By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: February 4, 2009
Filed at 11:33 a.m. ET
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African dock workers won’t unload ships carrying goods from Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians, a union leader said Wednesday.
Randall Howard, general secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, said it appeared a ship carrying goods from Israel was nearing Durban’s port. If once the ship docks its cargo is determined to be Israeli, he said, union workers won’t unload it.
”We will make that contribution,” he said. ”The historic and heroic struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination … is a struggle that SATAWU supports.”
Last year, South African dock and freight workers refused to unload a ship carrying weapons for Zimbabwe to protest Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s rule of the neighboring country. In the case of Israeli goods, Howard said, it did not matter whether they were weapons of vegetables.
”If it’s an Israeli product, we’re going to boycott it, plain and simple,” he said.
In Israel, Foreign Minister spokesman Yigal Palmor said: ”If these people think that by refusing to unload shipments from Israel they are promoting peace they should go back to school because they have misread the situation in the Middle East big time.”
Israel’s three-week military offensive against Gaza, which killed hundreds of civilians before ending last month, sparked protests in South Africa. Israel says the operation was aimed at halting Hamas rocket fire from Gaza.
Howard, decrying Palestinian as well as Israeli violence, says Israeli attacks were ”extremely disproportionate.”
Strong South Africa-Israel ties cultivated by the white government in the apartheid era have been maintained since the onset of majority rule. South Africa also has a close relationship with Palestinians, thanks to long-standing connections between the governingAfrican National Congress and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Associated Press Writer Aron Heller in Jerusalem contributed to this report.