Barcelona dockers will not operate ships carrying arms

Sandra Vicente writing in El Diario, translated by Dave Kellaway.


Source >> El Diario

The Barcelona dockers have decided “not to allow the activity” of ships sending arms to Palestine and Israel.

Workers say they are not taking sides in the conflict but are calling for a ceasefire and respect for human and civil rights.

The dockers of the port of Barcelona have decided “not to work on ships containing war material”. This was explained in a communiqué made public after an assembly of the works council.

The Organisation of Port Dockers of Barcelona (OEPB), the majority union among the 1,200 dockers in Barcelona, points out that they have taken this decision to “protect the civilian population, whatever the territory”.

Nevertheless, the workers affirm an “absolute rejection of any form of violence” and see it as an “obligation and a commitment” to defend “vehemently” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Rights, they say, are being “violated” in Ukraine, Israel, or the Palestinian territory.

In this way, the workers pledge not to load, unload, or facilitate the work of any ship containing weapons. However, the dockers do not have “the capacity to know de facto what is in the containers”, they told this newspaper.

The workers put themselves in the hands of NGOs and humanitarian aid organisations that may have knowledge of arms shipments from the port of Barcelona. To this end, they recall the boycott they carried out in 2011 in the context of the Libyan war, during which they collaborated with various entities to hinder the shipment of war material and, in turn, facilitate the shipment of water and food.

Although the government has assured that it does not plan to export to Israel lethal weapons that can be used in Gaza, the dockers are aware that, in 2023 alone, Spain has bought military material from Israel to the value of 300 million euros, together with another 700 million euros committed to the purchase of weapons for the coming years.

The workers insist that with this communiqué they are not taking a political stance on the conflict; they are simply advocating a ceasefire and the distribution of humanitarian aid. “It is not a political statement; we just want all avenues of dialogue to be exhausted before violence is used”.

This argument was the same one that these dock workers used to refuse to service the cruise ships where the National Police stayed during the days leading up to October 1 [during the events arising from the Catalan government’s independence referendum in 2017]. On that occasion, they also claimed that they were taking the decision “in defence of civil rights”.

With this gesture, the dockers join other port workers’ collectives, such as the Belgian dockers, who have also announced that they will not allow the shipment of military material to Israel or Palestine. The boycott is a strategy that is not new; dockers in various parts of the world have already carried it out in times of conflict in recent years. For example, during the 2008 and 2009 conflict in the Gaza Strip, dockers from Italy, South Africa, and the United States refused to handle shipments from Israel.

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Dave Kellaway is on the Editorial Board of Anti*Capitalist Resistance, a member of Socialist Resistance, and Hackney and Stoke Newington Labour Party, a contributor to International Viewpoint and Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres.

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