A stunning report from Pat Leahy in the Irish Times this morning:
“The future of a proposed ban on the importation of Israeli goods produced in Palestinian territories has emerged as a sticking point in the talks on government formation.
The Occupied Territories Bill 2018, proposed by Independent Senator Frances Black and supported by Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, Sinn Féin, Labour and many Independents was passed by both the Dáil and Seanad, but was blocked by the Fine Gael-led Government by a procedural device last year.
Fianna Fáil and the Greens want the next government to promote the Bill and introduce the ban, but this is being strongly resisted by Fine Gael, according to several people familiar with the progress of the talks.
It is also understood that there has been fierce lobbying by both sides, while the US embassy – which is strongly against the legislation – has also made its views known to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.”
Basically, FF and the Greens want to ban the import of certain Israeli goods – to prevent Super Valu and Tesco from stocking Israeli dates, olives, and the like. Fine Gael say “no, people can decide to buy or not buy Israeli produce if they want”.
And this, of all things, is imperiling the talks. It’s not the question of housing, or health, or taxes, or climate change: It’s the question of whether you or I should be allowed to buy Israeli olives in Tesco or Dunnes.
Now, the question of Israel and Palestine itself is an emotive one that divides people. It divides the writers and editorial team here at Gript, who come at it from differing perspectives. If your conscience doesn’t permit you to purchase Israeli produce because you feel it’s been produced in illegally occupied territory, that’s perfectly fine. What’s objectively extraordinary is that two political parties who just yesterday were posting tweets celebrating the two year anniversary of “choice” are now willing, it seems, to collapse the Government talks in the name of denying you the right to choose your own shopping basket.
It really is a microcosm of the absurdity of Irish politics. The three parties, in truth, disagree on the sum total of a fiddler’s flute. To find some form of disagreement, they’ve had to traverse the Mediterranean sea to find a conflict they can disagree on.
In the process, they’ve managed to irritate the Americans, and probably the Europeans as well.
The Fine Gael defence to all of this, by the way, isn’t that “people should be able to do their own shopping”. The thought of giving the people a bit of freedom hasn’t even occurred to them as a defence. Their argument instead is that “it might annoy the EU”, which is, of course, much more important than whether it annoys any of their own voters.
The whole thing is absurd, and embarrassing. We are in the middle of an unprecedented crisis, and one reason we can’t have a Government is that some political parties worry you might buy the wrong brand of Olives.
Shower of doses.