Israeli-owned shipping company Zim, the target of recent port blockades organized by Palestinian solidarity activists in California, is importing millions of rounds of small arms ammunition into the United States each year.
Pro-Palestinian activists in California stopped Israeli-owned cargo ships from unloading olives, wines and ceramics at busy marine terminals in Oakland and Los Angeles last week. Import records show, however, that Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd., the Israeli company that was the target of last week's "port blockades," is also delivering millions of rounds of Israeli-manufactured small arms ammunition to the United States each year. Zim also delivers weapons systems components for the Israeli and Greek governments to contractors in the United States for repairs and upgrades.
Activists in Oakland picketed the city's busy port for five days starting August 16, preventing longshore workers from unloading the Zim Piraeus, one of 89 ships in the Zim fleet. The Zim Haifa was scheduled to dock in Long Beach on Saturday, August 23, but protesters there said they delayed its unloading, too. In Washington, protesters rallied at the Port of Tacoma where another Zim ship was scheduled to arrive on August 25.
Bills of lading for the vessels that docked in Oakland and Long Beach show mostly agricultural goods and building materials were carried in the ships' containers.
But on August 15, just a few days before the blockade of the Zim Piraeus in Oakland, the Zim Constanza arrived at the Port of Savannah, along the Atlantic coast of Georgia, laden with millions of rounds of Israeli-manufactured 5.56-millimeter rifle bullets destined for sale in the United States. Records show that the Zim Constanza was also carrying 1.3 million rounds of 9-millimeter Luger bullets.The ammunition was destined for Federal Cartridge of Anoka, Minnesota. The company (which also operates under the name Federal Premium Ammunition) sells rounds of these exact specifications to the public, but also to the US military, and federal and local police agencies.
Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, one of the groups involved in the port blockades, told Truthout she isn't surprised by Zim's ammunition shipments, but called the imports disturbing. "We already know that Israel trains local law enforcement, and that the US supports Israel militarily and economically," Kiswani said. "This shows that Israel plays a role in the militarism and repression of our local communities, not only through trainings and sharing of repressive tactics and strategies, but also through its material support of weaponry and technology."
"Because of companies like Zim, because of the apartheid State of Israel and the US government, from Oakland to Ferguson to Palestine, we are seeing the same weapons being used to murder people, the same technology surveilling our movements, the same torture tactics used on our prisoners, and the same tear gas assaulting communities," Kiswani said.
Bills of lading for the August 15 small arms shipment delivered by Zim show that the bullets were manufactured by Israel Military Industries Ltd., a weapons manufacturing company located in the city of Ramat Hasharon, north of Tel Aviv in Israel. Israel Military Industries supplies the Israel Defense Forces with many of its weapons, including missiles and artillery. Records show that the Israeli ammunition carried by Zim is being imported primarily by Federal Cartridge, but that several smaller companies in Tennessee and Washington State are also receiving small arms shipments delivered by Zim ships.
Federal Cartridge did not respond to a request for information for this article. It's not clear, therefore, whether the Israel Military Industries ammunition Federal Cartridge is importing on Zim ships is destined for sale to the public, the US military or police agencies. Federal Cartridge is a subsidiary of Alliant Techsystems, the largest provider of ammunition for the US military. Alliant Techsystems also supplies the US military with missile and artillery ordnance. Local police forces in the United States are also major customers of Alliant Techsystems and its subsidiary Federal Cartridge.
A year's worth of data reveals that a prolific quantity of ammunition manufactured by Israel Military Industries is being imported by Federal Cartridge on Zim ships into the United States. Several Zim vessels made at least 17 different trips between Haifa, Israel and the Port of Savannah over the last year, shipping ammunition for delivery to Federal Cartridge's facilities in Minnesota. Most of the ammunition consisted of 5.56-millimeter rifle bullets, but in July, the Zim Tarragonaarrived at the Port of Savannah carrying 20 pallets, or 1.3 million rounds, of 9-millimeter hollow point bullets. Hollow point rounds expand on contact with human flesh and do greater damage than most other types of ammunition.
Maor Aharoni, a spokesperson for Zim, provided the following statement to Truthout: "As always, ZIM [is] striving to maintain its high level of service at all times, and especially at the current political environment. Delivering best service possible is our top priority, and we are working in full cooperation with local authorities where we operate to secure smooth operation to our vessels." Aharoni did not address the issue of ammunition shipments.
Federal Cartridge's contracts since 2007 to provide the US Navy with 5.56-millimeter rifle ammunition have exceeded $180 million in value, according to a government contract database. Last year, Federal Cartridge was selected by the FBI to supply 9-millimeter Luger ammunition to the agency.
Alliant Techsystems produces a trademarked law enforcement brand of ammunition through Federal Cartridge that includes a 115-grain, 9-millimeter bullet, the exact type of bullet the company is importing from Israel. Other federal agencies including the Drug Enforcement Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement purchase ammunition from the Federal Cartridge Company. Federal Cartridge did not return phone calls as of publication to explain whether or not it sells Israel Military Industries ammunition to military and law enforcement customers.
"These types of rounds are the same ones used in the Negev light machine gun that have killed and maimed Palestinian men, women and children during Israel's past and current attacks on civilians in Gaza," Jaime Omar Yassin, an Oakland resident who was involved in the organizing of the port blockade there, told Truthout. "If this ammunition is indeed being bought by federal agencies like the FBI and ICE, they will kill and terrorize mostly black and brown civilians in the drug war and the war against the undocumented here."
Zim's ships also haul weapons systems into the United States for repairs and re-export. For example, in January 2014, the Zim Rio Grandedelivered a shipment of aircraft parts sent by the Greek Ministry of Defense to the Port of New York. The parts were imported by Integrated Procurement Technologies, a Goleta, California-based distributor of spare parts for aerospace weapons systems. The same ship offloaded another batch of military aircraft parts bound for Kellstrom Industries, a weapons systems reseller located in Florida.
On August 8, 2014, Lockheed Martin, the largest US military contractor, imported an amphibious vehicle manufactured by Plasan Ltd., an Israeli arms manufacturer. Lockheed has also used Zim ships to transport military aircraft components sent to its US facilities by the Greek Air Force.
Kiswani told Truthout that more boat blockades are planned beyond the West Coast: "So long as this repression continues, so too will our community organizing and resistance. Isolating Zionism is more important now than ever, and targeting Zim is one very tangible way of doing so."