Irish senators on Wednesday passed a bill to ban the import of goods from Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Frances Black, the singer and independent politician who sponsored the bill, tweeted that the vote was “a first step, but an important one.”
“Today we state strongly: Ireland will always stand for international humanitarian law, justice and human rights,” Black added.The Occupied Territories Bill passed by 25-20 votes in the Seanad, the upper house of Oireachtas, Ireland’s parliament.
It will have to pass several more stages in the Seanad and the lower house, the Dáil, before it can take effect as law.The bill’s passage had been expected after Fianna Fáil, Ireland’s main opposition party, announced earlier this month that it would back the bill.
The Green Party, the Labour Party, Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and independent lawmakers are also supporting the legislation. The bill is opposed by the ruling Fine Gael party.The Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign praised the work of all the activists, trade union and civil society groups that backed the bill, particularly Sadaka which helped draft it.
Irish people “can be proud”
Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon claimed that the Irish senate had “given its support to a populist, dangerous and extremist anti-Israel boycott initiative that hurts the chances of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.”Israel will fear that if Ireland imposes consequences for its unchecked violations of international law, other countries may follow.
Israel summoned the Irish ambassador in Tel Aviv in protest.
“The Irish people can be proud that the Irish Seanad today took a brave step in leading the way in the fight against apartheid,” Shawan Jabarin, director of the Palestinian human rights group Al Haq stated.Jabarin expressed confidence that the bill would become law and hope that other European countries would follow. “It is time to end the culture of impunity,” Jabarin added.
The morning of the vote, Black urged support for the bill in an article for The Irish Times.
“There is a clear hypocrisy here – how can we condemn the settlements as ‘unambiguously illegal,’ as theft of land and resources, but happily buy the proceeds of this crime?” the senator stated.
She also recounted how on her recent visit to Palestine she had seen the devastating impact of Israeli colonization on Palestinian freedom of movement, housing and healthcare.
“I witnessed the crushing indignity of a Palestinian community cut off from their water supply so that it could be diverted to an Israeli chicken farm,” Black wrote.
“Is the moral response to condemn the illegality, but then ask how much for the eggs?” Black asked.
Black contested objections that her bill could violate European Union trade laws.
“In many ways this legal back-and-forth reminds me of the brave Dunnes Stores workers in the 1980s, and concerns that banning produce from apartheid South Africa could upset [European] rules.”
Workers at the Dunne’s supermarket chain mounted an epic strike in support of a colleague, Mary Manning, suspended for refusing to handle goods from South Africa.
That battle helped galvanize support for the anti-apartheid movement in Ireland.
“Ultimately, Ireland was willing to show leadership on that issue – to make the case internationally and chart a path for others to follow,” Black wrote. “The same applies today: we have the legal capacity to pursue this, if the political will is there.”
Human Rights Watch has said that settlement businesses “unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other resources.”
If the Occupied Territories Bill becomes law, Ireland would be the first European country to do so.
The night before Wednesday’s vote, Black welcomed to Ireland two Palestinian farmers, Mona and Fayez al-Taneeb who have been “fighting against the demolition of their farm and the confiscation of their land by a commercial Israeli settlement.”
At Black’s invitation, the couple were invited to the Irish parliament to watch the historic vote.