A Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstration in Ireland. (IPSC) (IPSC)
BDS Ireland

“We will do everything in our power to prevent this unprecedented state-sanctioned discrimination from becoming law in Ireland,” Lawfare Project Executive Director Brooke Goldstein vowed.

By: United with Israel Staff

The Lawfare Project, a pro-Israel legal advocacy group, is taking legal action against the anti-Israel boycott legislation in Ireland, which experts and advocates are describing as the most aggressive boycott measure targeting Israel in European history.

The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 passed its initial vote in the Irish Senate on Wednesday. The measure would make it a criminal offense in Ireland, punishable by a fine of up to €250,000 ($292,000) or up to five years in prison, 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 bill seeks to outlaw the supply of any goods or services produced even only partially by any Israeli when he is present, even temporarily, beyond the pre-1967 lines in Judea and Samaria. It applies to merchandise sold not only in Ireland, but anywhere in the world if any person involved is an Irish citizen or resident or an Irish company.

Pressure on International Companies

If it becomes law, the bill could have significant implications for major American companies with Irish divisions or subsidiaries, such as Airbnb and Apple, whose global sales outside the US are taxed in Ireland and whose Irish subsidiary, “Apple Distribution International LTD,” paid $1.5 billion Irish corporation tax from 2014–2016.

Complying with an Irish ban on commerce with Israeli companies based in Judea and Samaria would violate US anti-boycott laws, which require American firms to refuse participation in foreign boycotts that the US does not sanction, and it could result in substantial fines for those companies.

The bill would also subject companies to US state-level sanctions, violate European Union and international law and threaten Ireland’s economic links to the US.

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.

When the bill was debated in the Irish Senate in January, The Lawfare Project’s Spanish counsel, Ignacio Palacios, filed a complaint arguing that the Irish bill, if enacted, would violate foreign trade competencies that belong exclusively to the European Union.

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s vote, The Lawfare Project will continue to pursue legal action, and Palacios will submit further arguments, developed together with Jonathan Turner of UK Lawyers for Israel.

‘An Impossible Position’

“The Irish bill would enact an official, highly aggressive anti-Israel boycott policy within a national government that targets individuals not based on their conduct, but on their national origin and place of residence. That specific scenario had not materialized before,” Palacios said. “If there is no outside pressure against this bill, it might likely pass, as it has the support of most of the lawmakers in Ireland’s senate. That is why The Lawfare Project is committed to bringing legal actions addressing this crucial issue.”

Addressing the legislation’s impact on American commerce, Palacios explained, “The presence and taxes paid by the subsidiaries of US technology companies are critical for the economy of Ireland: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Dell, Oracle, and SanDisk are ranked high among the top 20 Irish companies, with total turnouts of €192.5 billion in 2016. Those companies would face an impossible position between abiding by an Irish law that would mandate discriminatory business conduct against foreign individuals under the threat of imprisonment, and compliance with the anti-boycott provisions of the US Departments of Commerce and Treasury.”

‘Unprecedented State-sanctioned Discrimination’

Lawfare Project Executive Director Brooke Goldstein said, “We are determined to expose the illegality of the Irish boycott bill under European law, as well as the unnecessary damage that it will inflict on US companies operating in Ireland. Commercial discrimination on the basis of nationality is shameful in any form, but it is particularly frightening when it emanates from the halls of government—from the same lawmakers who were elected to protect the legal rights of their constituents. We will do everything in our power to prevent this unprecedented state-sanctioned discrimination from becoming law in Ireland.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated after the vote that ”the Irish Senate has given its support to a populist, dangerous and extremist anti-Israel boycott initiative that hurts the chances of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. It will have a negative impact on the diplomatic process in the Middle East.”

Main Victims: Palestinian Employees

“The absurd in the Irish Senate’s initiative is that it will harm the livelihoods of many Palestinians who work in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott,” the statement said. Previous such boycotts attempts have forced Israelis companies to relocate. The Israeli companies thrived, while its Palestinian employees lost their jobs.

“Israel will consider its response in accordance with developments regarding this legislation,” the statement concluded.