Irish parliament passes bill to ban Israeli settlement goods

A bill to outlaw trade in goods from Israeli settlements has been passed by the lower house of Ireland’s parliament, a major step on its journey into law.

On Thursday, the Dáil overwhelmingly approved the Occupied Territories Bill by a vote of 78-45, dealing a big defeat to the government of Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister.

Frances Black, the independent senator who initiated the legislation last year, greeted the result as “amazing,” adding that “Ireland will always stand for international law and human rights, and we’re one step closer to making history.”

In December, the upper house gave its final approval to the bill, making the Seanad the first house of parliament in the world to pass legislation banning the import of goods from Israeli settlements in occupied territory, which are illegal under international law, according to Sadaka, an Irish group that helped craft the bill.

Passage in the Dáil was assured as Fianna Fáil, the second largest grouping in parliament, had given its backing to the bill, along with other opposition parties:

Thursday’s vote is not final, however. The bill must still go to committee and further debate before it can be voted onto the statute books.

Irish solidarity groups welcomed the vote:

The victory is all the more significant since Irish politicians faced fierce lobbying from the US Congress not to pass the legislation.

“Signal to apartheid Israel”

During his speech introducing the bill to the Dáil on Wednesday, Fianna Fáil lawmaker Niall Collins paid tribute to human rights and labor groups including Palestine’s Al-Haq, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Trócaire, Christian Aid and Sadaka for their work on the legislation.

“If passed, Ireland and her parliament will be sending a strong message, that it condemns the occupation of territories which are deemed illegal under international law,” Collins said.

“Repeated condemnation of Israeli actions by the EU and many in the international community has failed to deter Israel from continuing its settlements project,” Collins said, arguing that action was needed to bring change.

Citing the successful use of sanctions against apartheid South Africa, Collins said that similar tactics could help bring justice for Palestinians.

“We should be brave and bold enough to learn from the experiences of the past and believe that we can bring others with us,” Collins added, urging Irish people not to be cowed by threats of retaliation, such as a withdrawal of US investments.

“While we value the jobs that corporate America brings, it must clean up its act in terms of corporate responsibility, morality and social responsibility in many regards,” Collins said. “We cannot give it a free pass on everything simply because it provides us with jobs.”

Opposing the bill, government minister Ciaran Cannon claimed that banning Israeli settlement goods would be a “betrayal of our principles as members of the European Union.”

But such arguments held little sway.

“We need to send a signal to apartheid Israel that its policy of murder and occupation can no longer go unhindered under international law,” lawmaker Gino Kenny of the People Before Profit party told the house.

Watch Niall Collins’ speech introducing the bill in the video above.

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The people of Ireland stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Today's vote makes that position clear. Many thanks to Senator Black, TD Collins, and all who gave their voices to the passage of this historic bill. Now let's proceed to the next step- working for a similar result in the respective parliaments of Europe, and the extension of the ban to include all trade with the apartheid regime in Israel.

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Hurray to Ireland and Francis Black with this amazing result.
As first EU country to ban Israëli injustice, You will be the shing light....hopefully soon the rest of the EU countries will follow this good example for justification and application of international law.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.