On July 11, the Irish Senate approved a bill criminalizing local companies that engage in commerce with Israeli firms based in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Introduced in the body's Upper Chamber by independent member Senator Frances Black, the bill passed initial muster, in a 25-20 vote with 14 abstentions. The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill, 2018 would prohibit any import of goods or services from "occupied territories," with financial penalties of a quarter million euros in fines and up to five years imprisonment for violators.
Leinster House in Dublin, Ireland, the seat of the Irish Parliament. (Image source: Jean Housen/Wikimedia Commons)
Israel's reaction to the Irish Senate's vote was swift. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned Ireland's ambassador, Alison Kelly, for a reprimand. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for the immediate closure of the Israeli Embassy in Dublin. It is unlikely, however, that Israel will follow through on Lieberman's threat, as Ireland's governing party, the Fine Gael, is opposed to the bill, which in any case must pass in Ireland's Lower house of Parliament, the Dáil, before becoming a law.
A U.S.-based litigation outfit, The Lawfare Project, which fights anti-Israel discrimination -- with the help of UK Lawyers for Israel -- has initiated legal action against the proposed legislation. The litigators say that the Irish bill could have a negative impact on American companies with subsidiaries in Ireland: it is illegal under US anti-boycott laws to cooperate with a ban on commerce with Israeli settlements. Compliance with US boycott laws would, in turn, cost US companies a good deal in fines for violation of the Irish boycott.
What, then, is behind the proposed bill? One possible explanation is the prominent role played by Islamic institutions and organizations in Ireland, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood's influence in Dublin, the nation's capital, is evidenced by the easy access its key personnel have to Ireland's government.
There is evidence to suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood has established its European headquarters in the Emerald Isle. The Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI), which hosts several Muslim institutes affiliated with the international Sunni group that many view as a terrorist organization, is located in Clonskeagh, a suburb south of Dublin. The ICCI complex includes the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), a prestigious institute of Islamic jurisprudence, which was founded by the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), itself a Muslim Brotherhood institution.
Dubai's ruling al-Maktoum family, a key Muslim Brotherhood financier, donated the money to erect the ICCI complex, which also houses Ireland's largest mosque. Furthermore, the ICCI's Campus Dean, Imam Sheikh Hussein Halawa, is a former colleague of the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual guide, Qatar-based Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Al-Qaradawi, the chair of the ECFR, was denied entry into Ireland in 2011, after he expressed support for the suicide bombing of Israelis. Since then, he has not been allowed into Ireland.
Sheikh Halawa, in addition to being the dean of the ICCI, also chairs the Irish Council of Imams, made up of at least 35 Sunni and Shia Muslim scholars in the Irish Republic. As a result, he maintains a high public profile, which has awarded him invitations to state events with Ireland's prime minister and president, and with the mayor of Dublin.
Despite popular support in Ireland for same-sex marriage and other liberal causes, Halawa openly sanctions the death penalty for gays, and the ICCI has a record of hosting radical Islamic speakers. One such speaker, Saudi Mullah Aed al-Qarni, told Iqra TV in 2004 that the "brothers of apes and pigs" (i.e. Israelis and Jews) killed arch terrorist Hamas leaders Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi and Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. In 2005, al-Qarni sermonized about Jews "that throats must be slit and skulls must be shattered."
Another Saudi firebrand, Salman al-Ouda, delivered sermons at the ICCI in 2007. Egyptian imam Wagdy Ghoneim, who visited the center in 2006 and 2007, denounced Jews as pigs and apes at a conference of the American Muslim Society in May, 1998 at Brooklyn College. He was eventually banned from the UK and the US for having issued a fatwa urging Muslims to kill American troops fighting in Muslim lands, specifically to kill American soldiers in Iraq.
Classified cables exchanged in 2006 between the State Department and the US Embassy in Ireland -- and published by Wikileaks in 2011 -- revealed that the administration of George W. Bush was trying to find out whether the European Council for Fatwa and Research and other such groups were working to legitimize Sharia (Islamic) law in Western Europe.
According to James Kenny, the American ambassador to Ireland at the time, a certain journalist claimed that outside of Qatar, Ireland had the strongest Muslim Brotherhood presence, and that al-Qaradawi "runs Islam in Ireland."
The White House's concern may have been warranted concerning some Muslim Brotherhood zealots in Ireland. But there are other Irish Islamic leaders who are more willing to compromise with Ireland's values, if not assimilate. In his 2014 book, Islam and Education in Ireland: An Introduction to the Faith and the Educational Challenges It Faces, Dr. Ali Selim -- the ICCI spokesman and secretary general of the Irish Council of Imams -- called for a reform of Ireland's education system, to make it more "inclusive" for Muslims. Among the changes he advocated was gender segregation in gym, music and art classes, where there could be "a clash of values" with Islam. Selim was interviewed in the Irish press and asked whether he favored Sharia to be implemented in Ireland. He responded that only in the case where Muslims are a majority is Sharia likely to be enacted.
Nor is Islamic extremism in Ireland limited to the ICCI campus alone. The leaked US Embassy cables also indicated that even some Irish Muslims refer to a certain mosque in Dublin as "Tora Bora," a cave complex on Afghanistan's border with Pakistan. One of the mosques imams, Yayah al-Hussein, originally from Sudan, is a member of Hamas, and many of its congregants are Bosnian and Afghan jihadists.
That jihadist groups feel comfortable in Ireland is understandable, given the country's genuine societal openness to Islam in general and Muslim immigrants in particular. In addition, Irish politics tend to favor the narrative of Palestinian Arabs in their conflict with Israel. This is due, in part, to their viewing -- inaccurately -- the plight of the Palestinians through the prism of their own history of occupation by England. But the Irish never aspired to displace Great Britain.
Even so, in Northern Ireland's Province of Ulster, still part of the United Kingdom, Palestinian flags can be seen flying from private homes.
Meanwhile, the recently-replaced Lord Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha is a member of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which supports the global boycott effort against products made in Israel.
Politics aside, the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood -- and its use of Ireland as a friendly base from which to spread its doctrine throughout the rest of Europe -- should be a cause of great concern not just to Dublin, but to democracies everywhere. Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi summed up the Muslim Brotherhood creed while running for election in 2012:
"The Koran is our constitution;
The Prophet Muhammad is our leader;
Jihad is our path and death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration;
Above all, Allah is our goal."
Is it any wonder, then, that chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat welcomed the Irish Senate's bill? In a statement quoted by the official Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa, Erekat said, "This courageous step builds on the historic ties between Ireland and Palestine, [and] shows the way forward for the rest of the European Union."
Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.