The Australian government has declined a US request to send an Australian warship to the Red Sea. A taskforce of ten countries will patrol the area to protect commercial tankers against Houthi attacks.
The Houthis hijacked a ship said to be owned by an Israeli businessman three weeks ago. The Pentagon said a US warship and three commercial vessels also came under attack off the Yemeni coast last week. Most recently targeted was a Norwegian tanker.
The US request for Australian involvement is an indication of the government’s continued backing for the US and Israel, despite symbolic support for a temporary ceasefire as a result of growing pressure at home. Although Australia declined to send a warship it will send a contingent of navy personnel to Bahrain to support the US operation, according to The Australian.
More significant is what it reveals about how important the Red Sea and the Suez Canal are to global capitalism.
Attacks on Red Sea transporters could affect trade in everything from crude oil to motor vehicles. More than 12 per cent of global seaborne cargo and 40 per cent of Asia’s trade with Europe transits through the Red Sea.
The Houthis are a rebel Islamist movement who now control part of Yemen. Since 2015, they have been fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen with support from Iran.
The Houthi strikes against Israeli shipping highlight the lack of any efforts at sanctions or embargoes against Israel from the Arab rulers surrounding Israel, despite their claims of support for the Palestinians.
The Egyptian government, for instance, could halt trade on the Suez Canal altogether, holding imperialism for ransom until Israel stops the killing. But to do so they would have to cut into their own profits and challenge the US and Israel.
The Suez Canal Authority remains state-owned and accounts for 12 per cent of global trade and raked in $7 billion in 2021/22. Connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, it is the main commercial passage between Europe and Asia.
In 2011, during the Arab spring, the Suez Canal workers went on strike after two workers were fired, closing down shipping on the canal for five hours. The Arab Spring was spurred on by solidarity with Palestine.
The workers’ movement revealed the power which could deal real blows to US imperialism and Israel.
The growth of the movement for Palestine in Australia, the US, and Europe can help encourage the movement that is needed in Egypt and across the Arab world.
Heeding the international call, we’ve seen union-supported actions against Israeli company Zim Shipping. Zim has had to reschedule ships destined for Australian ports multiple times due to protests, just as it’s had to divert from the Red Sea due to the Houthis.
We want to end Australian support for Israel, and to make it impossible for our rulers to act with unified force against the Palestinians.
Albanese’s shift over the ceasefire motion at the UN shows he is feeling the pressure. We need to turn up the heat.
By Jayden Rivers