Irish Senate to vote on boycott of 'settlements'

Irish MP says Israel’s entry ban for BDS supporters will not deter opposition from supporting bill outlawing trade with “settlements”.

Ben Ariel,

Irish parliament
Irish parliament

An Irish parliamentarian told i24news on Tuesday that Israel’s entry ban for supporters of boycotts will not deter Ireland’s main opposition from supporting a bill outlawing trade with Israeli “settlements”.

The comments by Irish MP Niall Collins come a day before the Irish Senate is expected to vote on the second reading of a bill that would make it a criminal offence to import or sell goods from Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of €250,000.

Collins, the foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Fianna Fáil party, told i24news that his party “absolutely” supports making trade with settlements a criminal offence.

He called the proposed legislation a “statement of… support and solidarity” with the Palestinians as “people who suffer a loss by virtue of a campaign of occupying territories illegally and disenfranchising people who have a natural right… to those territories”.

He compared the situation to that of apartheid rule in South Africa, when staff at an Irish supermarket chain “refused to handle any produce of South African origin in a show of support and solidarity” with the black population of South Africa.

Collins added that his own Fianna Fáil party, whose foreign minister was the first in Europe to support Palestinian statehood, had a “role to play” in peace processes overseas.

The so-called “Occupied Territories Bill” is being promoted by Irish Senator Frances Black. The discussion on the bill at the Irish senate was postponed in January after Ireland's Ambassador to Israel, Alison Kelly, was summoned for a meeting at the Foreign Ministry to clarify the legislative initiative.

While it does not specify Judea and Samaria, the Israeli government understood it as singling out the Jewish state. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has condemned the initiative, saying that the goal of the proposed legislation “is to support the BDS movement and harm the State of Israel.”

Black recently posted a video to Twitter in which she announced that the bill would be discussed on July and called on Irish citizens to increase the pressure on lawmakers to support this bill.

The bill is expected to pass the Irish Senate, after Fianna Fáil announced last week that it would vote in favor, according to i24news. No party controls the Irish Senate, and Fianna Fáil’s support may give the bill’s sponsors a majority.

The Irish government has offered tepid opposition to the bill. In January’s debate, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney condemned Israeli “settlements” but said the bill would have a “polarizing” effect “at this time” and stating that he would be “open to persuasion” in future if there were no progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Israel has denied entry to several BDS activists in recent months as part of its strategy to fight the phenomenon.

Earlier this year, Israel’s government approved a plan which will set aside $72 million to fighting the campaign to boycott it.

The plan, which would entail the largest monetary investment yet by Israel specifically toward combating the BDS campaign, calls for setting up a not-for-profit organization whose board will be made up of government officials and donors from abroad, the report said.

The debate on the bill follows recent calls in Ireland for a boycott of Israel surrounding its hosting of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.

Dublin Mayor Micheal Mac Donncha called for Ireland to boycott Eurovision in Israel in order to show solidarity with the Palestinian people.

"I would support that, I don't think we should send a representative. I think the horrific ordeal of the Palestinian people needs to be highlighted. There needs to be solidarity just as there was with the people of South Africa with the apartheid regime," he said.

Mac Donncha’s call for a boycott of Israel came a day after several leftist Irish lawmakers expressed support for boycotting Israel following its winning the Eurovision song contest.

Lynn Boylan of Ireland’s far-left Sinn Féin party wrote on Twitter following Saturday’s win, “Israel wins Eurovision so let’s make BDS more successful than ever in 2019.”

Nessa Childers, another Irish lawmaker for the Party of European Socialists, retweeted Boylan’s message, adding the word: “This!” She later wrote: “Jerusalem? The mind boggles. I thought Tel Aviv.”

Órla Nic Biorna, a regional lawmaker for Sinn Féin, an Irish nationalist movement that was affiliated with the now-defunct Provisional Irish Republican Army terrorist group, wrote on Twitter: ”Shocked at the support for Israel tonight in the Eurovision. People seem to forget that they are a Zionist state illegally occupying Palestine.”