Unionists for Palestine get organised, endorse call to boycott ZIM

November 6, 2023
From left: Joe Deakin, Paul Keating, Amal Nasser and Amar Hamid. Photo: Trade Unions for Palestine/Facebook

“Today there is shock in the Palestinian community that the Labor government is openly supporting Israel in the war against Gaza,” Palestinian activist Amal Nasser told a public meeting organised by Trade Unions for Palestine and Sydney Staff for BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) on November 3.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) hall was packed with supporters wanting to help. A similar meeting was organised in Naarm on the same day.

“In response to a call to action from Palestinian unions, we must go back to the grassroots to win this struggle,” Nasser said. “This is not just about supporting Palestine, but about building a militant anti-war movement.”

The meeting discussed how unionists can contribute to stopping Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza.

It heard that more than 2000 unionists have now signed on to a call end to Israel’s brutal war, its occupation and practices of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. The MUA Sydney Branch and the CFMEU Construction Division have also signed on.

Amar Hamid, a midwife and NSW Nurses and Midwives Association delegate at Westmead Hospital, said: “It is important that health care workers in Australia stand in solidarity with health care workers in Gaza.

“When hospitals and ambulances are being bombed by Israel in Gaza, we cannot stand idly by: we must do all we can to oppose this genocide by the state of Israel.”

Paul Keating, MUA Sydney Branch secretary, spoke about maritime unions’ proud history fighting imperialist wars, including: halting pig iron exports to Japan in 1938; the ban on Indonesian ships heading to Indonesia in 1945; refusing to allow staff vessels heading to the Vietnam War in the 1960s; and the 1980s embargo on trade with South Africa.

Keating said the Labor government should be ashamed for backing Israel and that “the MUA stands firmly with Palestine in this struggle”.

Joe Deakin, a veteran leader of the MUA, said: “We are dealing with a ruthless capitalist system in this war. The MUA has always stood up to our rulers against war and oppression. We need to stand up for Palestine together. International solidarity is crucial right now.”

Delegates and activists during discussion elaborated on how they were building solidarity with the people of Gaza in their unions.

The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and a coalition of all major Palestinian unions and professional associations have called on unions and workers worldwide to boycott Israel and businesses that are complicit with its apartheid regime.

The international effort is called #BlockTheBoat. ZIM, the Israeli shipping line, in the development of the Israeli war machine has been relentless. It is a major transporter of weapons of mass destruction.

[A protest aiming to block the Zim boat is being organised in Gadi on November 11 at 12noon at the Foreshore Boat Ramp, Foreshore Road, Port Botany. Sign the Trade Unionists for Palestine solidarity statement here.]

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