The Occupied Territories Bill

 

Sir, – The push from certain sectors of Irish society for Fianna Fáil and the Green Party to support the passage of the illegal and extremist “Occupied Territories” Bill into law is deeply concerning.

It is certainly not the popular Bill its supporters would have our politicians think. In fact, the vast majority of Irish people have little or no knowledge of it and if they did, they would most likely be horrified that some of their elected representatives are pushing to not only have an illegal Bill that contravenes EU trade laws passed into Irish law, but one that would hurt Irish citizens in very significant ways.

First, it seeks to criminalise Irish citizens with a fine of up to €250,000 and a prison term of up to five years, or both, for the “crime” of availing of goods and services from Jewish traders in parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Second, it would penalise the religious freedom of Christian pilgrims to the Holy City of Jerusalem, contrary to Article 44(2) of the Irish Constitution.

Furthermore the Ireland Israel Alliance is under no illusion that the “Occupied Territories” Bill is the thin edge of the wedge, and if progressed, would likely be the first step in a push for the wider boycott, divestment and sanction of Israel.

It should also be noted that on July 23rd, 2019, the US House of Representative passed a Democratic-sponsored resolution opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel, by a vote of 398-17. The resolution had 351 co-sponsors, representing both US political parties.

This bipartisan opposition to boycotts of Israel is represented by a total of 28 states across America expressing their opposition to boycotts of Israel, with some states having taken some form of anti-boycott action.

One of the most well-known cases was Airbnb, which was forced to settle multiple lawsuits filed in the US alleging the company was engaging in discriminatory practices when it bowed to pressure from the boycott movement by pulling its services out of the West Bank. Airbnb has since reversed its West Bank settlement listings ban.

The supporters of the Bill say their actions are not about boycotting Israel, but boycotting only those companies that conduct business in disputed territory. But when it comes to US anti-boycott laws, it makes no difference. The laws do not distinguish between the two.

The Ireland Israel Alliance submitted a detailed report to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of May 24th, 2019, outlining the many other issues relating to this extremist Bill, including its negative impact on the livelihoods of up to 350,000 Palestinians working in both Israeli industrial zones in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and on fruit and fish farms. The full report is available to read on our website.

No other European nation has passed or is considering passing such a draconian Bill. In fact, only this week Norway rejected a similar Bill, saying it would hurt Palestinians.

The people of Ireland now need to ask themselves a very important question. Do we deserve the reputational and potentially grave economic damage the passing of this Bill would entail?

Let us not learn the hard way that hubris is a great leveller. – Yours, etc,

JACKIE GOODALL,

Executive Director,

Ireland Israel Alliance,

Dublin 2.