European Commission warns Ireland against Israel boycott bill

An Irish law against importing goods and services from ‘occupied territories’ could create severe legal issues for the Emerald Isle. 

By: World Israel News Staff

Ireland could face infringement proceedings by the European Union (EU) if a bill that would ban imports from Israeli factories in Judea and Samaria and in the Golan Heights becomes law, the European Commission has warned.

The Irish Times (IT) reported Saturday that an Irish government official privately sought the advice of the commission’s trade directorate last week on the proposed legislation.

The controversial bill proposes to make the purchase of souvenirs in Israel a criminal act, punishable by a maximum of five years in jail and a $310,000 fine.

Fianna Fáil joined the largest opposition party, Sinn Féin, and others in passing what is officially called the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Act of 2018. Although it does not mention Israel, or even “Palestine,” by name, its sponsor, Senator Frances Black (Independent), has openly noted that its wording was carefully formulated so that it would only apply to the Jewish state.

Fine Gael opposes the passage of the bill on the basis of advice from the attorney general that trade is regulated under EU law and Ireland cannot introduce a unilateral ban on goods imported from Israel.

Echoing the advice of the attorney general, an EU commission trade official told an Irish Department of Business official last week that the bill “would be in contravention of the EU’s competence on trade matters” under a treaty that covers common commercial policy for member states, IT reported.

The EU official advised the Irish official that they had “considered that and their legal department was clear that that exemption was quite limited as determined by CJEU [Court of Justice of the European Union] law.”

The EU, until now, had remained silent on the proposed legislation.

Bill contravenes US, European law

Writing for The Hill earlier this year, Orde Kittrie, a law professor at Arizona State University, explained that the proposed bill runs afoul of US laws and, if enacted, could force US companies with Irish subsidiaries to choose between violating the Irish law or violating US Export Administration Regulations, which require US firms to refuse to participate in foreign boycotts that the US does not sanction.

The bill would also subject companies to US state-level sanctions, violate European Union and international law, threaten Ireland’s economic links to the US, and hinder the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

According to the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, some 700 US companies employ over 150,000 people in Ireland. Similarly, some 227 Irish companies employ an estimated 120,000 people in the US.

Ireland’s undiplomatic actions have raised tensions between Ireland and Israel, with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman calling for the closure of Israel’s embassy in Dublin in wake of the Irish parliament voting for the bill.

Israel condemned the reintroduction of a bill in Ireland bill that would outlaw the import and sale of Israeli goods made in Judea and Samaria as an “immoral” move that encourages terrorism.

“The Embassy of Israel is concerned by bills that further the divisions between Israel and the Palestinians. Legislation, which promotes a boycott of any kind, should be rejected as it does nothing to achieve peace but rather empowers the Hamas terrorists as well as those Palestinians who refuse to come to the negotiating table,” the Israeli mission in Dublin said in a statement in July.

“Closing doors will not in any way facilitate Ireland’s role and influence. There are direct parties to the conflict. Boycotting one of them will not do any good and is immoral.”