Yesterday, the upper house of the Irish legislature passed a bill that would forbid doing business with “settlements” anywhere in the world. If it becomes law, Orde Kittrie writes, it will have serious and perhaps disastrous consequences:
While the bill does not mention Israel or Palestine, the Irish senator Frances Black and its other cosponsors have declared that it was designed to prohibit transactions relating to Israeli settlers and settlements in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Black previously signed a letter calling for a boycott of all Israeli products and services. Even though there are several contentious occupations closer to Europe—including Russia’s occupation of Crimea, Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus, and Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara—the Irish bill is drafted to apply only to Israeli settlements.
The bill, if enacted, would put at risk Ireland’s economic links to the United States, which are vital to Irish prosperity. The U.S. in 2017 accounted for 67 percent of all foreign direct investment in Ireland. Yet this bill could make U.S. companies with divisions or subsidiaries in Ireland, Irish companies with divisions or subsidiaries in the U.S., and their employees who are Irish citizens or resident in Ireland, choose between violating the Irish law and violating the anti-boycott provisions of the U.S. Export Administration regulations. Violations of these U.S. anti-boycott laws are punishable by fines and by imprisonment for up to ten years.
Some 700 U.S. companies currently employ over 155,000 people in Ireland. These companies include Apple, whose Irish operations currently make it Ireland’s largest company. . . . If the Irish bill becomes law, it could create problems for companies like Apple. Many components inside Apple’s iPhones are made in Israel. Apple’s second largest research-and-development office is located in Herzliya, and several key Apple suppliers are located elsewhere in Israel. If an engineer in Apple’s Herzliya office lives in Jerusalem, and telecommutes from home for a day, will Apple be at risk of providing a settlement service in violation of Irish law?
While Ireland considers Jerusalem an Israeli settlement, the U.S. government recognizes it as Israel’s capital. If Apple fires an engineer because it wants to avoid problems with Irish law and he insists on telecommuting from his Jerusalem home, would Apple be violating U.S. law by participating in Ireland’s boycott of Israeli settlements?