IRELAND’S elected representatives are coming under pressure from corporate lobbyists to drop a proposed ban on goods from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank.
A briefing paper submitted to members of the Oireachtas – the Irish parliament – warns there may be a hostile response from the US if the Occupied Territories Bill becomes law.
The bill, which has already won approval from both houses in the Oireachtas, would outlaw imports if they were grown or manufactured on land seized by Israel during the June 1967 war.
The paper was written by Europe Economics and Optimity Advisers, two groups which lobby on behalf of major companies.
It was commissioned by a research service within the Oireachtas. Although that service claims to produce ‘impartial’ briefings for Ireland’s lawmakers, the conclusions of the paper strongly resemble threats made by US Congress members recently.
According to the paper, the Occupied Territories Bill ‘could create legal issues for US companies operating in both Ireland and Israel’.
Since the 1970s, it says, US firms have been prohibited from cooperating with boycott measures targeting Israel.
The paper – published below – warns of ‘a serious negative impact on the Irish economy’ if the US sanctions the country should the bill become law.
That conclusion is similar to a threat made by Israel’s supporters in Washington. In a letter dated 30 January, 10 members of the US Congress warned Ireland’s political leaders that the Occupied Territories Bill ‘could have broader consequences’.
Headed by veteran New York lawmaker Peter King, the 10 members of Congress wrote: ‘We do not want to see the strong economic links between our two countries (Ireland and the US) weakened due to ill-considered legislation.’
Sadaka, a Dublin group campaigning for Palestinian rights, has rejected the warnings made by the corporate lobbyists.
Gerry Liston, a Sadaka representative, said it was an ‘absurd assertion’ that the legislation could bring about the withdrawal of US foreign direct investment in Ireland.
Fianna Fáil, one of Ireland’s largest political parties, criticised the briefing paper too.
Niall Collins, the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on foreign affairs, took issue with the predictions that Ireland could lose investment.
Despite how he has taken a vocal stance in favour of the bill, Collins said that no US corporation had reached out to him about its contents.
‘As public representatives, we get lobbied about all sorts of stuff,’ said Collins. ‘But nobody from Google, Facebook or anybody else has contacted me to make their views known.’
While a majority in the Oireachtas has backed the bill, the Dublin government is firmly against it.
Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s taoiseach (prime minister), replied to the letter from the 10 members of the US Congress by noting his opposition to the bill ‘on both political and legal grounds’.
The Irish Times has reported that Varadkar’s government is likely to prevent the bill from entering law.
The main argument which the government has made against the law is that trade is a matter handled by the European Union and Ireland is, therefore, unable to impose import restrictions unilaterally.
But Gerry Liston of Sadaka stated that a number of legal experts have analysed the bill and found it compatible with EU law.
Liston complained that the briefing paper by Europe Economics and Optimity Advisers failed to mention the assessments supporting the bill, even though they were cited during Oireachtas debates.
Although the briefing paper echoes the threats by members of the US Congress, it does list some of the arguments put forward by the bill’s supporters.
One such argument is that a ban could have a ‘domino effect’, according to the paper.
Campaigners for a ban on Israeli settlement goods, it notes, are inspired by the international mobilisation which helped end white minority rule in South Africa.
Meanwhile, in Palestine itself on Wednesday, Israeli settlers stormed the al-Aqsa mosque compound through Bab al-Magharbeh Gate, one of the gates leading to the mosque, under the heavy protection of Israeli forces and performed Talmudic rituals there, said a WAFA correspondent.
Around 87 Israeli settlers stormed the mosque and performed Talmudic rituals at Bab al-Rahmeh (Golden Gate), an area inside the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Settlers and intelligence forces carried out provocative tours of the mosque before leaving through the Bab al-Silsilah (Chain Gate).
On Wednesday evening Israeli forces blocked the northern entrance to the town of Taqou’, southeast of Bethlehem, the occupied West Bank, with earth mounds, said security sources.
Sources told WAFA Israeli army stormed the town of Taqou’ and deployed their military vehicles at the town centre, provoking clashes with the residents. No injuries or arrests were reported.
The forces sealed off the northern entrance to Taqou’ town with earth mounds in the aftermath of the clashes.
- The Detainees and Ex-Detainees Commission appealed with the Israeli prosecution office on Wednesday against a decision banning lawyers’ visits to Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
It said in a statement that the Israel Prison Services (IPS) has banned the visits since the outbreak of violence in the Naqab prison in the south of Israel two weeks ago.
It said the ban is still in force either by directly banning the visit or by obstructing the lawyers’ visits by imposing strict conditions or pretexts that would make the visits very difficult.
- The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem delivered demolition notices to residential structures in the Issawiya neighbourhood, on Wednesday.
Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, member of a local follow-up committee, said that joint teams from the Israeli municipality and police raided the neighbourhood and delivered demolition notices, summons for 13 residential structures, under the pretext that they were built without the Israeli-issued building permits.
Abu al-Hummus pointed out that some of the notified buildings were built more than 15 years ago.
Some of the buildings were identified as belonging to the Mahmoud, Darwish, Hamdan and al-Zaatari families.
Abu al-Hummus added that the Israeli municipality inspector took footage of dozens of buildings and homes in the neighbourhood.
Tensions increased in the neighbourhood following the delivery of notices.
Israel uses the pretext of building without a permit to carry out demolitions of Palestinian-owned homes on a regular basis.
Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in East Jerusalem, though the Jerusalem municipality has claimed that compared to the Jewish population, they receive a disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities, which also see high approval ratings.
For Jewish Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem’s illegal settlements, the planning, marketing, development, and infrastructure are funded and executed by the Israeli government.
By contrast, in Palestinian neighbourhoods, all the burden falls on individual families to contend with a lengthy permit application that can last several years and cost tens of thousands of dollars.
- Israeli forces detained a Palestinian woman, on Wednesday, while at the al-Zaayim checkpoint east of occupied Jerusalem for attempting to carry out a so-called stabbing attack.
Hebrew-language news outlets reported that a Palestinian woman held up a knife at Israeli soldiers who stopped a bus for search, at the al-Zaayim checkpoint.
Israeli soldiers opened fire in the air before detaining the woman, and transferring her for interrogation.
No injuries were reported.
Sources added that the woman is a resident of the northern occupied West Bank district of Tulkarem.