While the far-right political parties in Israel argue over who will form the next government following the deadlocked election, the international trade union movement is tightening its sanctions against it.

In the past month, members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union belonging to the Congress of South African Trade Unions successfully stopped Israeli cargo being unloaded at Durban from the Johanna Russ.

COSATU issued a statement calling 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.”

Simultaneously, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) launched a report on Israel and Palestine compiled by 11 senior members who had conducted an on-the-spot inquiry.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams who hosted the report’s launch in Stormont’s Long Gallery supported a conference to be held later this year to decide whether to impose a boycott of Israeli goods.

“Unless the international community, and that includes the Irish government, the British government, the EU and the US government, exercises its considerable influence and authority, any relaxation of the current assault on Gaza will only bring a short respite for citizens there,” Adams said.

Now a group of left-wing American trade unionists have signed an open letter calling for an end to US aid for Israel and the divestment of business and labour investments.

Commending the South African dockers’ boycott, the American union leaders said:

This action is in the best tradition of dock workers in Denmark and Sweden (1963), the San Francisco Bay Area (1984) and Liverpool (1988), who refused to handle shipping for apartheid South Africa; Oakland dock workers’ refusal to load bombs for the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile (1978); and West Coast dock workers’ strike against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2008).

While the disparate actions of trade unionists in South Africa, Ireland and the US may not immediately trouble the Israeli Government, they show that the worldwide support Israel once enjoyed among labor unions is slipping away.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey