South Africa: Victory for workers' solidarity as Israeli ship sneaks out of Durban still loaded
Congress of South African Trade Unions and Palestine Solidarity Committee (South Africa)
[See http://links.org.au/node/888 for more background information.]
February 6, 2009 -- The Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) is pleased to announce that its members, dock workers belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), achieved a victory last night when they stood firm by their decision not to offload the Johanna Russ, a ship that was carrying Israeli goods to South Africa. This, despite threats to COSATU members from sections of the pro-Israel lobby, and despite severe provocation.
The Johanna Russ, flying an Antigua flag, is owned by M. Dizengoff and Co., an established "pioneer of the modern era of shipping business in the Middle East" and shipping agent for the ironically named Zim Israel Navigation Company. (Ironic because, last year, the same SATAWU members refused to offload the Chinese ship An Yue Jiang, which was carrying arms and ammunition destined for Robert Mugabe's army.)
The workers' action last night took place despite attempted subterfuge on the part of the owners of the shipping company. There was an attempt to confound the plan by arriving earlier than originally scheduled, which was February 8. Dates for the berthing of the Johanna Russ were changed constantly.
Yesterday morning, SATAWU members were told that the ship would dock this morning (Friday, February 6) at 02:00. Thanks to the vigilance of the dock workers, SATAWU discovered that the ship had docked on Wednesday morning (February 4, 2009) and was due to be offloaded last night at 21:00. But the vigilant workers were on guard and immediately they realised that it had docked, they refused to handle it, despite pressure from management. SATAWU members maintained their refusal to offload the ship and also attempted to ensure that scab labour would not be used.
A few hours after berthing, at 23:00, the Johanna Russ sneaked out of the Durban Harbour.
From the beginning of this action, COSATU workers remained resolute about their position and were convinced that, following the recent Israeli massacres in Gaza, they would take determined action against Israel. Israel's terror included flagrant breaches of international law, the bombing of densely populated neighbourhoods, the illegal deployment of chemical white phosphorous, and attacks on schools, ambulances, relief agencies, hospitals, universities and places of worship.
COSATU has now decided to intensify its efforts in support of the struggles of the Palestinian people. The workers' victory in Durban yesterday spurs COSATU members on to more determined action in order to isolate the apartheid state of Israel. Other COSATU unions are currently in discussions about how they might also give effect to COSATU's resolutions on boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, including a refusal to handle Israeli goods, and continuing pressure on our government to sever diplomatic and trade relations with Israel.
The momentum against apartheid Israel has become an irresistible force. We are proud to stand with the millions around the world who say ``Enough is enough''. They are doing what we asked them to do when we faced the apartheid regime in our own country.
COSATU and the Palestine Solidarity Committee call on all people of conscience to join us in boycotting Israeli products and institutions until a just, democratic state, with equal rights for all comes into existence in Palestine. This is just the beginning of a solidarity campaign which will continue until the demands of the Palestinian people have been won.
For more information, call: Randall Howard (Satawu General Secretary) - 082 564 6298; Patrick Craven (COSATU) - 082 821 7456; Melissa Hoole (PSC) - 073 906 0017; Bongani Masuku (COSATU) - 079 499 6419; Salim Vally (PSC) - 082 802 5936; Na'eem Jeenah (PSC) - 084 574 2674.
a historic development this week, South African dockworkers refused to
unload a ship from Israel that docked in Durban on 4 February 2009. The
action by SATAWU members, a union affiliated to COSATU, in Durban
reflects the commitment by South African workers to refuse to support
oppression and exploitation across the globe. They were following the
decision by COSATU to strengthen the campaign in South Africa for
boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) against Apartheid Israel.
year, the same Durban dockworkers refused to unload a shipment of arms
from China destined for Zimbabwe to prop up the Mugabe regime and to
intensify the repression against the Zimbabwean people.
Australian members of the Maritime Union of Australia have also
resolved to support the campaign for BDS, and have called for a boycott
of all Israeli vessels and all vessels bearing goods arriving from or
going to Israel. It was the same union that in the 1980's used to
refuse to touch any thing from the apartheid South Africa.
salute the principled position taken by these workers. We also take
this opportunity to salute the millions of workers all over the world
who have openly condemned and taken decisive steps to isolate apartheid
Israel, a step that should send shockwaves to its arrogant patrons in
the United States who foot the bill for Israel's killing machine.
also calls on workers in the rest of the world to follow the lead of
our members in SATAWU who have vowed not to unload any Israeli goods,
and our members who are planning a campaign not to handle any Israeli
goods in supermarkets, and other stores.
