On July 11, the Irish Senate approved a bill criminalizing local companies that engage in commerce with Israeli firms based in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Introduced in the body’s Upper Chamber by independent member Senator Frances Black, the bill passed initial muster, in a 25-20 vote with 14 abstentions. The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill, 2018 would prohibit any import of goods or services from “occupied territories,” with financial penalties of a quarter million euros in fines and up to five years imprisonment for violators.
Israel’s reaction to the Irish Senate’s vote was swift. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned Ireland’s ambassador, Alison Kelly, for a reprimand. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for the immediate closure of the Israeli Embassy in Dublin. It is unlikely, however, that Israel will follow through on Lieberman’s threat, as Ireland’s governing party, the Fine Gael, is opposed to the bill, which in any case must pass in Ireland’s Lower house of Parliament, the Dáil, before becoming a law.
A U.S.-based litigation outfit, The Lawfare Project, which fights anti-Israel discrimination — with the help of UK Lawyers for Israel — has initiated legal action against the proposed legislation. The litigators say that the Irish bill could have a negative impact on American companies with subsidiaries in Ireland: it is illegal under US anti-boycott laws to cooperate with a ban on commerce with Israeli settlements. Compliance with US boycott laws would, in turn, cost US companies a good deal in fines for violation of the Irish boycott.
What, then, is behind the proposed bill? One possible explanation is the prominent role played by Islamic institutions and organizations in Ireland, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood’s influence in Dublin, the nation’s capital, is evidenced by the easy access its key personnel have to Ireland’s government.