Groundxero | November 7, 2023
On Monday, 6 November, 2023, the Organization of Port Dockers in Barcelona (OEPB), the largest union of dock workers in the city, called for a cease-fire to the war in Gaza and announced that they will refuse to handle the shipment of any weapons, citing humanitarian concerns. “Workers have committed to not load, unload, or facilitate the tasks of any boat containing weapons,” the Spanish publication El Diario reported.
Citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document adopted by the United Nations in 1948, the union representing some 1,200 dockworkers at the Port of Barcelona said that it made the decision “with the sole purpose of protecting the civilian population, regardless of the territory.” The union said it would rely on humanitarian aid groups to help identify which shipments might contain weapons or “war materials.” Dockworkers in Barcelona have carried out a similar boycott in 2011 during the Libyan war.
The Barcelona dockworkers’ union is among several across Europe who are calling for an immediate ceasefire to the ongoing genocide in Gaza in which over 10,000 Palestinians have been, more than 50, 000 wounded and 1.4 million displaced. The announcement by the Barcelona dock workers follows a group of transport unions in Belgium that about a week ago “called on their members to refuse to handle military equipment being sent to Israel”.
On Thursday, November 2, Greek trade unionists from the All Workers Militant Front (PAME) held a flash protest inside the Athens International Airport in solidarity with Palestine. PAME has also demanded that the Greek government stop all economic, political, and military cooperation with Israel. The union called for an end to the facilitation of bases and other infrastructure by Greece to the US, NATO, and Israel.
Earlier, in 2021, South African dock workers had refused to load arm shipments to Israel in a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Dock workers from Naples in Italy had also refused to handle arms shipments destined for Israel.
Following incessant bombing of Gaza, since 7 October, activists from Palestine Action in the UK, on October 31, blockaded the road to the headquarters of Elbit Systems in Bristol, notorious for manufacturing parts for Israeli drones and other pilot-less aircraft.
Ports have become new fronts for civil disobedience among pro-Palestine activists in the United States as well. On Monday morning, hundreds of protesters, holding banners reading “No Military Aid to Israel” and waving Palestinian flags, arrived at the Port of Tacoma in Oakland to block any efforts to load cargo onto Cape Orlando, a ship the protesters thought could be transporting weapons to Israel. The protesters chanted “Free, free Palestine!” and called for an immediate cease-fire and an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The protest raged on throughout the day.
On 16 October, 2023, Palestinian trade unions had issued an international call for action to stop the Israeli war machine. The call urged trade unions worldwide to refuse to build weapons destined for Israel; to refuse to transport weapons to Israel; to pass motions within trade unions to this effect; to take actions against companies involved in supporting Israel’s illegal blockade; and to pressure governments to stop any military trade with Israel.
The solidarity actions of the workers, particularly from workers in Europe, is significant. Workers in Barcelona, Italy and Belgium are setting example by actively opposing the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza by the apartheid state of Israel backed by imperialist US. The capitalist states cannot wage endless war if the workers refuse to manufacture and ship weapons.