Italy: Dockworkers protest arms shipment to Israel

May 20, 2021

A cargo ship loaded with high-precision rockets destined for the Israeli Defense Forces was shipped, semi-clandestinely, via the port of Genoa in Italy. Dockworkers in the Italian port of Livorno mobilised to protest the arms shipment, taking place during Israel’s war against the Palestinian people.

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Workers at the port of Livorno, organised in the Union Sindicale di Base (USB), protested the arrival of the Asiatic Island, a ship destined for Israel carrying high-precision rockets. The dockworkers, fearing that additional weapons would be loaded onto the ship, spread the news and alerted regulatory authorities about this case of weapons trafficking — clearly aimed at supplying the Israeli Defense Forces in its brutal campaign of aggression against the Palestinian people.

The Livorno dockworkers, who learned about the ship from their colleagues in the Collettivo Autonomo Lavoratori Portuali (Autonomous Port Workers Collective, CALP) in Genoa, called a strike for May 15 — joining the activism that has erupted as a wave of indignation and mobilisation around the world.

In Milan, thousands of people had already filled Piazza Duomo, and on May 15, dozens of demonstrations were held across the country, as part of an international day of solidarity with the Palestinian people. These demonstrations were called by Palestinian organisations, along with sectors of the trade union movement and the left.

Loaded with “high-precision rockets” the Asiatic Island , which flies the flag of Singapore, was reported to have sailed from Marseille, France, to Genoa. It was bound for Livorno and Naples, and ultimately for the Israeli ports of Ashdod and Haifa.

Weapons Watch, a Genoa-based group that monitors arms shipments through European and Mediterranean ports said the loading took place without the ship docking in the Dangerous Goods zone, as required by law. The ship is a typical “feeder” — a small container ship — that operates as part of the scheduled service of Israeli state-owned shipping company, ZIM. According to Weapons Watch, ZIM’s ships regularly load in the port of Genoa.

USB denounced the entire operation and demanded that the Port Authority, the harbourmaster and border authorities check the ship’s cargo, along with the dozens of armoured military vehicles that were, apparently, waiting on the dock to be loaded. Later, the union confirmed that no military material would have been loaded onto the ship had it called in at Livorno. It demanded that the government clarify whether authorisation for the ship’s cargo had been granted and that all such shipments to Israel be halted.

USB and CALP said the May 15 strike was in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to demand an immediate end to the bombing of Gaza, as well as an end to the “expropriation” of Palestinian homes that have been under military occupation for years.

In Naples, the final Italian port of call for the Asiatic Island, thousands of people marched across the city to the port. The Naples dockworkers — part of the SI Cobas rank-and-file union — issued a statement in solidarity with the struggle against weapons shipments and denounced the complicity with the Zionist aggression by nearly every political party in Italy’s parliament.

Recent blockades of ports and strikes by dockworkers are examples of the class solidarity that can help stop the export of weapons to countries where they are used to wage war and carry out massacres — just as we are seeing today in Palestine.

The warnings and denunciations about ship cargoes that come from independent monitoring organisations are important, but it is strikes in the transportation sector — based on that information — that show the strength we have to stop states like Israel from using those weapons. These also strike a blow against the European arms industry, one of the world’s main producers of weaponry, and against the means of repressing the world’s oppressed peoples.

Without these actions, these cargoes of death would never encounter genuine, concrete resistance as they make their way to the world’s war zones.

[Abridged from Originally published in Italian at La Voce Delle Lotte. Translated by Scott Cooper.]

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