February 03, 2009

Israeli ship not welcome


COSATU and PSC launch Week of Action for Palestine
supported by YCL and other progressive organisations
3 February 2009

In a historic development for South Africa, South African dock workers have announced their determination not to offload a ship from Israel that is scheduled to dock in Durban on Sunday, 8 February 2009. This follows the decision by COSATU to strengthen the campaign in South Africa for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Apartheid Israel.

The pledge by SATAWU members in Durban reflects the commitment by South African workers to refuse to support oppression and exploitation across the globe. Last year, Durban dock workers had refused to offload a shipment of arms that had arrived from China and was destined for Zimbabwe to prop up the Mugabe regime and to intensify the repression against the Zimbabwean people. Now, says SATAWU's General Secretary Randall Howard, the union's members are committing themselves to not handling Israeli goods.

SATAWU's action on Sunday will be part of a proud history of worker resistance against apartheid. In 1963, just four years after the Anti-Apartheid Movement was formed, Danish dock workers refused to offload a ship with South African goods. When the ship docked in Sweden, Swedish workers followed suit. Dock workers in Liverpool and, later, in the San Francisco Bay Area also refused to offload South African goods. South Africans, and the South African working class in particular, will remain forever grateful to those workers who determinedly opposed apartheid and decided that they would support the anti-apartheid struggle with their actions.

Last week, Western Australian members of the Maritime Union of Australia resolved to support the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and have called for a boycott of all Israeli vessels and all vessels bearing goods arriving from or going to Israel.

This is the legacy and the tradition that South African dock workers have inherited, and it is a legacy they are determined to honour, by ensuring that South African ports of entry will not be used as transit points for goods bound for or emanating from certain dictatorial and oppressive states such as Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Israel.

COSATU, the Palestine Solidarity Committee, the Young Communist League and a range of other organisations 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. We call on other workers and unions to follow suit and to do all that is necessary to ensure that they boycott all goods to and from Israel until Palestine is free.

We also welcome statements by various South African Jews of conscience who have dissociated themselves from the genocide in Gaza. We call on all South Africans to ensure that none of our family members are allowed to join the Israeli Occupation Forces' killing machine.

In celebration of the actions of SATAWU members with regard to the ship from Israel, and in pursuance of the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and our call on the South African government to sever diplomatic and trade relations with Israel, this coalition of organisations has declared a week of action beginning on Friday, 6 February 2009. The actions will be organised under the theme: FREE PALESTINE! ISOLATE APARTHEID ISRAEL! Activities that have already been confirmed for this week will include:

Friday, 6 February: A protest outside the offices of the South African Zionist Federation and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, 2 Elray Street, Raedene, off Louis Botha Avenue. Both these organisations unquestioningly supported the recent Israeli attacks against Gaza, and supported the massacre of civilians and the attacks on schools, mosques, ambulances, and UN refugee centres. Protestors will be addressed by, among others, SATAWU General Secretary Randall Howard, and ex-Minister Ronnie Kasrils. Protest starts at 14:00.

Friday, 6 February: A picket outside parliament in Cape Town. COSATU members and solidarity activists will be joined by a number of members of parliament. Picket starts at 09:30.

Friday, 6 February: A mass rally in Actonville, Benoni, at the Buzme Adab Hall. The rally will be addressed by, among others, COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, PSC spokesperson Salim Vally, South African Council of Churches General Secretary Eddie Makue, and ex-Minister Ronnie Kasrils. Rally starts at 19:30.

Sunday, 8 February: A protest at the Durban Harbour Mouth, off Victoria Embankment. Protestors will be addressed by, among others, COSATU President Sdumo Dlamini. Protest starts at 10:00.

Sunday 8 February: A mass rally in Cape Town at Vygieskraal Rugby Stadium. The rally will be addressed by, among others, COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. Rally starts at 14:30.

For more information, call:
Patrick Craven (Cosatu National Spokesperson) 082 821 7456
Salim Vally (PSC spokesperson) 082 802 5936

Visit the COSATU web site at http://www.cosatu.org.za/homep.htm

The BNC Salutes South African Dock Workers Action!

Press Release

Palestine, 3 February 2009 -- The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC, warmly salutes the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), a member of COSATU, for its decision today not to offload an Israeli ship that is due to arrive in Durban, South Africa, on 8 February. Coming weeks after the massive Israeli massacre in Gaza, this distinguished expression by SATAWU of effective solidarity with the Palestinian people in general, and with Gaza in particular, sets a historic precedent that reminds us of the first such action during the apartheid era taken by Danish dock workers in 1963, when they decided not to offload ships carrying South African products, triggering a similar boycott in Sweden, England and elsewhere.

Last week, endorsing the Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), the Maritime Union of Australia (Western Australia) resolved to boycott all Israeli vessels and all vessels bearing goods arriving from or going to Israel. A few weeks before, Greek dock workers threatened to block a ship carrying weapons to Israel during its criminal war on Gaza. Those actions, together with the SATAWU decision today, will most likely usher in a new, qualitatively advanced phase of BDS that goes well beyond symbolism. We call on dock workers’ unions around the world to endorse similar sanctions against Israeli or Israel-bound cargo.

Support in South Africa for the Palestinian struggle against Israel’s colonial and apartheid policies and its war crimes is reaching new heights, with COSATU, the South African Council of Churches, the Palestine Solidarity Committee, the Young Communist League and many grassroots organizations and networks leading diverse forms of BDS campaigns, informed by the long and ultimately successful struggle of South Africans against apartheid. The Palestinian and global BDS movement against Israel is indebted to the people of South Africa for their inspiring and morale-boosting solidarity.

If Gaza today has become the test of our universal morality and our common humanity, the fast spreading BDS movement around the world has passed the test with flying colors. In fact, worldwide support for BDS against Israel in reaction to its war crimes and crimes against humanity in the occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem, has shown that international civil society fully recognizes that Israel must be held accountable before international law and must pay a heavy price for its atrocities and ongoing willful destruction of Palestinian society. In this context, the decision by each of Venezuela, Bolivia, Qatar and Mauritania to sever diplomatic ties with Israel was a particularly commendable way of challenging Israel’s impunity. The shift from traditional, mostly symbolic, solidarity to BDS in Norway, Sweden, Britain, Ireland, Turkey, Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, Spain, USA, Brazil, New Zealand, among others, is a resounding endorsement of effective, morally and politically sound action to end Israel’s multi-faceted oppression of the indigenous people of Palestine and to bring about a just peace to Palestine and the entire region.

The Palestinian civil society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, launched in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian political parties, unions and organizations, offers the vehicle for all people of conscience, organizations and institutions around the globe to join the collective effort to reaffirm the primacy of international law, human rights and dignity. To replicate the strength and effectiveness of the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s, the BNC urges civil society institutions and every concerned citizen around the world to:

- Integrate BDS in every struggle for justice and human rights, by adopting wide, context-sensitive and sustainable boycotts of Israeli products, companies, academic and cultural institutions, and sports groups, similar to the actions taken against apartheid South Africa;
- Ensure national and multinational corporations are held responsible and accordingly sanctioned for profiteering from Israel’s occupation and other violations of human rights and international law;
- Work towards cancelling and blocking free trade and other preferential agreements with Israel, including the EU-Israel and the Mercosur-Israel trade agreements; and
- Pressure governments to impose a direct and indirect arms embargo against Israel that guarantees end-user compliance with international law and human rights principles.

Our “South Africa” moment has arrived. The time for BDS is now!

Secretariat of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)


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