The Lawfare Project, a U.S.-based think tank and litigation fund that fights anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli discrimination around the world, has taken legal action against what experts and advocates are describing as the most aggressive boycott measure targeting Israel in European history. The action has been initiated by The Lawfare Project with the assistance of UK Lawyers for Israel.
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. It applies not only to supplies in Ireland but also to supplies anywhere in the world if any person involved is an Irish citizen or resident or an Irish company.
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 United States 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 settlements would violate U.S. anti-boycott laws, which require American firms to refuse participation in foreign boycotts that the U.S. does not sanction, and could result in substantial fines for those companies.
When the bill was debated in the Irish senate earlier this year, The Lawfare Project’s Spanish counsel, Ignacio Palacios, filed a complaint—which garnered wide circulation—arguing that the Irish bill, if enacted, would violate foreign trade competences that belong exclusively to the European Union. In the aftermath of Wednesday’s vote, The Lawfare Project will continue to pursue legal action: Palacios will submit further arguments, developed together with Jonathan Turner of UK Lawyers for Israel.
“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 U.S. 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.”
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 U.S. 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.”