Tunisian unions work to block docking of ship with ties to Israel

The Palestinian BDS National Committee termed the action against the Cornelius A, which was prevented from docking at the Rades port, a “first of its kind victory in the Arab world”.

August 21, 2018 by Peoples Dispatch
Palestinian unions wrote to their Tunisian counterparts, seeking their help in ensuring the ship did not dock in Rades. Photo: The Electronic Intifada.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) on Sunday announced that the campaign to block the Israeli-linked ship Cornelius A from docking at the Rades port in Tunisia had been successful, praising it as a “first of its kind victory in the Arab world”.

Tunisia’s main labour federation, the UGTT, had urged its members to help prevent the ship from using Tunisia’s ports and had also supported demands for an official inquiry into secret trade deals between Tunisia and Israel. Earlier, Palestinian trade union organizations had requested the UGTT to take a stand against the gradual normalization of trade with Israel.

Three major Palestinian trade union federations had written to UGTT secretary-general Nourredine Taboubi on August 3, 2018, urging them to stop the ship from unloading in the port of Rades.

The ship had earlier abandoned an attempt to dock at Rades after the dockworkers’ union threatened strikes. A second attempt by the ship to dock also ended up being abandoned.

The Corenlius A is owned by the Turkish firm, Arkas, and the company has vessel-sharing agreements with the Israeli shipping company Zim. Repeated denials from Zim officials were also reported in which they claimed that the ship had nothing to do with the company. On August 14, a Zim official told Jerusalem post that the Cornelius A “did not belong to the company, was not rented by the company and did not contain any cargo belonging to the company.”

These denials were summarily rejected by TACBI (Tunisian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel). It noted that the Cornelius A was listed on the Zim website as undertaking voyage number 12 for the company. TACBI was also monitoring the ship’s movements as it approached the coast of Tunisia, and when the ship could not be detected by maritime tracking websites, the UGTT asked the Tunisian authorities and member unions to make sure the ship did not dock in the country.

On August 15, the ship was detected sailing away from Tunisia, reportedly finally docking in Greece on Monday.

TACBI also suspects secret trade taking place in much larger volumes between Israel and Tunisia using ships registered in third countries. Several activists reported discovering another ship called the Allegro, registered in Antigua and Barbuda, which has been docking at the Rades port for the Zim shipping company for many years.

Allegro had been listed on the Zim website in 2016 with scheduled stops at Rades and the port of Tangier in Morocco. Since the success against Cornelius A, Zim has removed the Rades from all its schedules for the two ships.

TACBI had earlier also written a letter to the Tunisian All Seas Shipping Agency, allegedly the local handling agent for the Allegro, urging the company to stop all business with Israeli firms, citing Tunisian law, under which trade with Israel is banned. They also asked the firm to respect the feelings of support and solidarity of the Tunisian people towards the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

Israeli ships are not allowed to enter ports in Tunisia and other Arab states as part of a long-standing Arab League boycott.