Iceland’s Capital Bans All Israeli Products Over Palestine*
In a symbolic move aimed at demonstrating support for Palestinian statehood, Iceland’s capital city council voted on Tuesday in favour of boycotting Israeli made products.
The motion was put forward to the Reykjavik city council by Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, a councilwoman for the Social Democratic Movement. Its approval on Wednesday comes as Israel battles a motion by the European Union calling for labelling products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
According to Iceland Magazine, a memorandum of the act describes it as a symbolic demonstration of the city’s support for Palestinian statehood, and a condemnation of Israel’s “policy of apartheid.”
Councilman Sóley Tómasdóttir of the Left Green Alliance, which is part of Iceland’s ruling coalition, also told the magazine that the act could apply pressure on Israel to end what many European countries consider an illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. She added that the city may also apply a similar ban on products manufactured in states accused of violating human rights.
The approval of the act has received immediate condemnation from the Israeli Foreign Ministry which, in reference to Iceland’s volcanic activity, released a statement saying “a volcano of hatred spews forth from the Reykjavik city council building.”
“For no reason or justification, except hatred of for its own sake, calls of boycotting the state of Israel are heard. We hope someone in Iceland will come to their senses and end the one-sided blindness fielded against Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”
According to Times of Israel, a local Reykjavik attorney Einar Gautur Steingrímsson said the act is a violation of the Icelandic constitution.
“This is as illegal as refusing to do business with red haired people and it makes no difference whether they justify their decision with references to some alleged actions by the Israelis,” he told an Icelandic news website.
The European Jewish Council has also said that it is considering whether or not to pursue the matter legally, and sue the city council over the ban, citing violations of international law that prohibit discriminatory policies.
The subject of goods manufactured in Israeli settlements has prompted a heated dialogue over labelling these products and banning them. Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the EU’s potential labelling motion by evoking similarities to Nazi Germany.
The Mayor of Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, Dagur B. Eggertsson, announced that Reykjavik’s ban of Israeli goods does not affect all Israeli goods but goods produced in illegally occupied Palestinian territories. The resolution passed by Reykyavik’s City Council earlier this week was ambiguous in its wording, leading many to understand that the ban affects all Israeli goods.
Reykjavik Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson issued a statement on Iceland’s State broadcasting service RUV, saying that the City Council would cancel its previously announced boycott and that the city would limit its ban to Israeli goods produced in illegally occupied Palestinian territories.
The ban adopted by the City Council earlier this week was tabled by Social Democrat Björk Vilhelmsdóttir.
The resolution adopted by the Council did not specify whether the ban affected all Israeli goods or goods produced in occupied Palestinian territories only.
Regardless of the decision to rephrase the ban to be more specific, Reykjavik’s decision to ban goods from occupied territories is still widely perceived as a significant victory for the international Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Faced with sharp criticism last week, Councilwoman Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, of the Social Democratic Alliance. Vilhelmsdóttir said:
“I believe that the city is sending a clear message that it will not purchase products from Israel while Israel oppresses another people on the basis of ethnicity and race, and continues having the wall inside Palestine”.
Reykjavik Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson, for his part, admitted that the text of the resolution had not been prepared well enough, that the wording was ambiguous, led to misunderstandings, and that the text of the resolution would now be changed to be more clear and unambiguous. Dragur added:
“I have stated that it should have been made much clearer in the text, although that’s what we had in mind. I will suggest to the City Council that the motion the way it reads now be withdrawn while we discuss the next steps and how to present it. … I must admit that I’m angry at myself for not having done this the way I wanted.”
The City Council’s decision was faced with harsh criticism from Israel, comparing the City Council with a volcano that was spewing out hatred. The resolution was also harshly criticized by Independence Party Council member Kjartan Magnússon, while Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson described the resolution as “ridiculous”.
Reykjavik City Council adopted the resolution against the backdrop of a sharp rise in Israeli aggression in the occupied Palestinian territories and a systematic crackdown against Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Earlier this week the Israeli government authorized the use of life ammunition and sniper fire against “stone throwers”.
The rephrasing of the resolution to be more specific with regards to the ban of goods produced in occupied Palestinian territories does not change the fact that the majority of the members of Reyjkyavik’s City Council have sent an unambiguous signal to Tel Aviv, calling on the Israeli government to end the illegal occupation of Palestine.
The original sponsor of the resolution, Councilwoman Björk Vilhelmsdóttir noted earlier this week that she intended to spend the remainder of 2015 doing humanitarian work in the occupied Palestinian territories.