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Barcelona Dockworkers vow not to load weapons for Israel or any conflict zone

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Picture: Jordi Domènech/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0 – The port of Barcelona from a hillside. The union representing Barcelona’s dockworkers promised Monday not to load or unload military materials onto any ship bound for Israel or another war zone, building on a growing number of direct actions targeting weapons bound for Israel as its bombardment of Gaza has claimed more than 10,000 lives, the writer says.

By Olivia Rosane

The union representing Barcelona’s dockworkers promised Monday not to load or unload military materials onto any ship bound for Israel or another war zone where they could be used against civilians.

In their statement, the Organisation of Port Stevedores of Barcelona, OEPB in Catalan, called for a ceasefire in Israel, Palestine, Ukraine, and every other global conflict.

“We have decided … not to allow shipping activity in our port that contains military equipment, with the sole purpose of protecting any civilian population in any territory,” the union wrote. “No cause justifies sacrificing civilians.”

OEPB said it was its duty as a workers’ organisation to “respect and vehemently defend” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — “Human rights that appear to have been forgotten by the countries that have signed their Magna Carta, and that are now being violated in Ukraine, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and other parts of the planet”.

The union’s statement came as the death toll from Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip surpassed 10,000. Hamas also killed 1,400 in the October 7 attack on Israel that launched the current bout of open conflict, though Gaza has been under Israeli blockade for 16 years. At least 9,614 civilians have been killed in Ukraine between when Russia invaded on February 24, 2022, and September 10, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

In addition to calling for a ceasefire in all global hostilities, the OEPB called on the United Nations specifically to “cease its posture of complicity through inaction” and return to its mission of preserving international peace and security, protecting human rights, distributing humanitarian aid, supporting sustainable development and climate action, and protecting international rights.

“We, several unions active in ground logistics, call on our members not to handle any flights that ship military equipment to Palestine/Israel.”

It’s unsure how many weapons the OEPB’s promise will actually stop from reaching their destination, according to Reuters. Spain exported 1.3 billion euros in military equipment during the first half of 2022, with 9 million of that sent to Israel. However, the Spanish government has said it does not plan to export any deadly weapons to Israel to use in its current attack on Gaza.

OEPB secretary Josep Maria Deop told Reuters Tuesday that the statement was largely symbolic and intended to encourage other Spanish ports to follow his union’s example. But he said that military equipment did likely ship from Barcelona and that peace organisations could help the union pinpoint which vessels to avoid.

The move also builds on a growing number of direct actions targeting weapons bound for Israel. It came a week after four Belgian transport unions issued a statement urging their members not to handle Israel-bound military equipment, as Reuters reported at the time.

“While a genocide is under way in Palestine, workers at various airports in Belgium are seeing arms shipments in the direction of the war zone,” the unions said.

“We, several unions active in ground logistics, call on our members not to handle any flights that ship military equipment to Palestine/Israel, like there were clear agreements and rules at the start of the conflict with Russia and Ukraine,” their statement continued.

Protesters also attempted to block the MV Cape Orlando from leaving the ports of Oakland and Tacoma after receiving word it was being loaded with weapons destined for Israel. They delayed its progress for nine hours in Oakland on Friday and more than eight in Tacoma on Monday.

Also on Monday, more than 75 activists blocked the entrances to a Boeing plant in Missouri that manufactures bombs used by Israel in Gaza, as Middle East Eye reported. The plant had provided Israel with nearly 1,000 bombs including Small Diameter Bombs and Joint Direct Attack Munitions.

“We are joining millions of people across the US and around the world in demanding an end to Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza and its decades-long occupation of Palestine,” Ellie Tang, an organiser with the anti-war group Dissenters, told Middle East Eye.

The protest, which also included members of the St Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee and Resist STL, prevented Boeing workers from entering the plant for a few hours Monday morning, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Members of Palestine Action in the UK and Palestine Action US have also carried out several direct actions targeting weapons makers, in particular Elbit Systems, which is Israel’s largest arms manufacturer. On Monday, Palestine Action blockaded an Elbit factory in Kent, after which three protesters were arrested. On Tuesday, they blocked off the entrance to Elbit headquarters in Bristol.

In Bristol, police arrested four protesters and took more than three hours to remove the blockade once they arrived, the group said.

Olivia Rosane is a staff writer for Common Dreams. This article was first published on Common Dreams