Israel slams ‘immoral’ Irish bill banning trade with settlements

Embassy in Dublin says bid to prohibit sale and import of settlement goods, which will be voted on next week, will empower Hamas

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Irish Senator Frances Black speaks ahead of of a Senate vote on the Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, January 30, 2018 (screenshot
Irish Senator Frances Black speaks ahead of of a Senate vote on the Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, January 30, 2018 (screenshot

Israel on Wednesday slammed an Irish bill that would outlaw the sale and import of settlement-produced goods, 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,” Israel’s mission in Dublin said in a press release.

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

After the Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 was frozen in late January, it is now scheduled to be voted on in the Irish Senate next Wednesday.

The government in Dublin — known to be one of the most pro-Palestinian governments in Europe — is opposed to the law, arguing that it is not legally entitled to curtail trade with Israeli companies based in the settlements.

“The Irish Government has always condemned construction of illegal settlement,” Foreign Ministry Simon Coveney tweeted on Tuesday. “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 sponsor of the bill, Independent Senator Frances Black, replied by saying that she disagreed with Coveney’s legal assessment, citing two legal opinions that support her view. “I believe if we wait for EU leadership, we could be waiting forever,” she added.

The proposed legislation — a private member bill — 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.

Even if it passes on July 11, the bill would still have to clear several additional hurdles before becoming law.

“The bill seeks to prohibit the import and sale of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories,” Black said in a statement posted to her website on June 25.

“Such settlements are illegal under both international humanitarian law and domestic Irish law, and result in human rights violations on the ground. Despite this, Ireland provides continued economic support through trade in settlement goods.”

While the bill does not mention Israel and the Palestinian territories, critics have charged that it appears to have been written exclusively with the Middle East conflict in mind.

Black, a former singer from Dublin who entered parliament in 2016, has long been supportive of the Palestinian cause and an avid critic of Israel’s settlement enterprise.

“In the occupied territories, people are forcibly kicked out of their homes, fertile farming land is seized, and the fruit and vegetables produced are then sold on Irish shelves to pay for it all,” she said.

“We condemn the settlements as illegal but support them economically. As international law is absolutely clear that the settlements are illegal, then the goods they produce are the proceeds of crime. We must face up to this – we cannot keep supporting breaches of international law and violations of human rights.”

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.

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