“Hot-cargoing” as a tactic in the Palestine solidarity and antiwar movements
Israel has historically been the largest recipient of U.S. military aid. This continues despite Israel’s continued war crimes against the Palestinian people, most recently with the massacre (wrongly called a “war” by the western media) of the inhabitants of Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on earth.
An Amnesty International investigative report issued this past February found evidence that “white phosphorous” bombs and helicopter-fired missiles used against civilians in Gaza were both manufactured in the U.S. As cited in a Feb. 24, 2009 article in the online edition of The Times (UK):
“After the Gaza conflict, Israel acknowledged using white phosphorus in a manner ‘according to international law’. Israeli media reported that the military was investigating the incident on January 15, when several white phosphorus artillery shells hit a UN headquarters in Gaza City, destroying tens of tons of humanitarian aid. Amnesty said that they had found shells with the marking PB-91K018-035, a lot number which indicates that they were assembled by Pine Bluff Arsenal (PB) in October 1991.”
The report also found serial numbers of the appropriately named Hellfire missile which were used in a January 4, 2009 attack on ambulances and paramedics rescuing civilians in Gaza City. Three paramedics and a twelve-year old boy were killed in that particular attack. The serial number for the AGM114 Hellfire missile was traced back to an Orlando, Florida manufacturing plant run by a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
Antiwar activists in the U.S. have an historic responsibility to begin building a movement that would be capable of severing these ties. We still of course have a long way to go. South African trade dockworkers pointed the way forward when they refused to unload (“hot-cargoed”) a Chinese shipment of arms in the port of Durban last April that was headed for an overland route to Zimbabwe. COSATU trade unionists feared the arms would likely be used against opponents of the Mugabe regime in that nation.
In the U.S., activists have to contend with a much more conservative union bureaucracy with political ties and even investments in the Zionist regime. However, the west coast dockworkers union, the ILWU, conducted a one-day political strikes against the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations on May 1, 2008, and in support of U.S. political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1999. While its east coast counterpart, the ILA, has historically been more conservative, South Carolina ILA dockworkers have a proud tradition of militancy and support for more radical political stances including the May Day 2008 antiwar political strike undertaken by the ILWU.
Next year’s Pentagon budget is being increased 9% over last year’s Bush budget and actually 2% more than what the Bush administration had planned to allocate (even some “free market” conservatives have made note of this. See: “The Myth of Democratic Defense Cuts: Obama's defense spending is higher than Bush's”). Trillions of dollars go to bailouts for the “banksters” and owners of huge corporations while ordinary people continue to suffer.
The connection between the oppression of working people at home and abroad is one that needs to be made by U.S. antiwar/peace activists and their allies in the union movement.
With outrage over Israeli war crimes growing worldwide and anti-corporate and anti-war sentiment increasing among the U.S. working class, union “hot-cargoing” of arms shipments headed for Israel are within the realm of possible tactics that antiwar activists could pursue in making much-needed links with U.S. trade unionists. Pickets or protests outside manufacturing facilities or at ports where ships sail headed for Israel—as well as for Iraq or Afghanistan—could be a first step toward building such actions.