Irish senate votes for ban on settlement products

Ireland’s senate yesterday approved the first stage of a new law to make it a criminal offence to import products from Israeli settlements.

The Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 passed a second reading with 25 voting in favour, 20 voting against and 14 abstentions. The Bill prohibits “the import and sales of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories”. If it becomes law, the Private Members’ Bill will make it a criminal offence to import or sell settlement products, punishable by up to five years in prison. The law must still be approved by further votes in the Senate and supported by the lower house of Parliament before becoming law.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said 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,” as well as “harm the livelihood of many Palestinians who work in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott”.

Senior Palestinian Liberation Organisation official (PLO) Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians “extend our sincere appreciation to the Irish Seanad for standing tall for the principle of justice by approving this historic motion banning trade with the illegal Israeli colonial-settlements in Occupied Palestine”.

Frances Black, the independent senator who sponsored the Bill, said before the vote: “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. These settlements are war crimes, and it’s time for Ireland to show some leadership and refuse to support them.”

The total value of trade in settlement-made products to the Irish economy is estimated at between £440,000 and £880,000 per year. Proponents of the Bill say it could chart a path for other EU states to follow.

A previously scheduled vote on the Bill in January was delayed at the Irish government’s request. The government, at Israel’s request, sought to soften the language but was unable to reach a compromise. At the time Israel summoned Ireland’s ambassador to Israel, Alison Kelly, who told the Foreign Ministry that the bill was sponsored by independent legislators and the Irish government opposed it.