Ireland advances bill banning goods from illegal settlements on occupied land
Crispin Rodwell/AP Images for Avaaz
The Irish Senate on Wednesday moved forward legislation that would ban the importation of goods produced in settlements in occupied territories.
Senators approved the controversial bill in the committee stage after debate lasting just over an hour. The bill still needs to be approved by the Irish House before it becomes law. The next step in the bill's passage is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday.
In July, the Senate approved the second reading of the bill, but the third reading saw debate over the legislation's wording before it was voted on.
Critics of the bill argue it directly targets Israel and its West Bank settlements, while proponents insist individual states are not targeted in the language and non-Israeli settlements would also be affected should it pass.
The Occupied Territories Bill was first introduced in January, but has been delayed at the request of Ireland’s minority government, headed by the Fine Gael party, which does not support it despite denouncing Israel’s settlements policy.
Israel has spoken out against the bill in the past, expressing concern over the "populist, dangerous and extremist boycott" it says the measure embodies.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization, meanwhile, has expressed "sincere appreciation" for the initiative.
The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill bans the importation of goods and services from settlements condemned by Ireland and the European Union as illegal outposts in occupied territory, which would include Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Proponents of the bill argue the legislation is not targeting Israel as an individual state, but rather is a reflection of international law.
Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state, which has proven to be one of the most difficult barriers to attempted peace processes.
Much of the international community, including the Ireland, the US and the EU, oppose all Israeli settlements built in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The bill’s sponsor, Independent Senator Frances Black, stressed that the legislation was “not singling out any state. No individual state is mentioned anywhere in this bill. Instead we rely on the clear decision of international courts as respected arbiters of international law.”
Black also noted that the legislation allows for other territories to be included on the basis of international court rulings.
Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile echoed Black’s assertion, arguing in the debate that the legislation does not try to single out any country, but rather is about “marking clearly those breaches of international law.”
Opponents of the bill argued in the debate that the legislation "requires the government to do something which is not in its power." Fine Gael Senator Joe O'Reilley explained that goods from Israeli settlements could only be excluded at the EU level, and not by an individual state.
Thus, his party opposed the legislation for exposing Ireland to potential legal action by anyone claiming to be affected by the bill.
Yet, in the debate, O'Reilley continued to express that while his party opposes the bill, the government "are not supporters in any fashion of the occupation of these territories" adding that the faction wanted the "acceleration rate of occupation for 2017 and 2018 to stop."
In an interview with i24NEWS in July, Foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Fianna Fáil party insisted that he did not view the bill as a “boycott” of Israel, as it also applies to trade from Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus and Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.
The Irish opposition party said it hoped the passage of the bill would “mark the beginning of a new stage in which Israel starts to pay an international political, economic and moral price for its actions,” and “a new stage in treating the Zionist lobby as a danger to the values that Europe claims to represent.”
Israel’s foreign ministry replied immediately with condemnation to the bill passing the first stage over the summer, calling it a “radical, anti-Israeli populist boycott that “undermines prospects for a dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians,” as well as harms Palestinians working for those boycotted companies.
“The absurdity of the Irish Senate is that the boycott will harm the livelihood of many Palestinians working in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott,” the statement said.
The ministry said Israel would consider its legislative options in response.
Israel enacted last year a law that enables it to deny the entry of foreign citizens who make a “public call for boycotting Israel” or the settlements, when such a call has a “reasonable possibility” of succeeding. Many supporters of boycotts against Israel have been denied visas under the law or deported upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat welcomed what he called "the historic motion banning trade with the illegal Israeli colonial-settlements in Occupied Palestine.This courageous step builds on the historic ties between Ireland and Palestine, as well as it shows the way forward for the rest of the European Union."
He said that employing such "concrete measures" were vital to the Palestinian, adding that "those trading with Israeli settlements are complicit in the systematic denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination."
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When one buys goods into refugee imports, they pay for Hamas
Ireland is a nothing nation Who needs them, Israel should boycott them.