Israeli ban bill will ‘fan flames’ of conflict in region

Tánaiste Simon Coveney says Ireland will “fan the flames” of conflict in the Middle East if Opposition senators drive through plans to ban the sale of goods from illegal Israeli settlements here.

Felix Keogh Sevakian, 5, outside Leinster House as Palestinian farmers showed support for the Occupied Territories Bill.

Independent senator Frances Black compared her bill to the ban on the sale of goods from South Africa in the 1980s, when Ireland took a stand against apartheid.

Several senators, during passionate speeches, said Palestinians were now living in apartheid under Israeli rule and the “status quo” was failing them.

The Israeli government criticised the Occupied Territories Bill when originally introduced in January. Goods such as vegetables or cosmetics made in occupied Palestinian territories would be banned from sale here, under the bill, but not Israeli goods per se.

Fianna Fáil is backing the bill, as are Sinn Féin, Labour, and Independents.

Ms Black said she had witnessed the “crushing indignity” of Palestinian families, one whose water was cut off and diverted to supply an Israeli-owned chicken farm.

Is the moral response to condemn this as illegal but then ask how much are the eggs?” said Ms Black.

As Palestinian farmers and families looked on in the Seanad’s public gallery, Mr Coveney said the Government could not support the ban. Legal advice for the Government suggests the ban would contravene EU law, as trading policy on the issue is a EU competency.

Mr Coveney said Ireland was trying to use its influence at a EU and UN level to raise concerns about the “illegal activity” of Israeli settlements.

He said Ms Black’s bill would change nothing and the situation had become heated in the Middle East in recent months.

“I believe we are fanning those flames with this.”

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