Arab Knesset party backs Irish bill to criminalize trade with settlements

Joint (Arab) List says Israel ‘deserves all the sanctions and boycotts,’ encourages European countries not to give in to ‘the Zionist lobby’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh (C) leads the party's weekly faction at the Knesset, October 31, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh (C) leads the party's weekly faction at the Knesset, October 31, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Arab Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday threw their support behind an Irish bill expected to be advanced later in the day that would outlaw the sale and import of settlement-produced goods in Ireland.

“This is a welcome and legally correct step,” the Joint (Arab) List party said in a press statement.

The Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 declares it an offense “for a person to import or attempt to import settlement goods.”

Likewise, those who “assist another person to import or attempt to import settlement goods” would be committing a crime punishable by up to five years in prison, if the bill were to become law.

In praising the bill, the Joint List took aim at both Israeli “oppression against the Palestinian people” and what it described as European capitulation to the “Zionist lobby.”

The party said that 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, the statement added, “a new stage in treating the Zionist lobby as a danger to the values that Europe claims to represent.”

While the bill appears to have the support of a majority of Irish lawmakers, the government in Dublin — known an one of the most pro-Palestinian in Europe — is opposed to the law, and has argued that it is not legally entitled to curtail trade with Israeli companies based in the settlements.

Jewish winemakers inspecting grapes at a winery in the West Bank settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, September 8, 2014. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)

“The Irish Government has always condemned construction of illegal settlement,” Foreign Ministry Simon Coveney tweeted last week. “But this Bill asks Irish govt to do something it is not legally empowered to do — trade is an EU competence, not an Irish one. FF [Fianna Fáil — The Republican Party] knows this — so this move is both opportunist and irresponsible.”

The Joint List said that “a wave of fascist laws” being advanced in Israel’s parliament was “a direct result of the silence of the world against the crimes of the country.

“It is time for the world to come to its senses and understand that this is a rogue state,” the party said, adding that Israel “must understand that it deserves all the sanctions, boycotts, and freezing of relations, as punishment for its violent policy and the daily oppression of the Palestinian people.”

Last week, Israel’s embassy in Dublin slammed the Irish bill, saying it was “immoral” and encourages terrorism.

“The Embassy of Israel is concerned by bills that further the divisions between Israel and the Palestinians. Legislation, which promotes a boycott of any kind, should be rejected as it does nothing to achieve peace but rather empowers the Hamas terrorists as well as those Palestinians who refuse to come to the negotiating table,” the Israeli mission said in a press release.

“Closing doors will not in any way facilitate Ireland’s role and influence,” it said. “There are direct parties to the conflict. Boycotting one of them will not do any good and is immoral.”

On January 30, the Irish Senate, known as Seanad Éireann, surprisingly postponed voting on the bill, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply criticized the proposed legislation.

At the time, the government opposed the bill, but vowed to revisit and possibly support it before the parliament’s summer break, in the event there is no significant progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“The initiative gives backing to those who seek to boycott Israel and completely contravenes the guiding principles of free trade and justice,” Netanyahu said then. He also ordered the Foreign Ministry to summon the Irish ambassador in Israel, Alison Kelly.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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