July 11, 2018
- A bill expected to pass Ireland’s Senate on Wednesday would criminalize trade in products and services produced in Israeli settlements. If enacted, it could force U.S. firms with Irish divisions or subsidiaries to make a costly choice.
- If companies abide by the Irish law, they could violate U.S. law, which prohibits U.S. companies from participating in foreign boycotts that the U.S. government does not endorse. Violations of U.S. anti-boycott laws are punishable by fines and by imprisonment for up to 10 years.
- The U.S. in 2017 accounted for 67% of all foreign direct investment in Ireland. Some 700 U.S. companies currently employ over 155,000 people in Ireland, including Apple (Ireland’s largest company), Google (4th largest), Microsoft (5th), and Facebook (9th). All four also have sizeable R&D operations in Israel.
- Many components inside Apple’s iPhones are made in Israel. If an Apple engineer lives in Jerusalem and telecommutes, will Apple be in violation of Irish law?
- In addition, U.S. law would require any U.S. company with operations in Ireland to report to the Internal Revenue Service on whether it has cooperated with Ireland’s boycott.
- Furthermore, U.S. companies in Ireland, and the 440 Irish companies doing business in the U.S., could be forced by the Irish law to run afoul of the two dozen U.S. state laws that require divestment from companies that boycott Israel (in some cases specifically defined to include Israeli settlements).
The writer is a law professor at Arizona State University and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.