On July 11, the upper house of the Irish parliament, the Seanad, will vote on a landmark bill that, if passed, would ban the purchase of goods and services from illegal Israeli settlements. The “Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018” was put forward by Irish independent Senator Frances Black and co-signed by Senators Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Colette Kelleher, John G Dolan, Grace O’Sullivan and David Norrison on January 24 this year.
However, just six days later, the Seanad voted to delay the debate on it indefinitely after Israel protested. On January 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned the Irish ambassador to Israel, Alison Kelly, who explained that the Irish government did not support the bill. Netanyahu had claimed the bill sought to “harm the state of Israel” and was an attempt to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Six months later, on June 27, Black announced that on Twitter that the proposed law is back on the schedule for a debate in the Seanad. And just a week later, Fianna Fail (Warriors of Fal), the second-largest party in the Irish parliament, declared that it was going to back the bill, raising hopes among Palestine supporters in Ireland that it would indeed pass.
If the Seanad approves it, it would then be passed to the lower house of the parliament for a debate and vote. If passed, the bill will have to go through several more stages of review and amendment before it is signed into a law.
Although its opponents have labelled it as “radical” and claimed that it harms free trade, the bill actually enforces compliance with both international and Irish law.
Israeli settlements in both the occupied West Bank and the Golan Heights are illegal and constitute a war crime under both the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which prohibit occupying states from transferring their own civilian population into occupied territory.
Passing the bill would simply mean that Ireland is moving to modify its domestic legislation to comply with its third-state obligations under IHL.
Currently, the country is importing a variety of products from illegal Israeli settlements, including fruit and vegetables, wine, plastics, big brand beauty products such as “Ahava”, and others.
All of these are already clearly labelled as products from illegal Israeli settlements under the new EU labelling regulations issued in 2015 – ie, they cannot be labelled “Made in Israel”. This allows Irish – and EU consumers in general – to make an informed choice when shopping.
The EU imposed these labelling rules based on the notion of “differentiation” between Israel and the Palestinian land it occupied in 1967. But Black’s bill takes this a step further. It suggests that simple labelling is not enough and proposes to enforce international law by banning goods produced within illegal settlements.
This is not an “extreme” or “radical” measure, as some have claimed. It simply identifies settler-made products for what they are: illegal. These products are made on stolen land with stolen resources, under the protection of a criminal regime. Their presentation and sale as legal products helps to normalise Israel’s crimes – the continuous annexation and colonisation of Palestinian land.
This bill comes at a time when the international community continues to be complicit in aiding and abetting Israeli war crimes and violations of Palestinian rights. Even the EU continues to maintain strong economic, cultural and political ties with Israel that on occasion violate its own commitment to IHL.