The Occupied Territories Bill has passed the second stage of voting in the Dáil, with 78 votes in favour and 45 against. It was originally proposed by independent senator Frances Black and has since passed through the Seanad and come before the Dáil.
Passing the second stage of voting in the Dáil means that the general principles behind the bill have been accepted and now only minor amendments to the subsections of the bill may be made.
The stated purpose of the Occupied Territories Bill is: “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.”
Whilst the bill does not specifically mention any country, the conditions outlined in the bill are tailored to address the current political situation that exists between Israel and Palestine. The intended effect of the bill will be to ban the importation of goods and services coming from illegally occupied territories in the West Bank region of Palestine.
The bill defines ‘relevant occupied territory’ as that which has been identified as such by an international court or tribunal. In 2004 the International Court of Justice identified Israel as an ‘Occupying Power’ in the West Bank and that the Israeli government acted in violation of international law.
The violation committed by the Israel was the construction of a wall through the 1967 recognised borders of the Palestinian West Bank, de facto annexing that territory and establishing Israeli settlements there.
Furthermore the International Court of Justice “finds that all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction.”
This would seem to be the rationale behind the Occupied Territories Bill, which sees the importation of goods and services from these territories as assisting the Israeli occupation.
This position has drawn considerable ire from the Israeli foreign ministry, which sees Ireland’s position as “pure hostility” and “deserving of full condemnation.” They also state that: “It is disturbing and disappointing that the initiators of the law are focusing on a hypocritical attack on Israel, rather than on dictatorships that slaughter their citizens.”
The Prime Minister’s office furthermore stated: “Instead of condemning Syria for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians, Turkey for the occupation of northern Cyprus, and terrorist organizations for murdering thousands of Israelis, Ireland attacks Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. What a disgrace.” The legislation “rings of hypocrisy and anti-semitism.”
In its condemnation, the Israeli government has chosen not to refute the rationale behind the Occupied Territories Bill, nor the legitimacy of the ruling by the International Court of Justice. They have instead responded with invective, appealing to the supposed wrongdoing of others in wholly different contexts and with hollow accusations of anti-semitism. Anti-semitism appears to be the go-to term to shut down any criticism of the Israeli state. Moreover, the fact that Israel is a democracy does not mean that it is incapable of committing tyranny.
Interestingly the Israeli government points to Syria as an example of a state which Ireland should be criticising. The Syrian civil war is one in which the Israeli state has long had a vested interest in, especially considering their occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights since 1967. The Golan Heights is a border region with considerable reserves of oil and water, providing the Israeli state with ample incentive to destabilise the Syrian government under Bashar Al-Assad and to further consolidate its power in the region.
The statements made by the Israeli government in condemning Ireland also make no mention of its history of displacement and violence towards Palestinian people since its inception. The violence continues to this day, with 58 Palestinians shot dead during a single protest in 2018. Comparatively, the Bloody Sunday of 1972 in Northern Ireland saw only 14 fatalities at the hands of the British military.
Every nation and people deserves their right to exist, Israel included. However, occupying and settling the territory of another state is an aggressive action and goes well beyond the remit of protecting one’s own continued existence.
Irish republicans have long identified with the Palestinian cause, seeing a shared history of domination by a foreign imperial power and having their land confiscated for the purpose of plantation by hostile populations.
Yet there is a deep irony in the current Irish republican position, as seen with supporters of modern Sinn Féin. The irony is that they are completely blind to the new plantation occurring within Ireland – that of replacement migration from the third-world.
Over the course of a mere few decades the Irish are on track to become a dispossessed people in their own land, just as has happened to the Palestinians over the course of the 20th century. One need only to look upon the current despair of the Palestinian people to see what happens when a nation loses control of its land.
In this particular case, Ireland is right to stand with the Palestinian people – and the right of all peoples to defend themselves against ethnic displacement in their own country.