Jewish Journal

Report: State Department Succeeds In Killing BDS Bill

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gestures during a news conference in Lima, Peru, February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

The State Department was successful in its effort to kill a bill in the Irish parliament that would have criminalized trade with Israelis, according to a report from the Washington Free Beacon.

Under the proposed law, Irish citizens would have faced a $310,000 fine and a maximum sentence of five years in prison if they bought a souvenir from Israelis in settlement areas, including Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall, meaning that even Irish citizens who toured those areas could be penalized if the bill became law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office slammed the proposal in a statement that read, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly condemns the Irish legislative initiative, the entire goal of which is to support the BDS movement and harm the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu also scheduled a meeting with Ireland’s ambassador to the Jewish state; shortly after his announcement the Irish Parliament agreed to table the bill until July.

However, a “senior official at a major pro-Israel organization” told the Free Beacon the “law was a done deal” until State Department officials persuaded Irish lawmakers to nix the law.

“The State Department found out what was happening, and they scrambled to alert the Irish to the nature and risks of their own law, and Irish lawmakers came to their senses,” the official said. “Crisis averted, at least for now.”

Orden Kittrie, Arizona State University law professor and Foundation for Defense Democracies senior fellow, wrote an op-ed in The Hill explaining that the proposed law would have violated the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, an international law that states that countries can’t boycott companies simply because they’re located in “areas of conflict.” Kittrie also notes that the law would have violated European Union (EU) policy stating that countries who are part of the EU cannot “adopt unilateral restrictions on imports into the EU.”

Additionally, U.S. federal law prevents businesses from engaging in “foreign boycotts” and a myriad of state laws specifically outlaw businesses from boycotting Israel, which would have put 700 U.S. businesses in Ireland in a complicated position.

“The Irish bill would be a reckless stomp that could squash Palestinian incentives to compromise with Israel, run afoul of U.S. federal and state laws, break EU and international law, and trample Ireland’s vital economic links to the United States,” wrote Kittrie.

According to NGO Monitor, the author of the bill, independent Senator Frances Black, had “previously signed a letter calling for a boycott of all Israeli products” and the bill was supported by various pro-BDS Irish NGOs.

For the time being, it appears that Black’s bill won’t be going anywhere.

“Our strong opposition to boycotts and sanctions of the State of Israel is well known,” a State Department official told the Free Beacon. “We look to other countries to join us in bringing an end to anti-Israel bias.”