India port workers refuse to load Israeli arms shipments, call for Gaza ceasefire

India port workers refuse to load Israeli arms shipments, call for Gaza ceasefire
A trade union representing port workers in India have announced they will not handle any arms shipments to Israel because of its war on Gaza.
3 min read
18 February, 2024
The union said its workers will not partake in the killing of innocent people in Gaza [Getty]

A trade union in India representing thousands of workers at the country’s ports has said it will not load or unload any arms shipments to Israel because of the ongoing war on Gaza.

In a letter dated 14 February 2023, the Water Transport Workers Federation (WTWFI) of India, which represents 3,500 workers at 11 major Indian ports, said that it will refuse to load or unload weapons bound for Israel.

The union was founded in the late 1970s and is affiliated with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

"We the port workers, part of labour unions, will always stand against war and the killing of innocent people like women and children," the letter reads.

"At this juncture, our union members have collectively decided to refuse handling all types of weapon cargoes. Loading and unloading these weapons helps…to kill innocent people," it added.

"Therefore," it continues, "we, the Indian Port and Dock Workers from various major ports…call on our members to no longer handle any ships which carry military material to Palestine/Israel."

The union called for an immediate ceasefire and declared its solidarity with "those who campaign for peace."

"We call upon the workers of the world and peace-loving people to stand with the demand of a free Palestine," the letter concludes, signed by the WTWFI’s general secretary.

Similar protests have taken place in Italy, Belgium, and Spain, where port workers have refused to load Israel-bound weapon shipments.

Earlier this week, Israeli Transportation Minister Miri Regev appeared in a video standing at one of India’s ports with goods bound for Israel. The two countries have shared relations since 1992, and these ties have deepened under Narendra Modi’s government, especially in military trade.

"We are now at the Mundra port, the largest port in northern India," she said. "From which all these shipments go to the Emirates, and from the Emirates by land to Israel."

A land corridor connecting Dubai's Jebel Ali Port in the UAE to Israel’s Haifa port, which passes through Saudi Arabia and Jordan, has become vital for Israel since Yemen’s Houthi rebels began targeting Israeli-aligned commercial vessels in the Red Sea's Bab al-Mandeb Strait.

The Houthis say this is in solidarity with the Palestinians, and in a bid to pressure Israel to stop its devastating war on Gaza.

No Arab government involved with the Dubai-Haifa project has publicly commented on it, but Israel has been keen to highlight the role of the land route in helping it avoid the Red Sea.

Israel’s unprecedented air and ground offensive in Gaza since October 7 has killed close to 29,000 people, mostly women and children, says the enclave’s health authorities.

The bombardment has rendered most of the territory uninhabitable and has displaced most of its 2.3 million population.

Israel is now planning to storm Rafah in the southern end of the Gaza Strip, the last major city yet to be invaded by the Israeli military. Over a million Palestinians are sheltering there along the Egyptian border with nowhere to go.

Tel Aviv’s allies, including the US and Germany, have warned it about entering Rafah.