Despite an open-ended ceasefire having been agreed between Hamas and Israel, trade union Cosatu have stated that they will continue plans to intensify the boycott against Israeli products and companies. Cosatu are seeking to mobilise more South Africans to take up the cause, which also aims to persuade retailers selling Israeli products to cut all trade ties with those companies.
Cosatu’s national spokesperson Patrick Craven said amongst the forms of protest they were looking to undertake was for dockworkers to refuse to offload Israeli goods coming into the country. He acknowledged that they had yet to single out any ships suspected of carrying Israeli products, but would continue to monitor that situation.
“This follows the example of American dockworkers, or longshoreman as they call them, who’ve already forced one ship coming with Israeli goods to abandon its attempts to unload those goods. That is just one of the things we want to do,” he noted.
He welcomed the possible long term ceasefire that was agreed on Tuesday, expressing hope that it could last. However, he said Cosatu doubted the ceasefire would solve the underlying problems which remained, and therefore their campaign would remain.
“We will do so until there is a permanent solution to the problems faced by the people of Palestine,” he said.
Craven suggested the best way to bring home to South Africans the reality of what was happening in Palestine, was to draw the comparisons with the countries own Apartheid regime. He stressed there were many parallels between the two situations, noting that the creation of the Israeli Apartheid wall to keep Palestinians apart, was very similar to racial segregation experienced in Apartheid South Africa.
“Also we have to make the point that in many ways, their situation is even worse. The Apartheid regime, bad as it was in many respects, didn’t carry out the kind of systematic military campaign against the majority people in South Africa, in the way that the Israeli government is doing to the people of Gaza in particular,” he said.
Craven said Cosatu were encouraged that even in Israel itself, there was a small but growing opposition towards the Israeli government’s campaign. He also noted that within the Jewish community around the world, there was growing number of Jews who were rejecting the idea of Zionism.
Despite applauding the South African government for its stance on the Israeli aggression, Craven was still critical of the fact that government had yet to take any concrete action. Cosatu are demanding a complete break of diplomatic relations with Israel, which would follow the example of many other countries, particularly in South and Central America.
“They have withdrawn their ambassadors, they’ve expelled the Israeli ambassadors to their countries, and we think that if South Africa were to follow suit, it would be particularly significant,” he suggested.
Discussing the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign (BDS), Craven said it was vital the initiative became institutionalised and that companies known for “propping up the Israeli regime” be boycotted.
He added that Cosatu had already undertaken to do research on Israeli products currently being sold in local stores, so as to draw up a list to be distributed to the public on what not to purchase. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)