On July 12, the Irish Senate, known as the Seanad Éireann, passed a bill to prohibit the import and sale of goods, services, and natural resources, originating from “illegal settlements in occupied [Palestinian] territories.” The ban would only apply to products sold and made in territories beyond the 1967 Green Line borders and does not ban Israeli goods produced inside Israel itself. The bill passed 25-20, with 14 abstentions.
Titled the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, the legislation was submitted by Senator Frances Black in January. The bill acknowledges the illegality of Israel’s West Bank settlements, but does not explicitly name Israel, which is referred to, instead, as the “occupying power” and “illegal settler.”
The bill comes at a time when Israeli human rights violations and war crimes are facing increased scrutiny in the West. It serves as a model for other Western nations to take a stand against Israeli violations of international law, and show solidarity with Palestinians, in line with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS).
The bill must still pass through the rest of the Irish Parliament, go through a committee phase, and be signed into law by Irish President Michael D. Higgins. While it enjoys support across the Irish political spectrum, the government remains reluctant to fully endorse the legislation. The government fears that, if the bill becomes law, it will be seen as official bias supporting the Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, in reaction to the bill, the Irish Ambassador to Israel, Aoife Kelly, has said the Irish government is publicly opposed to the policy of BDS.
Unsurprisingly, Israel has not been pleased by the Irish bill. A day after its passage, Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, called for the immediate closure of Israel’s embassy in Dublin. Lieberman also summoned Ireland’s Ambassador to Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the bill as intended to “harm the State of Israel.”
The Irish have been overwhelmingly supportive of the BDS movement and the Palestinian struggle. In April, the city of Dublin officially endorsed BDS and discontinued its business contracts with Hewlett Packard (HP) and its spin-offs, because of the company’s complicity in perpetuating Israeli war crimes. Later in April, Dublin’s city council called for the Irish government to expel the Israeli Ambassador over the murder of Palestinians by Israeli forces during the Great March of Return on March 30.
While we await the outcome of the boycott bill, it is important to remember that, whatever happens, the initiative represents a significant shift in Western attitudes toward Israel and Palestine. If the bill passes, Ireland will make history by being the first EU member state to officially and legally support the Palestinian struggle through legislation. Even if it fails, the bill should encourage other nations to fulfill their obligations under international law and introduce their own legislation to support Palestine and denounce Israeli human rights violations.