US politicians threaten Ireland over its proposed boycott of products from Israeli settlements

A small number of protesters outside of the Irish parliament holding up pro-Palestine banners
Bryan Wall

Pro-Israel politicians in the US have written to Irish politicians demanding that they block a proposed law that targets Israeli settlements.

The letter and the bill

In their letter, the US politicians explained their unhappiness with the proposed legislation. The congress members “urge the Dáil Éireann [Irish parliament] not to advance this ill-conceived measure”. And they argue that the bill “undermines” the chances of a two-state solution.

However, the Occupied Territories Bill would only ban the importation of goods from Israeli settlements. And these settlements are illegal under international law.

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Senator Frances Black tabled the bill, which the Irish parliament recently passed. Members of Irish parliament voted by 78 votes to 45 in its support. But the bill still has to pass further stages before the government signs it into law.

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Economic threats?

The congress members also say in the letter that US companies based in Ireland may be in violation of US law if the bill is enacted. In an article for Electronic Intifada, Ciaran Tierney explained:

the 10 members of Congress suggested that some corporations investing in Ireland would be violating US export regulations if the Dublin authorities enforced a ban on Israel’s settlement goods

Tierney points out that this is a reference to US anti-boycott laws. Under this law, “US companies may not take part in boycott activities unless they have been approved by the federal government”. The authors also note that 67% of foreign investment in Ireland is American. Therefore, they say, the:

stakes for Ireland are high.

And as The Canary recently reported, the US Senate passed a bill that makes it “easier for public authorities to divest from organisations that support a boycott of Israel”.

Israel and Ireland

The letter is dated 30 January 2019, 6 days after the bill passed a second-stage vote. But the letter also suggests certain tactics on the part of Israel. Because the Irish prime minister’s office received no correspondence about the bill from the Israeli embassy in Dublin. And the Israeli prime minister’s office also sent nothing about the bill to his Irish counterpart. Via a Freedom of Information request, The Canary confirmed this lack of correspondence.

A source familiar with Israeli diplomacy in Ireland told The Canary it is likely that Israel has asked its supporters in the US congress to put pressure on Ireland. Why? Because threats against Ireland coming from Israel might not have much impact; but threats coming from US politicians who point out Ireland’s reliance on US companies could be more effective.

Earlier US interventions on Israel’s behalf

This is also not the first time a US politician has contacted Irish politicians about the Occupied Territories Bill. In December 2018, Tierney reported that US congressman Peter King wrote to one of Ireland’s dominant political parties. He wrote to Fianna Fáil that the bill “empower[s] Hamas terrorists and recalcitrant Palestinians who refuse even to approach negotiations”.

Despite this intervention, Fianna Fáil voted in favour of the bill.

Blocking the bill

The bill is unlikely to become law, however. Because the Irish government can block opposition bills by using a “money message”. Basically, this means the government has to approve any bill which will have an effect on spending and taxes. So this gives the current government a veto over the bill.

The government opposes the bill, and has also claimed it is “not legally sound”. With this in mind, it will likely block it from progressing much further. So at most, the bill may represent just a moral victory for the Palestinian people and their supporters in Ireland.

Featured image via Sinn Féin/Flickr

Get involved

  • Learn about the BDS movement.
  • The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is scheduled to be held in Israel. Palestinians are calling for a boycott of the event. Learn how to support the campaign.

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