The Bill, which was introduced by John Brady TD of Sinn Féin, is designed to compel the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) to divest itself of holdings in companies currently listed on a UN database of businesses operating within the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
An independent fact-finding mission, established by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the human rights implications of the Israeli settlements in the oPt, reported in 2013 on how a range of business activities, involving both Israeli and foreign companies, sustain the illegal settlements. This report led to the Human Rights Council requesting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to produce the UN Database.
This Bill seeks to recognise and remedy the problematic nature of Irish taxpayer funds being invested in companies named in the UN Database of companies operating in the illegal Israeli settlements and builds on the motion unanimously passed by Dáil Éireann in May 2021 which condemned the annexation by Israel of East Jerusalem and its settlement activity there and in the West Bank.
Divestment from companies operating in Israel’s illegal settlements has been increasing in recent years. Civil society groups such as the Don’t Buy Into Occupation coalition and UN experts have been urging financial institutions to exercise leverage on – and to divest from – businesses, activities, and relationships that are linked to Israeli violations of international law, including those attributed to Israel’s illegal settlements. In recent years, a number of financial institutions and companies have responded to these calls and taken action that pressures or excludes enterprises active in illegal settlements, including pension funds and asset managers in Norway and the Netherlands, as well as companies such as Ben and Jerry’s.
At a time when the newly-formed Israeli government has explicitly reaffirmed its intent to further annex the occupied West Bank, and continues to announce the development and expansion of settlements, the Illegal Israeli Settlements Divestment Bill 2023 can help ensure that no Irish taxpayer funds are associated with ongoing breaches of international law.