Menu Close

Indian port workers refuse to handle military cargo bound for Israel

Add to my bookmarks

Share This Article:

Picture: Ministry of Ports India A cargo boat at an Indian port. The Water Transport Workers Federation of India, which represents 3,500 workers in 11 ports, has announced its refusal to aid Israel’s genocide and has called for an immediate ceasefire.

By Tanupriya Singh

The Water Transport Workers Federation of India, which represents 3,500 workers in 11 major ports across the country, has declared its refusal to load or unload any “weaponised cargoes” intended for use in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza.

This includes any cargo coming from Israel “or any other country which could handle military equipment and its allied cargo for war in Palestine”.

“The recent attack of Israel on Gaza plunging thousands of Palestinians into immense suffering and loss. Women and children have been blown to pieces in the war. Parents were unable to recognise their children killed in bombings which were exploding everywhere,” the union said in a statement dated February 14.

“At this juncture, our Union members have collectively decided to refuse handling all types of weaponised cargoes. Loading and unloading these weapons helps provide organisations with the ability to kill innocent people”.

The Union has called for an immediate ceasefire, urging “workers of the world and peace-loving people to stand with the demand of free Palestine”.

Speaking to The Wire, the union’s president, T. Narendra Rao, stated that the statement had been issued “to express solidarity with Palestine” and that workers “would not help load or unload anything that advances the cause of war”.

Israel has killed over 29,000 Palestinians and injured over 69,000 others in its relentless bombardment and attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip in the past four months. It is now moving towards launching an invasion of Rafah, after displacing and pushing around 1.5 million Palestinians from the rest of Gaza into the southern city, located near the border with Egypt.

Elbit and Adani deal

While the union president Rao said that there had not been any reports of ships bound for Israel yet, there have been reports in recent days of the sale of over 20 Hermes 900 medium-altitude long-endurance UAVs to Israel from the country.

The Hermes 900, which is one of four “killer drones” used by Israel, are manufactured at a facility of the Adani-Elbit Advanced Systems India Limited in the city of Hyderabad. The company is a joint venture between Israeli weapon’s manufacturer Elbit Systems and Indian conglomerate, Adani Group. The sale was first reported by Shephard Media on February 2.

While neither India nor Israel have acknowledged the purchase, the sale was confirmed off-the-record to The Wire by sources at Adani Group.

Israel had debuted the Hermes 900 drone during its 2014 bombing campaign in Gaza, in which it killed 2,251 Palestinians in the course of 50 days. Drone strikes alone accounted for 37 percent of the killings. The drone, which is sold on the international arms market, has been the target of sustained direct-action protests by Palestine Action in the UK.

The Adani-Elbit manufacturing venture is part of a decades-long history of military exchanges between India and Israel, with India becoming the largest purchaser of Israeli-made weapons, spending approximately USD 1 billion each year.

Under the first term of incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government between 2014 and 2019, weapons supply from Israel to India had shot up by 175 percent, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Meanwhile, India is supplying drones to Israel at a time when the Zionist Occupation is under explicit and binding orders from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to cease committing any acts defined as genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention — including “killing members of the group”.

Given the recognition by the ICJ of the plausible risk of genocide being committed by Israel in Gaza, other signatories of the Convention, like India, have obligations to prevent genocide.

“As Israel refuses to abide by the ICJ decision to refrain from actions under Article 2 of the Convention to prevent Genocide, third states such as India have the responsibility to enforce an arms embargo and not be complicit in the genocide,” Shir Hever from the Palestinian BDS National Committee told Middle East Eye.

For workers in India, this complicity could take multiple forms, beyond material support for Israel in the form of weapons. In November, India’s Central Trade Unions, representing 100 million workers, denounced a “labor export” agreement signed between the government and Israel that could see the transfer of up to 100,000 Indian workers to Israel.

The news came after Israel punitively revoked the work permits given to Palestinian workers following the Al Aqsa Flood resistance operation on October 7.

Since then, as Israeli delegations visited the country to conduct recruiting drives to take workers to work in Israel’s construction sector — where Palestinian and foreign migrant workers have usually been employed to perform some of the most back-breaking tasks — the Construction Workers Federation of India (CWFI) deplored the move, reiterating that it amounted to extending support for Israel’s genocidal attacks on Palestine while exploiting impoverished workers in India.

Tanupriya Singh is a writer at Peoples Dispatch and is based in Delhi

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch