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Israeli Academics among those Pushing for the Irish Occupied Territories Bill


Editorial Note


In the wake of the recent Irish election, a three-party coalition is likely to emerge. The prospective partners of the governing Fine Gael led by Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, are Fianna Fáil, and the Greens.  If the parties fail to form the coalition, Ireland would be heading to a second election. The picture should be clearer in the next couple of weeks.  One obstacle in the talks is the Occupied Territories Bill, known as Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018. It was supported by the Fianna Fáil party and the Greens, and was passed in the Irish Senate two years ago but failed to get adequate support in the lower house, The Dáil. 


IAM reported on the Bill in October 2019, that it is "An Act to give effect to the State's obligations arising under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and under customary international humanitarian law; and for that purpose to make it an offense for a person to import or sell goods or services originating in an occupied territory or to extract resources from an occupied territory in certain circumstances; and to provide for related matters." 

The Irish government's Attorney General recently told the press that "It would be impractical to draft legislation banning the importation of goods from illegally occupied settlements." The ruling party Fine Gael opposed the Bill due the likelihood of damaging relations with Israel and the Trump administration.  


Historically, Ireland's relationship with the Jews has been troublesome. Professor emeritus Colum Kenny of the School of Communications at Dublin City University, wrote in 2015 that "Ireland pledges to 'resist and combat' hateful anti-Semitism.” The article characterized Irish-Jewish relations. The first Jewish migrants came from eastern Europe to seek a better life in Ireland in the 18th century.  However, their arrival created tension and in 1904 a Catholic priest provoked a pogrom in Limerick.  Open anti-Semitism was not unusual.  Some Irish firms announced they would not employ Jews, forcing some Jews to change their names.  During World War II, Ireland refused to admit Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler.   


Apparently alluding to the history of his country, the Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan who visited Yad Vashem in 2015 declared: "I believe it's essential that we redouble our efforts throughout the world to resist and combat anti-Semitism in all forms.” In contrast to his father, Oliver J. Flanagan's words in the Dáil in 1943, who said: "There is one thing that Germany did, and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country, it does not matter a hair's breadth what orders you make. Where the bees are, there is the honey, and where the Jews are, there is the money." The Fianna Fáil government of Eamon de Valera had appointed Charles Bewley, an admirer of Hitler, as the ambassador to Berlin. De Valera later even signed a book of condolences upon Hitler's death.  


Some scholars who live in Ireland support the bill.  The Israeli-born Ronit Lentin, a professor of sociology at Trinity College, Dublin, is one of them.  Like in the case of many pro-Palestinian activists, her scholarship is a thinly disguised anti-Israeli diatribe.   In her 2000 bookIsrael and the Daughters of the Shoah: Reoccupying the Territories of Silence, Lentin explained that the book is a "culmination of her need to break the silence about the Shoah in a society which constructed itself as the Israeli antithesis to diaspora Jewry, and to excavate a 'truth' from underneath the mountain of Zionist nation-building myths."  According to her, these myths had "a profound impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Lentin criticized the "self-perceived right of occupation," and that "Israel thus not only negated the Jewish diaspora, but also stigmatized and feminized Shoah victims and survivors, all the while employing Shoah discourses as an excuse for occupation, both in the past and in the present." 


Senator Frances Black who sponsored the Bill had Gerry Liston's, help in drafting it in 2016. Liston works as a legal officer in Sadaka, the Ireland Palestinian Alliance "Maximising support in Ireland for the freedom and rights of the Palestinian people." Sadaka declares itself an "independent political organization maintaining an independent position on internal politics and divisions within Palestine." Liston spent the summer of 2011 as a research intern for the Palestinian NGOs Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Bethlehem and lived in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.


Black said in an interview with James Zogbyfor the Arab American Institute, that she was 16 when she first heard about the Palestinian issue, "and it touched my heart." She has been working closely with the Irish Friends of Palestine Committee and speaks out regularly in support of Palestinian rights. Black discussed the situation in Gaza that water and electricity were cut off and railed against the Bank of Ireland for closing Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign accounts in 2016 for their support for BDS. Her sponsoring the legislation banning settlement goods is aimed to show "incredibly resilient Palestinians" that somebody cares. 

In a 2016 public letter which was published in leading Irish newspapers, Black was among the signatories urging for BDS. The group misrepresented the BDS Movement's three goals: Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;  Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. However, anyone not familiar with these goals should know they are misleading. Israel doesn't occupy neither the West Bank nor the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinians enjoy their own two autonomies. There are no Arab lands as much as there are no Jewish lands and the wall has reduced terrorism, therefore should not be dismantled. Israeli Arabs already enjoy full equality. Since the world approved a two states solution, Palestinian refugees should return to the Palestinian Territories, while Jewish refugees are directed to Israel. Of course, nothing of this sort is mentioned in the public letter.

Last month, a group of radical-leftist academics, presenting themselves as "concerned Israeli citizens" wrote a public letter urging to enact the Bill. The signatories included Prof. David Harel, Prof. Moty Heilblum, Prof. Yehoshua Kolodny, Prof. Yehuda Judd Ne'eman, Prof. David Shulman, Prof. Zeev Sternhell, among other politicians from the marginal Meretz party which won 3 seats out of 120 in the last Israeli elections.

The Irish press also reported on a letter from a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives which warned that if the Bill enacted into law, it could affect the immigration status of Irish people living in the US.  Another letter, from Indiana's Secretary of Commerce, told the Irish government that jobs in Indiana could be put at risk if the Bill is enacted into law. 


These warnings are a clear indication that passing the Bill would jeopardize the interests of Ireland as a country and its citizens as individuals.  While the Bill does not mention Israel, it was drafted by pro-Palestinians and is directed at Israel alone. More serious repercussions would probably follow since the United States and parts of the European community do not tolerate the type of blatant anti-Semitism which the legislation represent. Singling out Israel is tantamount to anti-Semitism.



The Occupied Territories Bill

Thu, May 7, 2020, 00:11

Sir, – We are writing to you as concerned Israeli citizens to urge you to ensure that the enactment of the Occupied Territories Bill is included in the next programme for government in Ireland.

Recent political agreements in Israel as part of our own coalition government negotiations have paved the way for de jure annexation of large segments of the West Bank, such as the Jordan Rift Valley and all the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

This is a matter of grave concern to all of us who believe in a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict based on the two-state solution, leading to peace, security and prosperity for all. Needless to say, unilateral annexation will lead to escalating crises in Palestine, Jordan, and the entire region, and runs the risk of turning Israel into an apartheid state.

We were heartened by the recent statement of Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who correctly underscored that “annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law, including the UN Charter”. We welcome Mr Coveney’s affirmation of Ireland’s commitment to “a negotiated two-state solution that ends the occupation that began in 1967, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, on the basis of international law, the internationally agreed parameters and relevant UN Security Council resolutions”.

Notable among them is UN Security Council Resolution 2334 of December 2016, which “underlines that it will not recognise any changes to the June 4th, 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations”.

We believe that Ireland is uniquely positioned to challenge the incoming Government of Israel’s ominous plans for annexation, uphold respect for international law, and protect the two-state solution by enacting the Occupied Territories Bill as part of the programme for government for the 33rd Dáil Éireann.

This will send a clear message to the government of Israel and the Israeli public at large that Ireland will work to ensure that the EU and the international community stand behind EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell’s warning that annexation “will not go unchallenged.”

For too long the world has sufficed with issuing condemnations in response to the government of Israel’s ongoing breach of international law and its human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

We firmly believe that now is the time for action from the international community to prevent Israel from proceeding with annexation, which will doom generations to come to more oppression, injustice and violence. – Yours, etc,

COLETTE AVITAL, Former Israeli ambassador to Portugal, consul general in New York, and member of Knesset;
ILAN BARUCH, Former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe;
SUSIE BECHER, Managing editor, Palestine-Israel Journal;
AVRAHAM BURG, Former speaker of Knesset and head of the Jewish Agency;
ZEHAVA GALON, Former member of Knesset and chair of Meretz Party;
Prof DAVID HAREL, Vice-president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Israel Prize recipient (2004), EMET Prize recipient (2010);
Prof MOTY HEIBLUM, EMET Prize recipient (2014), member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities;
Prof YEHOSHUA KOLODNY, Israel Prize recipient (2010);
MIKI KRATSMAN, EMET Prize Laureate (2011);
ALEX LEVAC, Israel Prize recipient (2005);
Prof YEHUDA JUDD NE’EMAN, Israel Prize recipient (2009);
MOSSI RAZ, Former member of Knesset;
TZALI RESHEF, Former member of Knesset;
Prof DAVID SHULMAN, Israel Prize recipient (2016) and EMET Prize recipient (2010);
Prof ZEEV STERNHELL, Israel Prize recipient (2008), Jerusalem.



#PalestinianTerritories could be make or break for new Irish government

Ken Murray | June 8, 2020

Four months on from the Irish general election, political parties are slowly edging towards a deal that is likely to see a three-party coalition take office. However, a number of sensitive and costly issues remain to be resolved and one of them could affect Ireland’s relationship with Israel, as Ken Murray reports from Dublin.

8 February may feel like a long time ago but four months on from the general election, Irish people are still waiting for the change of government they voted for.

Bit by bit, the three players on the pitch, Fianna Fáil, the Greens and the governing Fine Gael party led by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, are working their way through their respective shopping lists as they slowly head towards the finishing line.

But as they slowly tick off the items they can do business on to establish a programme for government, failure to get agreement on a number of looming matters could determine if a government is in place in the coming weeks or else, a second election will be unavoidable.

One of those looming matters is support by Micheál Martin’s Fianna Fail party and the Greens for the Occupied Territories Bill 2018, which was passed in the Irish Senate two years ago but failed to get adequate support in the lower house, The Dáil.

The objective of the Bill is to ban the import of products manufactured or sourced from Palestinian territory that is deemed by observers to be occupied illegally by Israel.

Speaking to Irish Legal News, the government’s Attorney General Seamus Woulfe said: “It would be impractical to draft legislation banning the importation of goods from illegally occupied settlements,” suggesting that the Fine Gael position is not for turning.

The Greens are keen to re-visit the Bill but Leo Varadkar’s ruling Fine Gael is opposed to it citing the possibility of damaged relations with Israel and the Trump administration.

Unless somebody caves in or is prepared to accept a fudge on the matter, the ongoing talks could hit an inflexible dead end over this controversial proposal!

As it stands, the support of 80 TDs is required for an overall majority and with Fianna Fáil (37), Fine Gael (35) and the Greens with 12 seats taking the total to 84, a number of other sticking points have become difficult to secure agreement on.

The Greens are insisting in the talks that a reduction in carbon emissions of 7% per year until 2030 is a red line, a demand that is meeting resistance with the agricultural community where Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael receive most of their respective support.

“There’s no value in going to the [Green] membership with any proposed programme for government without that,” explained a party source to The Irish Examiner last week.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are also at odds over plans to increase the official retirement age from 65 to 67 while the Greens are determined to bring an end to the controversial practice known as Direct Provision, the process where immigrants who say they are refugees, are housed, many for several years, until their applications are corroborated.

In the meantime, state revenues have all but collapsed due to the COVID-19 pandemic suggesting that whoever enters office will have to enforce unpopular fiscal measures in order for the government to pay its bills.

All this before agreement is reached on a possible rotating Taoiseach system whereby Micheál Martin will lead the country for 12 months followed by Leo Varadkar and so on until 2025.

If all that wasn’t enough to contend with, the old enemies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as well as the Greens will have to hold special delegate conferences where the votes of circumspect respective members could stymie the creation of a new Administration!

Meanwhile the left-wing Sinn Féin, which, surprisingly, secured 37 seats in the Election, is anxiously looking on from the side lines knowing that if a second Poll is called, it is likely to emerge as thee most popular Party in the Country!

The picture should be clearer in the coming two weeks!




04 December 2019

Trócaire's frequently asked questions about the Occupied Territories Bill.


The Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 is a piece of proposed legislation. If enacted, it would ban trade between Ireland and Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank. The Bill was introduced by Senator Frances Black and is supported by Trócaire and other leading human rights organisations.


If enacted, the legislation would apply to territories where there is a clear international legal consensus on the status of the occupation. As it stands, only the occupied Palestinian territories have been confirmed as occupied by the International Court of Justice. However, this Bill allows for other territories to be included so long as there is consensus between the Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade and both houses of the Oireachtas.


No, this Bill does not implement a boycott of Israeli goods, or single out Israel. It only bans the import and sale of goods produced in settlements that are illegal under international law. As such, this legislation differentiates between Israel and the illegal settlements in the West Bank. This distinction is already made by governments around the world and is long-standing policy of both Ireland and the European Union.


Settlements are Israeli residential, agricultural and business developments built in the West Bank. In other words, they are built on land outside Israel’s internationally recognised borders. Palestinian communities are forcibly removed from their land in order to make way for these illegal settlements.

Under international criminal law, the transfer by a State of its civilian population into a territory it has militarily occupied is a war crime. Importantly, it is also a crime under Irish law, no matter where in the world it is committed.

Today there are more than 500,000 Israeli settlers living across the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem. Settlements control more than 42% of the West Bank’s land and the majority of its water and natural resources.

The European Union’s position is absolutely clear: Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are “illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible”. Despite this, EU states, including Ireland, continue to make the settlements financially viable.


It is difficult to put a precise figure on it but the Trading Away Peace report found that the EU 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 EU 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.

Regardless of the level of trade, this legislation is hugely powerful and symbolic because it would see Ireland finally taking concrete action to oppose continued illegal settlement expansion. It would align Ireland’s trading policy with its political policies and embed international law in our trading relationships.


Trócaire wants all the people of Israel and Palestine to live in peace and security. We believe it is an injustice for innocent families to be evicted from their homes and land to make way for illegal settlements. We stand in support of international law and for the principles of peace and justice. Find out more about Trócaire's work in Israel and Palestine.


Trade rules are generally uniform across all EU member states. However, exceptions are granted where they can be justified “on grounds of public morality, public policy or public security, and the protection of health and life of humans”.

The legal basis of the Bill and its permissibility under EU law are confirmed by two formal legal opinions: the first from Michael Lynn, Senior Counsel in Ireland, and the second from Professor James Crawford of the University of Cambridge, Senior Counsel in the UK and one of the most eminent authorities on international law worldwide. The Bill was also drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Legal Advisor (OPLA) of the Houses of the Oireachtas.


The bill has progressed through the Seanad and some stages of the Dáil, but will need support from newly elected Dáil members after the election to become law.

The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 was passed in full by Seanad Éireann in 2018, and passed its first vote in Dáil Éireann in early 2019. It was then sent for detailed scrutiny in the Oireachtas Select Committee on Foreign & Affairs and Trade. This review took place over several months, hearing from expert testimony and input, and in December 2019 the Committee also voted in favour of the bill.

However, before becoming law it needs to go back to the Dáil for final votes, which can be resumed after the general election.


Ireland pledges to 'resist and combat' hateful anti-Semitism  

Ad from the early 20th century

  Ad from the early 20th century  

  Colum Kenny 

February 21 2015 10:24 PM  

No group may visit the Dublin Jewish congregation's fine synagogue in Terenure for the time being.

That's because of recent attacks on Jews in Brussels, Copenhagen and Paris. It is such a shame.

Irish Jews have contributed much to this State down the years. Their traditions, along with those of Christians, Muslims and other citizens, are an intrinsic part of Ireland's national culture.

Among Irish Jews who have played significant roles in Irish politics has been Michael Noyk, friend and solicitor to Arthur Griffith, founder of Sinn Fein. Fianna Fail's Robert Briscoe TD became lord mayor of Dublin in 1956 and Fianna Fail's Gerard Goldberg became lord mayor of Cork in 1977. Government ministers have included Labour's Mervyn Taylor and Fine Gael's Alan Shatter.

For a community that has never exceeded 5,000 people, Irish Jews punch well above their weight. Irish Jewish artists have included Estella Solomons, Gerald Davis and Harry Kernoff.

Recently, the filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson has made a string of well-received Irish films including Adam & Paul, Garage, What Richard Did and Frank.

So when Israel's foreign affairs minister, Avigdor Lieberman, complains, as he did last week to Ireland's foreign minister, Charlie Flanagan TD, about difficulties that Lieberman says Israel faces with public opinion in Ireland, then the Irish public needs to ask what this means.

Fine Gael's Flanagan, on a visit to the Middle East, laying a wreath in the Jewish Holocaust Museum, said, "I believe that it is essential that we redouble our efforts throughout the world to resist and combat anti-Semitism in all forms."


His admirable comments were in stark contrast to the words of Fine Gael's Oliver J Flanagan TD, the current minister's father, speaking in Dail Eireann on July 9, 1943.

Oliver J said then, and no deputies objected: "There is one thing that Germany did, and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country, it does not matter a hair's breadth what orders you make. Where the bees are, there is the honey, and where the Jews are, there is the money."

And the Fianna Fail government of Eamon de Valera had earlier appointed Charles Bewley, an admirer of Hitler, as Ireland's ambassador in Berlin. De Valera himself later signed a book of condolences on Hitler's death. Such actions, at best, reflected an insensitivity to Jewish feelings, and at worst, a deep-seated anti-Semitism in Irish society.

But the Israeli foreign minister is more likely to have in mind current Irish public sympathy for Palestinians in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank. Efforts by some Israelis to paint all opposition to their government's policies, or to continuing Jewish settlement on Palestian lands, as anti-Semitic is both unconvincing and distasteful.

Of all peoples, because of their history, Jews should know better than to tolerate some of the aggressive behaviour directed at Arabs on their territory. In fairness, some Jews have been among the Israeli government's strongest critics. But, of all people, Europeans need to check that their criticism of Israeli policy is not, at root, something quite uglier. And there is no doubt that the recent murder of Jews at synagogues in Europe is entirely inexcusable.

Such hate crimes by sectarian Muslim extremists are deeply anti-Semitic and echo the earlier persecution of Jews across Europe.

The Irish "liberator" Daniel O'Connell campaigned for the emancipation of Jews as well as for that of Catholics. He once boasted of Ireland that "it is the only country that I know of unsullied by any one act of persecution of the Jews". Of course, there were very few Jews living in Ireland then.

New Jewish migrants later came from eastern Europe to Ireland, seeking a better life here. Their migration created strains with the indigenous Irish and, in 1904, there was a pogrom in Limerick, provoked by a Catholic priest. Some Irish Jews, in turn, traded under local names instead of their own. Some Irish firms advertised that they employed no Jews, and Larkin's Irish Worker carried at least one anti-Semitic cartoon.

Arthur Griffith thought that reports of the Limerick pogrom had exaggerated it. What he published then, and earlier in his long journalism career, about the Dreyfus affair and Boer War has been heavily criticised. He has been made a scapegoat for more widespread Irish anti-Semitism.

In fact, Griffith supported the idea of a Zionist state and his views on Jews appear to have matured. Not so those of some other Irish nationalists.

During World War II, Ireland turned its back on many Jewish refugees from Nazism. However, attacks on Jews or on Jewish property in Ireland have been rare in recent times.

Judaism and Islam are intrinsic parts of the fabric of modern Ireland. If disputes between people of those faiths lead to either feeling unsafe in Europe, then we are all diminished as a community.

Israel has attempted to use recent isolated attacks in Europe to encourage Jews to move and settle in the Middle East. Their departure would be Europe's loss.

Colum Kenny will speak on 'Arthur Griffith, more Zionist than Anti-Semite' at the National Library of Ireland at 10am next Saturday, February 28, as part of a free half-day seminar marking the publication of 'Periodicals and Journalism in Twentieth-Century Ireland', edited by Mark O'Brien and Felix Larkin



Boycott of Israel is a legitimate response to regime's apartheid

Letters to the Editor
June 14 2016 02:30 AM

We, the undersigned, welcome the recent statement in the Dáil by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan, that the strategy of boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) aimed at pressurising Israel into ending the occupation is a legitimate political viewpoint.

It is also heartening that Minister Flanagan outlines the Government's support for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs which are active on justice and human rights issues.

However, given this expression of support, it is both disappointing and confusing that when those same civil society organisations call on the international community to campaign for BDS as a means of showing solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation, the Irish Government refuses to support them or the campaign.

The BDS movement is a Palestinian civil-society-led global movement of citizens that carries out and advocates for non-violent campaigns of BDS as a means to overcome the Israeli regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid and achieve freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

The reasons to support BDS are systematically documented by organisations like Amnesty International, Defense for Children International, the United Nations and others, which describe extrajudicial killings, imprisonment of children, destruction of people's homes and livelihoods, theft of Palestinian lands and daily intimidation with tear gas and bullets.

It is for these and many other reasons that we call for: a boycott of Israeli products and services, business divestments from the occupation economy and governmental sanctions on the Israeli state.

Robert Ballagh, Frances Black, Mary Coughlan, Margaretta D'Arcy, Séamus Deane, Felim Egan, Jim Fitzpatrick, Honor Heffernan, Trevor Hogan, Gavin Kostick, Donal Lunny, Christy Moore and Dervla Murphy
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