GENOCIDE IN THE GAZA STRIP SUPPORTED BY USA POLITICIANS SPENDING TAXPAYER DOLLARS ARMING ISRAEL AND KILLING PALESTINIANS IN THIS NETANYAHU NAKBA.
    In today’s Internet sewer, you will find just about every opinion when you trawl through enough of the rubbish, including the many press releases supporting LIARBRAL$ misgovernment, Lehrmann fan clubs and Andrew Tate.
    So Caitlin Johnstone is interested in astrology, so what?? Most reasonable persons I know are prepared to read widely including books like the Bible, the Harry Potter series, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings among many, including the American Science Fiction post WWII, to expand their knowledge and imagination.
    Why I have a former colleague borne in England who became an Islamic scholar and earned an Australian PhD for his efforts.
    Acute bibliomania is a terminal affliction of many wonderful people that knows no boundaries when there is print on paper waiting to be read.
    The comment from sewer site ”vatniksoup” is in error because Caitlin Johnstone is an American independent professional writer who often appears in the very credible ”Pearls & Irritations” John Menadue website.

  9. RomeoCharlie

    NEC, Caitlin Johnstone is an Australian and a regular contributor to ConsortiumNews an American site similar to Pearls and Irritations, though very, I was going to say Anti-American ( or USA) but in reality it is honest about the evils done in America’s name. I read quite a lot of CJ and while I don’t agree with everything she writes I find her alternative view often perspicacious. And so what if she likes astrology, a great number of people do.

  10. Steve Davis

    Cocky, it’s quite amusing that A.S. disparages anyone he disagrees with by questioning their geo-political expertise, yet the credentials of his hero at vatniksoup are, wait for it,…“My background is in human technology interaction,” he said. “So I basically study how humans interact with technology, and how it affects us.” Wow. Impressive.

  11. New England Cocky

    @ Romeo Charlie: Thank you for the edit. I thought on one post she labelled herself as an American correspondent. I too, am impressed with her articles.
    @ Steve Davis: AS has done some interesting research in to the ”deep murk” of American politics and the mega-rich individuals with their organisations that have the intention of destroying the American democracy and forming a neo-feudalism society to preserve their own place on the top of the manure heap.
    Obviously mere mortals such as ourselves must tip the forelock to AS who likely has a PhD in American politics, written several analyses of the Kissinger era, done a television series on the CIA exposing the initiator of the ”Words of Mass Deception” entry into Iraq to control the proven and estimated oil reserves for American multinational oil corporations and solved all the currently currently unsolved Mathematical formulae.
    I commend the above Caitlin Johnstone article to readers because it states in plain English what many political observers have been predicting since this STATE SPONSORED GENOCIDE BY THE IDF began to ”DRIVE ALL PALESTINIANS INTO THE SEA” field testing US armaments paid for by US taxpayers and gifted to Bibi by US foreign policy. and the US Congress.

  12. Canguro

    As mentioned, Caitlin Johnstone is an Aussie, and married to an American man. I’ve been familiar with her writings for years via the Information Clearing House, a fine indie website. I’d argue that I’m neither naive nor readily gulled by shysters, carpetbaggers, shonks, shills, trolls and all the rest of the bullshit artists that populate the dag end of the opinionista cyberverse, and I’ve never believed CJ fits into any of those categories.

    Yes, she is unarguably passionate in her attacks on American evils; rabid capitalism, hegemony, corruption, war-mongering, political arseholery and all the rest, and why not? We all have a voice, but only few of us choose to use it to call out evil as we see it. If others don’t like it, too bad, and better, stick to what fits in your comfort zones and aligns with your cognitive biases.

    Attacking the messenger is all too common, all too vulgar, all too lazy, and only abets the continuance of malevolent evils that have real costs to people, communities, ecosystems and ultimately, those evils endanger and poison all that they touch.

  13. Canguro

    Further to the above, she posted the following clip a couple of years ago; the words are hers, and the sentiments, if accurately reflecting her position, are unassailable.

  14. Canguro

    Why does America, a self-described Christian nation, hate the Arab world so much, except where they continue to do business in the planet-destroying market for fossil fuels with murderous regimes like that helmed by the thuggish Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud?

    Why have they supplied over 10,000 tons of armaments and military equipment to Israel since the start of the war?

    Is it because of fealty to that country? To Netanyahu? Or is it more a matter of business as usual, given the elephantine imprint the Military-Industrial Complex has on that country; dominating political thinking with its army of lobbyists and the endless supply of cash into the hands of the politicians of all stripes?

    As it’s often been noted, all empires eventually exhaust themselves through overreach. It’s surely America’s turn, and may it come swiftly. Pity the people who will suffer as a consequence.

