Take 2: Powerful NGOs, Antisemitism, and the Irish BDS Bill
In January 2018, a bill to criminalize trade in Israeli settlement goods was raised in the Irish Parliament. As previously noted by NGO Monitor, the bill was prepared in conjunction with Trocaire and Christian Aid – two powerful non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in the demonization of Israel. The bill was introduced by independent Senator Frances Black, who previously called for a boycott of all Israeli products.
The initial attempt to pass the bill ended after Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney noted that bill was legally problematic, appearing to contravene EU laws prohibiting “unilateral restrictions on trade.”
Furthermore, as noted by law professor Orde F. Kittrie, the bill may also breach US laws and could have consequences for American companies with Irish subsidiaries.
However, following intensive NGO lobbying and trips to Israel and the West Bank where Irish lawmakers met with radical political NGOs, the bill is being revived, and the Irish Seanad will vote on it this week (July 11, 2018).
NGOs Help Revive the Legislation
Rather than address these issues, including the potential impact on Ireland’s economic relationships with the EU and the United States, Trocaire launched an intense lobbying campaign in support of the bill.
In February, Senator Black and members of the Sinn Féin party traveled to the region where they met with radical political NGOs. The Irish politicians met with Palestinian NGO Al-Haq, a leader in anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns, and fringe Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence. Following the trip, Senator Black invited Shawan Jabarin of Al-Haq to address the Irish parliament and encourage support for the boycott bill. Jabarin has been convicted of membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an EU designated terrorist organization involved in suicide bombings, hijackings, and assassinations.
In June, Irish parliamentarians from the Fianna Fáil party participated in their own “Fact Finding Mission” to the region, where they too met with Breaking the Silence and Al-Haq. At the conclusion of the trip, Fianna Fáil spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Niall Collins, announced their support for Senator Black’s boycott bill.
BDS origins and discrimination
As previously noted, the language of the bill applies extremely broad and inscrutable definitions of key terms and promotes discrimination based on categories of religion and national origin. For instance, an “illegal settler” is not a resident of settlements, but a “member of the civilian population” of Israel “who was or is present within the relevant occupied territory.”
As a result, among many other absurd outcomes, Irish citizens who visit the Jewish Quarter and buy a souvenir to bring back to Ireland, study the Bible, or pray at the Kotel could face jail time and fines.
During the initial debate of the bill in January, Senator Frances Black and Senator David Norris both claimed that the bill was “not a boycott of Israel or a ban on Israeli products.”
However, Black’s personal support of boycotts, including signing a letter calling for the boycott of all Israeli products and her and Norris’ call for Ireland to boycott the 2019 Eurovision song contest in Israel, suggest otherwise.
Revealing further hostility Israel, referring to the violence along the Israel-Gaza border in April-June, Norris made malicious and uncorroborated claims that Israel is using “Dum-dum bullets, which expand in the wound and create appalling injuries, are being used against children in Gaza…” Senator Norris made previous statements that would be classified as antisemitic under the working definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association, claiming that “[W]e in Europe resolved our consciences after the Holocaust by inflicting what the Palestinian people call the Nakba, the catastrophe or disaster, on third parties, the Palestinians…”
Norris also made highly prejudicial comments regarding immigrants in Israel, claiming that “…the Israel I knew more than 40 years was a left leaning, socially conscious, politically active and decent country, before the inrush of 1 million Soviet citizens…”
None of the NGOs that promote the boycott of Israel have commented or condemned this discriminatory rhetoric.