An Italian dock workers’ union set off a global chain reaction last Friday when they refused to load a shipment of weapons onto a vessel bound for Israel. One week later, workers from South Africa and California are joining them in their mission to help put an end to the actions of an apartheid state.
The workers, members of the L’Unione Sindacale di Base (USB) in the Tuscan city of Livorno, were tipped off to the shipment by the Geneva-based organization Weapon Watch which monitors arms and weaponry transiting European and Mediterranean ports. In a press release issued on May 14th, Weapon Watch stated that the Asiatic Island had already been loaded with “high-precision bullets” when it was docked in Genoa the previous day and was to be loaded with more dangerous items while in port in Livorno which lies just over 100 miles south of Genoa on Italy’s northwest coast. Both Weapon Watch and USB worked feared that if the armaments reached Israel they would be used against civilians in Gaza.
News of this action quickly reached Israeli ports. The next day on May 15th, The Histadrut, Israel’s largest trade union, ordered dock workers to decline service to all Italy-bound ships. The Italian embassy in Israel then stepped in to ensure that the USB would end its boycott which allowed the Histadrut to do the same. Unfortunately, the ship made its way to its next port of call, Naples, before reaching Israel on Thursday, May 20th.
The same day that the Asiatic Island reached its destination, weaponry and all, another docker worker boycott sprang up in Durban, South Africa. The South African Trade and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) said it received a request from the South African Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Coalition to not off-load cargo from an Israeli ship as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Satawu’s Deputy General Secretary, Anele Kiet, said their members confirmed they would refuse Israeli carriers and would be joining the BDS Coalition in conducting boycotts, picketing, and demonstrations around the city. Such solidarity between and South Africans should come as little surprise given their shared history of living under apartheid states.
According to The Middle East Eye, dock workers in Oakland, California were planning to stop the offloading of another Israeli-owned ship there as well.
What these workers are doing is a beautiful thing to behold as it is often the most simple of acts which are truly revolutionary. Acts such as these break the conditioning that we have all been subjected to which tells us that destruction and violence are subversive while peaceful non-compliance goes nowhere. This same conditioning divides and conquers when we should instead stand united. It tells us we are small and weak rather than great and strong.
Another remarkable element of this growing movement is how wonderfully replicable it is. Truckers could join dock workers in preventing armaments destined for Israel, Saudi Arabia, America, China, Russia, and other warring nations from being delivered. Those in the world of healthcare could lead the fight against lockdowns and vaccine passports by walking out and not looking back. Companies like Bayer and Nestle, which threaten the global food supply, could be boycotted into nonexistence. All by simply refusing to take part in the mechanisms which allow these destructive forces to flourish.
Israel and Hamas may have signed a cease-fire ending the most recent round of violence, but this is no reason to stop disobeying the international-military-industrial-complex. We can only hope that more beautiful acts of defiance will continue to spread around the world now that these brave people have led by example.