Palestine Center Brief No. 323 (January 25, 2019)
By Mohamed Mohamed
Ireland is now one step closer to be the first European Union country to ban and criminalize commercial activity with Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as with the settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
The proposed bill to ban the purchase of goods and services from Israeli settlements passed through the Irish parliament’s upper house, and on Friday, January 25, 2019 it passed through the lower house by a strong majority vote of 78-45. The bill still needs to pass through a few more stages before it is officially signed into law, but it is expected to advance.
There are more than 200 Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, and more than 30 on occupied Syrian land. In total, there are anywhere between 620,000 to 770,000 Israeli squatters living on land that Israel seized illegally and forcefully.
The concept that these lands are illegally occupied is not just the opinion of Palestinians and Syrians. It is a fact that is accepted by almost all countries in the world under the framework of international law. Even the United States, which is Israel’s strongest ally, has maintained the official position that Israeli settlements are illegal (although the Trump administration has broken with this traditionally bipartisan consensus).
It seems more than reasonable, then, that countries would want to outlaw trade with these illegal Israeli settlements. In fact, it is morally imperative that all countries boycott them. If someone stole another person’s home and then used it to produce food or any other product or service, would it not be logical and ethical to avoid dealing with them? There is no doubt about that.
But Israel responded to this sensible Irish bill with accusations of anti-Semitism, misdirection, and other propaganda tactics. This is of course the standard operating procedure that Israel and its supporters resort to when anyone dares to challenge its unjustifiable actions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declared that “Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Irish parliament, which is indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism.” Netanyahu’s statement also adds, “Instead of Ireland condemning Syria for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians, Turkey for the occupation of northern Cyprus and the terrorist organizations for murdering thousands of Israelis, it attacks Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. What a disgrace.”
Such reactions are expected from Israel, and this is the way it has responded to criticism ever since its inception more than 70 years ago. Its “hasbara” (propaganda) efforts rely heavily on ad hominem attacks, presenting misleading information and obscuring key facts, and misdirecting audiences away from core issues. By resorting to such deceitful tactics, Israel indirectly recognizes that its policies are too difficult to justify.
Logically, why else would it choose a strategy of deception? If its settlement enterprise is so noble, why would it need to resort to character attacks (by alleging anti-Semitism), changing the subject (by mentioning Syria and Turkey), or misrepresenting itself (by claiming that is a democracy)? How is it anti-Semitic to hold Israel accountable for its apartheid practices and flagrant violations of international law? The bottom line is that Israel’s actions are fundamentally unjust and unacceptable, which is why it needs to engage in such hasbara.
Ireland has taken a principled stand in support of Palestinian human rights, and it will go down in history as the first European Union country to do so. Slowly but surely, others will follow. Eventually, Israel will feel the pressure and it will be forced to dismantle its system of apartheid, just as South Africa did more than two decades ago. This is the only way that Israel will begin to respect the basic rights of Palestinians.
Mohamed Mohamed is the Executive Director of the Palestine Center.
The views in this brief are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Jerusalem Fund.