  15. Steve Davis

    Sorry Cocky, as much as respect your views on just about everything, I will not be tipping the forelock to someone who has come here to present an unreliable such as Draitser and an amateur such as Kallioniemi of vatniksoup as authorities.

  16. Steve Davis

    “all empires eventually exhaust themselves through overreach. It’s surely America’s turn, and may it come swiftly. Pity the people who will suffer as a consequence.”

    Canguro, you’ve summed it up perfectly. And I think the end is happening now, as we watch the US lurch from one disaster to another.

  17. Roswell

    I learned at uni that historically the average “life expectancy” of a dominant empire is 500 years.

    Only 450 years to go.

  18. Steve Davis

    That’s a legitimate point Roswell, but a counter argument is that the US empire is merely a continuation of the British Empire.
    If that’s indeed the case, then time is running out.
    I think that plans for the British Empire might have begun in Elizabethan times. Lizzie the first, that is.

  19. Roswell

    Valid point, Steve.

    I doubt history matters on the length of a dominant empire as the current one will probably have the planet wiped out well before the 500 years are up.

    Gloomy, aren’t I?

  20. Andrew Smith

    Steve Davis: ‘Andrew Smith has smeared Caitlin Johnstone* by, you guessed it — character assassination.’

    No, I merely transcribed what an expert has described, mostly from her own Tweets….

    Not me, try Finnish academic, post graduate researcher and misinformation (esp. Russian) expert Pekka Kallioniemi, intro follows:

    ‘the Finnish creator of ‘Vatnik Soup’ – a Twitter series and website where he identifies pro-Russian actors and propagandists from around the world’

    In the UK indie investigative outlet ByLine Times, by contributor Heidi Cuda; but why do so many in Oz follow low rent hacks, astrologists, RW geopolitical grifters etc. to be informed?

    *She turns up way too often in another indie outlet, with many other ‘tankies’ echoing RW talking points inc Sachs, Mearsheimer et al., perceived as left (not) and informed, but difficult to take seriously anymore; European left view the Anglo left as ‘faux’ and a joke.

    NEC: Appears that you follow climate science, but then fall for the same climate science denial tactic of shooting messengers when credible analysis of ‘experts’ are dismissed in favour of US or Anglo RW agitprop that confirms gut instincts and beliefs, like Abbott and Joyce?

  21. Steve Davis

    Roswell, if you’re not gloomy, you’re not paying attention. 🙂

  22. Steve Davis

    Andrew Smith has tried once more to pull the wool over our eyes with regard to Pekka Kallioniemi.

    His hero certainly has academic credentials but that does not make him an expert on everything. In fact, his area of expertise is quite narrow, which makes him an expert on very little.
    An academic website gives the most recent publications with which he’s been involved — 2019, Promoting local culture and enriching airport experiences through interactive storytelling. 2019, CityCompass VR – A Collaborative Virtual Language Learning Environment. 2019, Exploring Globally Inclusive Online Collaboration for Indian and Finnish Schoolchildren. 2019, What Are Others Looking at? Exploring 360° Videos on HMDs with Visual Cues about Other Viewers.

    Not exactly inspiring for those wanting informed commentary on the collapse of an empire.

    I actually watched a video of an interview Kallioneimi did with Jonathon Fink. He came across as honest but naive, unlike Fink who came across as a bigot trying to put words into Kallioneimi’s mouth. This was a video recommended by Andrew Smith, so these are the types of “experts” he would like us to follow.

    And from the horse’s mouth, when it comes to political commentary Kallioneimi is a hobbyist — “My career as a researcher is divided and I also give many lectures on interactive technology. I do not have a specific research project on disinformation right now. It is more of a passion and a hobby, but a pretty big hobby nonetheless,” Kallioniemi says.”

  23. Florence Howarth

    Steve, the quicker the end comes, the fewer people are harmed.

  24. Andrew Smith

    Steve Davis: ‘pull the wool over our eyes’ you allege I’m a liar while you offer nothing substantive, classic conservatism?

    Not sure what you are trying to prove, but with your subjective rave and attack or ‘hit job’ on an expert in Pekka K you are doing exactly what others do here and learnt from the US climate science denial networks in think tanks, RW media, influencers etc. i.e. junking of experts, science and analysis, but for what, gratification or justifying beliefs?

    Or, more directly who or what are you running protection for apart from Putin et al & US GOP….or simply here to keep an eye on the AIM? 🙂 (Crikey has a few prolific commenters doing exactly the same, disrupting narratives and shooting messengers)

    With your personal jabs, taunts and ‘shooting messengers, which one expects nowadays from Australians, replicating our media trying to destroy informed discourse and analysis, use against ALP and support the LNP; well done this is what Australia has become…..an embarrassment.

  25. Steve Davis

    Yes Florence, I agree.

