Pro-Palestinian media has praised the efforts of Irish activists, who managed to muster enough support to get an economic boycott of illegal Israeli settlement products passed by the Irish Senate on July 11. But do Palestinians really have a reason to be grateful? While solidarity with Palestine appears to be consistent within Irish civil society, the Irish government – like all other EU governments – continues to support Israel’s oppressive policies against the Palestinian people.
#Palestinian man shows thank and gratitude on behalf of #Palestinian people to #Ireland while participating in #GreatReturnMarch. #Irish senate approved bill to boycott #Israeli #SettlementGoods a few days ago. pic.twitter.com/AEt7G9Y2vh
— Shehab News (@ShehabAgencyEn) July 14, 2018
A thank you message to Ireland!
— Palestine Live En (@pallive_en) July 13, 2018
Sponsored by independent politician Frances Black, the “Occupied Territories Bill” was passed by twenty-five to twenty votes in the senate. While it bans trade between Ireland and Israeli settlements, the bill does not enact a boycott of goods made inside Israel proper. As this would affect only 1% of Irish trade with Israel, which currently stands at over 50 million Euros annually, supporters of the bill have stressed its largely symbolic character.
The bill still has to be passed by the Irish parliament’s lower house, go through a committee state, and be ratified by Ireland’s president . If enacted, Ireland would become the first EU country to legally boycott products from Israeli settlements.
The bill is the latest symbolic gesture by Ireland toward the Palestinian people. In April, Dublin’s city council made headlines when it passed a motion barring the city from extending its contract with Hewlett Packard (HP) after it expires in September. The motion condemns HP, which is complicit in Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism through its cooperation with the IDF. These initiatives are part of a history of dissent, albeit mild, on the part of Irish civil society and politicians against the EU’s staunch pro-Israel stance. Ireland’s own anti-colonialist struggle against Britain is seen as a major factor galvanizing this pro-Palestinian solidarity.
While the Irish parliamentary bill is based on good intentions, like the other initiatives that have come before it, it does little to meaningfully oppose Israel’s now five-decade-long occupation of Palestine and dispossession of the Palestinian people. At best, the bill merely underscores the international community’s, including the EU’s, long history of aiding and abetting Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.
Just last weekend, this fact was made clear. On July 14, in its latest bombardment of Gaza, the IDF killed two Palestinian children. Instead of expressing outrage at this crime, the EU’s official representation in Israel expressed solidarity with Israel:
Earlier watching #WorldCup in #Israel. The screen says England 0, Belgium 2, HOME FRONT COMMAND ALERT. The name of the community under fire follows so they can take cover. There were far more alerts than goals. Solidarity with the people of #Sderot & surroundings. pic.twitter.com/ZzVjvojIYl
— EU in Israel (@EUinIsrael) July 14, 2018
Neither Brussels, nor Dublin, expressed any reaction to Israel’s murder of yet more Palestinian children.
Every single EU country, including Ireland, has failed the Palestinians. Acknowledging Palestinian humanity through symbolic bills will not change this fact.