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)

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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.


BRAVO!!! I was fighting for SA change then ( 80s),
love seeing this solidarity now!

Watching for more on Israel/Palestine...

Thank you all!!

As Native Americans say upon entering
their sweat lodge:" Metaqueahse" /"All my relations"

For justice and peace for all.


Thank you, and very well done. Please don't slip away from the spot light too quickly. Stick around a little longer and make an opportunity to help inform the public about what has gone on in Palestine, why dock workers in South Africa are standing up for them, and why others should too. The world should hear more about all the courageous acts that it takes for justice to prevail. Keep spreading peace, our kids are going to love it.


We see the non-Arabs, and non-Muslim workers in SA support what they believe is a just human cause. It is so shameful to see the Egyptians let all ships loaded with weapons and support to all troops of all kinds to kill Arabs and Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, and of course Palestine, and definitely many more, not to mention the closure of the crossings and all political, economical support.

Waiting for a day when the Arab people will be protected by their governments just as much as we are watching it today, that the world is stretching a hand to them after betraying them for too long

February saw the launch of the website "Who Profits?"
(, a website maintained by the Israeli movement
Coalition of Women for Peace

The website presents
clearly and extensively the list of Israeli and multinational
corporations who are financially involved with with the Israeli
occupation of Palestinian territories, whether by the funding of
businesses in illegal settlements or by the supply of services, as
well as military and construction equipment to the system of
occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

The site interface includes a
search engine which allows the search by the company name, its origin
country and even by its annual income and the stock index in which it
is traded. Among the dozens of of companies which are listed on the
site, it is hard not to notice the names of the leading companies in
the Israeli economy, such as the Alon Group, Africa-Israel
Investments, Elbit Systems Ltd, the major banks as well as some
prominent weaponry and technology manufacturers.

Not all companies in
the list are known actors in the military-industrial complex: some of
the occupation profiteers include Caterpillar, which provides the
equipment for house demolitions as well as construction of
checkpoints, Hewlett Packard (HP) which provides the Israeli military
with IT, and even Pizza Hut and General Mills, the producer of
Pillsbury, which are dealing heavily with illegal settlements.

The site could be highly valuable for activists who aim towards the
boycott of businesses investing in the system of Israeli occupation,
and for public campaigns against the illegal settlements in
Palestinian lands.

Above all, the data presented in the website exposes the level of
corruption reached by the regime of monopoly capital, which is based
not merely on trade and production but on the organized violence
applied by the capitalist state in order to preserve the profit level.
It is essential that activists on the left work in order to uncover
the violence which is inherent in the monpoly capitalist regime, and
to combine the struggle against the economic system with the struggle
against military occupation, violence and racism.


COSATU general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi's, address to Cape Town rally in solidarity with the people of Gaza, 8 February 2009

In 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.

Last 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.

Western 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.

We 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.

COSATU 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" group.

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 apartheid system.

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 open-air prison.

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?

The 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.

We 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.  

The 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:

Ø  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

Ø  All 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!

Ø  All 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 emulate it.

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.

Ø  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.

Ø  We 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.

Once again, the global solidarity movement must be intensified to support the cause of the suffering people of Palestine, even more so with the crisis in Gaza. A day more under occupation is hell for the dispossessed people.