    A great tragedy here is that the US could have chosen the path of cooperation rather than domination and still have been a leader enjoying genuine respect. But imperial overreach as Canguro points out, will bring about a painful demise.

    There’s a saying in the field of science to the effect that because humans hang on to cherished beliefs even when these are shown to be wrong, that despite the growth of knowledge, science itself advances funeral by funeral. I fear that we will see the same with the US — that no matter how many or frequent are the reality shocks, that among the political elite the imperial urge will only diminish funeral by funeral.

    That gloomy forecast would not apply if the US had a healthy democracy, but sadly that’s not the case. I fear that the world is in for a few rough years.

  26. Steve Davis

    Andrew Smith — WOW !

    It seems I’m into classic conservatism, climate science denial, RW media, junking of expert science and analysis, gratification, running protection, keeping an eye on the AIM, (that one was a coffee-spiller!) disrupting narratives, shooting messengers, trying to destroy informed discourse and analysis, I’m against the ALP and supporting the LNP — WOW again! I have been a busy boy!

    This is extraordinary. Andrew Smith has taken guilt by association to a whole new level.

    As for his reliance on expert opinion, this tool should be used sparingly. It’s not good enough to simply quote someone and assume that the discussion is over.The quote should be in context, and be backed by evidence. But I’ve been over this with Andrew before, more than once, so that might be too much to hope for.

  27. Canguro

    Steve Davis, I guess you know the old gag about the definition of an expert; an ex is a has been, and a spurt is a drip under pressure.

    And tempted to post the YouTube clip of Laurie Anderson’s Only an Expert but won’t. Linked above if interested.

    It’s an – how do we put this diplomatically? – interesting phenomenon from a psychological perspective that some people continue to quote this or that ‘authority’ or ‘expert’ as a reinforcing mechanism for their arguments; the sense that ‘he’ said this and if I mention or quote ‘him’ it will add gravitas and authority to my words. There’s an element of unsettlement in play, as if I’m not confident in the strength of my own opinions and views and I have to take recourse in someone else’s utterings.

    Not always and everywhere of course, and context is everything; there’s certainly a place for reference of other’s words or works but it’s a slippery slope when used as a tool for arguing for contentious propositions.

    The US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield justifying her country’s use of the veto in striking down the attempt by the Security Council to achieve a permanent truce on 18 October by reference to Article 51 of the UN Charter, re. the right of countries to engage in self-defence, thus rationalising the ongoing slaughter of Palestinians is perhaps an example of this; she’s an ambassador, ergo, an expert, she would know, so what she says is correct, so it’s okay for America to unconditionally support Israel as it continues to bomb Palestinian territories into rubble, to kill and maim thousands of its peoples, to commit war crimes on a massive scale, to turn a blind eye and deaf ear towards the howls of outrage across the planet at its actions, and all the while secure in the knowledge that the USA has its back, all the way.

  28. Steve Davis

    Canguro, thank you, good info and a great final example.

  29. Clakka

    Yep, Dr Binoy’s article seemed to be on point.

    CJ’s article also.

    I’m on board with NEC, SD and Canguro.

    Yet I think old Uncle Sam in his current form has less than 50 years.


  30. New England Cocky

    @ Steve Davis 030124 6:58PM: I am confused ….. I plead ”Not Guilty, Sir”. I do not recommend any person take AS seriously, given your fresh information. Perhaps you missed my cynicism (still practicing writing skills in the Rossleigh vein ….. ) Think ”solved all the currently currently unsolved Mathematical formulae” as a relevant comment on this thread??

    Canguro writes very well, especially his last above article, to which I would add; it is very much in the interest of the US NE Military Industrial Complex for the IDF GENOCIDE OF INDIGENOUS PALESTINIANS TO CONTINUE SO THAT PROFITS CONTINUE TO ACCRUE TO THEIR SHAREHOLDERS.

  31. Steve Davis

    My apologies Cocky, I should have picked up on the sarc. Should have paid more attention to my first thought — “This doesn’t sound like the Cocky we know and love !”


  32. Douglas Pritchard

    Poor old yanks have done the “short” game, and have great difficulty surrendering the baton.
    The grand finale does centre on letting loose with all that clever ordinance.
    But those better suited to the “long” game will be gathering strength from the middle east scenario.
    Netenyahoo believes it has US in its pocket, and will eliminate Iran for him.
    Zilenskee believes he can hang onto Ukraine with Biden, and congress financial support.
    China tempts USA involvement on its doorstep with Taiwan.
    While the USA taxpayer does not have a clue that it is being bled dry, and Australia sending money over there to subsidise the US arms industry is hidden under the carpet.
    The short game is running out of puff very quickly with Israels gruesome aspirations

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