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January 24, 2019 5:14 pm

Israel Expresses ‘Disgust’ After ‘Occupied Territories’ Boycott Bill Wins Crucial Vote in Irish Parliament

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Pro-Palestinian protesters near the Irish Parliament in Dublin at a rally against Israeli air strikes in Gaza in 2009. Photo: William Murphy / Flickr.

Lawmakers in the Republic of Ireland on Thursday voted in favor of a bill that would implement a draconian ban on goods produced by Israeli communities in the West Bank.

Despite the opposition of the Irish government, which insists that the legislation would violate the European Union’s single market regulations, the bill passed by 75 votes to 45 votes, with three abstentions, in the Dáil, Ireland’s parliament.

The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill would impose jail for up to five years and heavy fines on Irish citizens who import or sell products from the West Bank. Crucially, it would require foreign companies with divisions or subsidiaries in Ireland to adhere to the boycott as well. The bill passed through Ireland’s Senate in July 2018,  and now has to win approval in committee before it becomes law.

In a sign of the widespread political support enjoyed by the bill, the three abstaining votes on Thursday came from government ministers. One of them, Junior Minister John Halligan, who is a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, suggested in a media interview on Thursday that he would have voted in favor of the legislation had he not been convinced that it would pass.

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An editorial in Thursday’s edition of the Irish Examiner questioned the moral consistency behind the legislation, arguing as well that the bill left Ireland vulnerable to accusations of antisemitism.

“The State of Israel is not the only occupying force,” the editorial argued. “What about the occupied territories of Russia (Ukraine, including Crimea, from 2014, also parts of Moldova — 1992 — and Georgia — 2008), Turkey (northern Cyprus from 1974 and parts of Aleppo in Syria since 2016), Morocco (most of the Western Sahara since 1975)?”

It continued: “If our legislators are serious about using economic boycott to make a political point, they should broaden the debate to include all of those occupied territories.”

The paper noted with concern that the bill “risks the accusation that Ireland is antisemitic.”

“It is already being seen as such in the United States, particularly in Boston, where politicians, business people and other power brokers have spoken against it, among them Mayor Martin J Walsh,” the paper went on. “The most trenchant criticism has come from prominent Boston lawyer Robert Popeo who describes the Bill as ‘the most outrageous blatant piece of anti-Semitism that I’ve seen in the past few years.'”

Israel reacted furiously to the news of Thursday’s vote.

“It is disturbing and disappointing that the initiators of the law are focusing on a hypocritical attack on Israel, rather than on dictatorships that slaughter their citizens,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “This is a clear expression of obsessive discrimination that should be rejected with disgust.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Dail which is indicative of hypocrisy and antisemitism.”

“Instead of Ireland condemning Syria for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians, Turkey for the occupation of northern Cyprus and the terrorist organizations for murdering thousands of Israelis, it attacks Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” he added. “What a disgrace.”

Ireland’s ambassador to Israel will be summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Friday for a reprimand.

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