Workers of the
world united to isolate the Apartheid South African state in 1970s and
1980s. Workers need to stretch our hands across the seas and our
continents to join together, now, to isolate the Apartheid Israeli
state and to Free Palestine.
From our own experience, we
know how painful and dehumanising is the apartheid system of
segregation. It was a system based on the assumption that one group or
race is superior to others and therefore has a right to all the
privileges and virtues associated with that particular status. It has a
right to run and determine the lives of others, excluding them from
certain privileges, merely because they do not belong to the "chosen"
What other definition would so fittingly define a
system based on different rights and privileges for Jews and Arabs in
the Middle East? The bantustanisation of Palestine into pieces or
strips - West Bank, Ramallah, Gaza strip and so on - run by Israel and
with no rights whatsoever for the Palestinians - is definitely an
Israel occupied the land of the
Palestinian people and created settler communities of Jews who enjoy a
different lifestyle and privileges than those experienced by
Palestinians, who are packed like Sardines in a tin throughout the
Bantustans, with Gaza being acknowledged as the world's biggest
In the same way that the ANC-led
liberation movement here in South Africa refused to submit to the most
extreme form of invasion and subjugation, but fought with all means at
our disposal, why should the Palestinian people be denied that right?
hypocritical 'equal apportionment of condemnation to both the aggressor
and victim' is dishonest and unfair. There is no neutrality in a
struggle; the occupying and oppressive force is immoral and the
resisting force has the moral responsibility to fight for freedom. The
Palestinian people have been left with no option but to resist the
occupation of their land and the denial of their rights.
are deeply troubled by the immoral position adopted by the South
African Jewish Board of Deputies, the South African Zionist Federation
and the Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, on the current atrocities in
Gaza. They continue to justify the aggression in all sorts of jargon,
masking the true character of the human crisis and suffering inflicted
daily on the people of Palestine.
On the other hand we
salute statements by various South African Jews of conscience who have
dissociated themselves from the attack on Gaza and spoken out boldly
against the genocide carried out in the name of the Israeli people by a
few warmongers and their US allies.
We ask the newly
elected US President, Barack Obama to be true to his promise for real
change. We call on him to stop U.S aid to Israel.
utter disregard for international law by Israel and its contempt for UN
resolutions further confirm the need for the restructuring and
transformation of this super global governance institution to meet the
challenges of the 21st century.
We are putting forward the following appeals to the people of South Africa and the world:
All trade unions, social movements, NGOs, religious organisations and
academics should support and actively participate in the BDS campaign
against Israel, refusing to handle anything that comes from and that
goes to Israel in order to isolate it until it submits to international
law and withdraws from all the occupied territories
companies and all shipping companies must refuse to carry any shipment
of arms to Israel. Any shipping company who carries these weapons has
the blood of the people of Gaza on its hands!
governments should enforce international law by refusing to recognise a
country that makes a mockery of international law and the pursuit of
human dignity. They must expel Israeli ambassadors and representatives
in order to ensure that we isolate it throughout the world until it
subscribes to the ideals of human dignity! In this case, we salute the
bold examples of Venezuela and Bolivia and call upon all countries to
Ø The international media must expose the
real truth behind the war and not hide the real issues in the name of
objectivity, by projecting an image of Israel as a state under siege by
terrorist, thus discrediting the legitimate resistance of the
Palestinian people. Balanced reporting does not mean, massaging issues
and diluting the truth even in the face of insurmountable evidence
against the wrong side.
Ø The international trade union
movement should emulate the heroic example of SATAWU in Durban and the
Norwegian Locomotive Drivers Union, who on 8 January ensured that all
trains in the whole of Norway, and all trams and subways in Oslo, stood
still for two minutes in protest against Israeli invasion.
We call for particular focus on targeting the conservative US and
British foreign policies, which requires that we work with our
counterpart unions and progressive organisations in these countries to
effect radical foreign policy changes in relation to the Middle East.
This should include exposing the complicit role of these two states in
perpetuating the violence and arming Israel, while rhetorically
positioning themselves as anti-terrorists.
acknowledge the progressive role of our government in relation to the
situation in the Middle East, including its humanitarian support for
the suffering people of Gaza, but believe that there is a lot more we
can do working together. In this instance, we call for the cessation of
all trade relations with Israel.
Ø The Arab League must
be brought under pressure to act in solidarity with the Palestinian
people and limit the chances of some states openly collaborating with
Israel, but to lead the global offensive for the isolation of Israel,
owing to their strategic proximity in that area.