Histadrut seeks int'l help over SA ports boycott

South African port workers are refusing to unload Israeli goods in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) intends to ask the International Transport Workers' Federation to help bring about an end to the boycott imposed on Israeli ships by port workers in South Africa.

"The union in South Africa is against anything connected to Israel, and in the past even objected to a cooperation agreement we signed with the Palestinian transport workers union," explained Transport Wokers Union chairman Avi Edri.

"It's unacceptable that trades unions should intervene in a political matter, especially when those Israeli businesses suffering from the boycott employ Palestinian workers too," he added.

Randall Howard, General-Secretary of the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, announced yesterday that port workers in the country would not unload any goods that originated in Israel, as a token of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

"The heroic struggle of the Palestinians for independence is a struggle that the union supports," Howard said, though he stressed that he condemned violence from either side.

The first to have been hit by the union's action is Israeli shipping line Zim. One of the company's ships was not allowed to anchor in the port of Durban, even though it does fly under the Israeli flag.

The ship is meanwhile sailing close to the port in the hope of positive developments. Zim said it believed the problem would be resolved within a few days, and would not comment further.

In Israel, the Transport and Foreign Affairs ministries are monitoring events closely. The inclination at present is to see whether the problem cannot be solved through quiet negotiation with the port management.

At the same time, the government does not intend to ignore the affair, and if unloading of Israeli goods in South Africa is not resumed, a sharp response can be expected, since the union's action is liable to set a negative precedent for the future.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that "it is regrettable that a workers' organization with little understanding of what is happening in the Middle East takes action that hurts both Israelis and Palestinians."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on February 5, 2009

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2009

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