In its misguided attempt to punish Israel by boycotting goods produced in Judea and Samaria, Ireland in reality will victimize the Palestinians instead.
Ireland’s parliament, the Seanad, last week gave initial approval to a bill that makes it a criminal offense, punishable by a fine of up to €250,000 ($292,000) or up to five years in prison, to trade in Israeli goods produced in Judea and Samaria.
While Israelis say they “can manage happily without Ireland,” tens of thousands of Palestinians, who rely on Israeli jobs in Judea and Samaria, may be the primary victims of this aggressive anti-Israel legislation.
Yehuda Cohen, chief executive of the Lipski Plastics factory in the Barkan industrial zone, near the city of Ariel in Samaria, told the Irish Times that the 70 Palestinians in his factory would first and foremost be hurt by the Irish bill. A boycott on his products means he would be forced to fire his employees.
About 7,000 of the 10,000 workers in Barkan are Palestinian.
In the meantime, few other products manufactured in Judea and Samaria are actually exported to Ireland, so the practical effect of a boycott would be negligible, barely affecting Israelis but putting Palestinians at risk of losing their jobs.
“Ireland is certainly not a major market for Israel or for companies manufacturing in the [Judea and Samaria],” Dan Catarivas of the Manufacturers’ Association, told the Irish Times. “Our policy is not to mix business and politics. It’s a pity that Ireland is mixing the two.”
Moshe Lavran, who owns three factories in Barkan making plastics, electronics and aluminum products, said the move was essentially ridiculous.
“We can manage happily without Ireland. Every time the Irish use their mobile phones or computers they are using Israeli technology, so let’s see them boycotting anything Israeli,” he said.
Who Gains from This?
David Simha, president of the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, said Ireland was making a big mistake.
“The Palestinians need jobs to improve their economy and if the West Bank factories have no orders they will be forced to fire their Palestinian workers. Who gains from this? It doesn’t make sense.”
Israel’s SodaStream, which produces machines that allow people to make fizzy drinks at home, has been targeted by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israeli companies. Citing financial reasons, SodaStream announced in 2014 it was closing its factory in Judea and relocated its operations to the Negev. Many Palestinians lost their source of livelihood, while the factory thrived.
Likewise, the Irish economy stands to suffer from the bill if it becomes law.
In general, industries in Judea and Samaria are only a small part of the Israeli economy, contributing some 2 percent of its GDP. Exports to Ireland amount to some €60 million a year, but Israeli trade officials predict that in wake of the vote, companies may reconsider doing business with Ireland.
In 2017, Ireland exported $868 million worth of goods to Israel, while it imported only $63 million worth of goods. An Israeli counter-boycott could mean hundreds of jobs in Ireland are at stake.
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.
A Terror Group’s Support
Indicative of the bill’s real destructive outcome, the Hamas terror organization fully endorsed Ireland’s belligerent move.
In a statement released Thursday, Hamas described the vote as “an important step towards criminalizing the behavior of the occupation [Israel] and its policy of illegal settlement-building on Palestinian land”.
The terror group urged the international community to follow Ireland’s lead.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry slammed the vote as a “populist, dangerous and extremist” campaign to boycott Israeli commodities.
“This anti-Israel boycott initiative hurts the prospects for dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians,” the ministry said in a statement.