Irish Senate backs law banning trade with Israeli settlements

Father Manuel Musallam gives a sermon as he leads the Sunday prayers at the Latin church in Gaza city on 8 July 2007

Proposed by Independent Senator Frances Black, the private members' bill would essentially make it a criminal offence to purchase goods and services from Israeli settlements, which have been deemed illegal by both Ireland and the EU.

Nonetheless, Irish Sen. Frances Black, who sponsored the legislation, called on colleagues to support the bill "to state firmly that Irish foreign policy will always stand on the side of worldwide law, human rights and justice".

Israel summoned the Irish ambassador for clarification over the proposed legislation when it was first introduced in January.

On Wednesday, the Irish Senate, known as Seanad Éireann, passed the Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 with 25 yes votes, 20 no votes and 14 abstentions.

"The Irish people have always adopted a position of culture, a position of responsibility, a position that shows there is a genuine, not only solidarity, but also identification with the Palestinian people", she said.

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Israel's foreign ministry replied immediately with condemnation, calling it a "radical, anti-Israeli populist boycott that "undermines prospects for a dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians", as well as harms Palestinians working for those boycotted companies".

There are now over 150 illegally established settlements in the West Bank, all in violation of International Law, as outlined in the 4th Geneva Convention. But this Bill asks Irish govt to do something it is not legally empowered to do - trade is an European Union competence, not an Irish one.

In 2015, the European Union issued guidelines for the labeling of products from Israeli settlements, which it considers illegal and says are an obstacle to peace. To become law, it must be ratified by the lower house of parliament.

The bill's passage would start "a new stage in treating the Zionist lobby as a danger the values that Europe claims to represent", the Arab Israeli party said.

"During the Irish Senate's debate on the bill today, the Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, spoke against the bill".

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced the bill, saying it "gives a tailwind to those who seek to boycott Israel and is utterly contrary to the principles of free trade and justice".

"If an engineer in Apple's Herzliya office lives in Jerusalem and telecommutes from home for a day, will Apple be at risk of providing a settlement service in violation of Irish law?"

Responding, Senator Mark Daly from Fianna Fail said Ireland was out on its own when supporting a Palestinian state in 1980, when there was just 30,000 settlers in Palestinian territory - now there was almost 500,000, he said. "While Ireland considers Jerusalem an Israeli settlement, the US government recognizes it as Israel's capital", stated Kittrie.

The bill does not name Israel but instead refers to an "occupying power" and "illegal settler".

"Stand up for what you believe in and hold Israel to account". Palestinian rights groups praised the bill, urging other nations to follow Ireland's lead.

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