In a historic step, Ireland has become the first E.U. state to vote on banning imports from illegal settlements. The introduced bill applies to territories where there is a clear international legal consensus on the status of occupation. Occupied Palestinian territories would fall under this legislation.
On Thursday, the Dail (Irish Parliament) voted 78 – 45 passing the bill, with three members abstaining.
Amazing! First the Seanad, now the Dáil: an overwhelming majority have voted for the Occupied Territories Bill 2018 and a ban on illegal #SettlementGoods! Ireland will always stand for international law + human rights, & we're one step closer to making history. Onwards ???????????????????? pic.twitter.com/28LKTZzAw0
— Frances Black (@frances_black) January 24, 2019
Various United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions hold the international consensus that the state of Israel currently occupies East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights.
‘The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill, 2018’ seeks to ban imports to Ireland from illegal settlements in countries which are illegally occupied and in breach of international law.
The bill does not implement a boycott of Israeli goods, or single out the Israeli state. It bans the import and sale of goods produced in settlements that are illegal under international law. The UNSC voted unanimously in December 2016 that the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal under international law.
— Fianna Fáil (@fiannafailparty) January 23, 2019
The European Union’s position is that the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are “illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.” However, despite this, the E.U. holds trade agreements with Israel that allows for trade and economic activity of illegal settlement goods into E.U. states.
International law consists of the Fourth Geneva Convention Article 49; “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Article 8; “the transfer, directly or indirectly. By the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory, it occupies constitutes as a war crime.”
Trocaire, an Irish humanitarian organization, released their Trading Away Peace report and found that the E.U. imports approximately 15 times more from the illegal settlements as it does from Palestine.
“Imports to Ireland from Israel from January to October last year were around €50m (€231m exports, €50m imports). Working on the E.U. estimate that settlement goods make up about 1% of this, the total value would be €500k, while a Government estimate from 2012 put it at around €1.5m. The level of uncertainty makes it difficult to be precise, but we can estimate that roughly €1m of settlement goods are imported to Ireland each year,” the report said.
The legal basis of the bill and its permissibility under E.U. law have been confirmed by several formal legal opinions: Michael Lynn, Senior Counsel in Ireland, Professor James Crawford of the University of Cambridge, Senior Counsel in the U.K. and former Attorney General Senator Michael McDowell.
This bill has cross-party support from all parties in the Dail and Seanad, however, the Irish government has yet to support it.
Another big day today. Occupied Territories Bill passed in full by Seanad in December, now goes to Dáil at 2.50pm. Here's my op-ed from July on how trade in #SettlementGoods sustains injustice & why Ireland must oppose it. #solidarity ✌️???????????????? https://t.co/2XxQVtqVrl
— Frances Black (@frances_black) January 23, 2019
Irish Senator Frances Black put forth the bill in the Seanad (Irish Senate) on July 11, which was voted in favor of by 25-20. The bill then went to the Dail to be voted on its advancement to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence.
Since the bill succeeded, it will now go back to the Dail for a second vote and then if it passes it will become law. There is a possibility that the European Court of Justice could challenged the law if passed.
Regardless of the outcome, the legislation is symbolic because Ireland would be taking concrete action to oppose illegal settlement expansion. It would align Ireland’s trading policy with its political policies and embed international law in Irish trading relationships.
Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign Chairperson, Fatin Al Tamimi, a Palestinian-Irish citizen, said: “We in the IPSC and we Palestinians around the world warmly welcome this historic vote, the first its kind in any Western country. Once again, Ireland is making history and leading the way in its solidarity with the Palestinian people. We thank and salute all those politicians and parties who have pledged to support the Bill, and we will be asking the Irish people to ensure that these politicians support its passage at all stages of the lawmaking process.”
Fatin said it was disappointing that Ireland was forced to take the first step alone but expressed hope that the legislation would inspire other states to take similar measures to “end the seven decades of oppression.”
This post was updated on January 24 to add vote results