The Irish Senate on Wednesday approved a bill banning the import into the country of goods produced in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, including those produced in illegal Israeli Jewish settlements.
The bill, officially known as The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, was passed in the upper house (the Seanad) by 25 votes to 20, with 14 abstaining. The bill does not name Israel but instead refers to an ‘occupying power’ and ‘illegal settler’, indicating that it is limited not only to Israel and Palestine, but also to the import or sale of goods and services produced in occupied territories around the world.
There are about 150 illegal settlements in occupied east Jerusalem and about 750,000 settlers live in the occupied West bank. Estimates put the value of settlement-made exports at between $580,000 and $1.1 million annually.
The bill will now have to go through one more round of voting in the Seanad and then will be sent to the lower house of parliament (Dáil) for a debate and vote, besides several other reviews and amendments before it becomes law.
The passing of the bill was met with a standing ovation and repeated rounds of applause as the Seanad’s visitors gallery hosted Palestinian representatives and farmers affected by Israeli restrictions in the occupied West Bank.
The bill was proposed by independent senator Frances Back, also a well known singer in Ireland. Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fáin, Green and Independent Senators supported the Bill, but the party in government, Fine Gael, voted against it. It is expected that if the same combination of forces votes in favor of the Bill, it will be passed in the Dáil as well.
Frances Black said in a statement before the vote that “trade in settlement goods sustains injustice”.
“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 added.
Independent senator David Norris said the import of goods from the settlements was clearly a violation of international law and that as per UN security council resolution 2334 from 2016, the settlements had no legal validity.
He asked his fellow senators to talk to the Palestinian farmers present in the gallery to know more about their plight.
The bill was first tabled in the Seanad in January, but the Irish government requested its postponement at Israel’s request.
Senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official Saeb Erekat welcomed the vote, saying, “This courageous step builds on the historic ties between Ireland and Palestine, as well as shows the way forward for the rest of the European Union.”
“Today, the Irish Seanad has sent a clear message to the international community and particularly to the rest of the European Union: the mere talking about the two-state solution is not enough without taking concrete measures,” he said.
“I would like to make use of this occasion to thank everyone that was involved in the approval of this law, from political parties to Palestinian and Irish civil society, and particularly to Senator Frances Black for her courage to introduce this motion that advances the cause of justice in Palestine,” he concluded.
Palestinian resistance movement Hamas also hailed the Irish Senate vote in a statement which said it was “an important step towards criminalizing the behavior of the Israeli occupation and its policy of illegal settlement-building on Palestinian land”.
The bill was met with stiff anger from Israel. Its foreign ministry condemned the decision, stating that the “Irish Senate has given its support to a populist, dangerous and extremist anti-Israel boycott initiative that hurts the chances of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the bill saying it intends to harm Israel, adding, “The initiative gives backing to those who seek to boycott Israel and completely contravenes the guiding principles of free trade and justice.”
The defence minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, went a step further and called for greater retaliation. He suggested Israel should immediately close its embassy in Dublin.