star-iceland-150screwed-iceland-flagReykjavik boycotts Israel

The job of a local council is essential but generally boring. “Can we vote relocating money from the budget for sewerage to the pedestrian crossing repainting budget”? So can we really be surprised when Reykjavik ventures into the much more fun area of foreign policy?

Q: what is the capital of Iceland?
A: About 60 US dollars

Virtue signalling

Last week I learnt a new expression – virtue signalling. Five Minutes for Israel has been calling the same act, plausible hypocrisy. That’s a symbolic gesture, at no cost to the maker of it, designed to broadcast to the world how morally upright the sender of the signal is compared to, well, everyone else. We’ve been seeing plenty of it about the welcoming ‘Syrian’ ‘refugees’†.

Essential to know

  1. Iceland-Israel trade is minimal. According to Statistics Iceland, the small island exported 103.7 million Icelandic Krona (about $US805,000) to Israel in 2012 and imported 798.2 million Icelandic Krona  (about $US6.27 million) in 2012.
  2. Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, retiring councilwoman for the Social Democratic Alliance, put forward this motion forward as her last major act in the city council. What perfect virtue signalling. If there are consequences she won’t be around to take responsibility.
  3. The boycott is for all goods from Israel not just those produced over the 1948 armistice lines (AKA 1967 borders or the Green Line).
  4. Reykjavik City Council may decide to boycott other countries that violate human rights in the future. This implies that they don’t do so now. China, which accounts for 7.2% of Iceland’s imports must be so relieved. In 2013 Iceland became the first European country to sign free trade agreement with China.
  5. The Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared, the City of Reykjavik’s resolution is not in line with Iceland‘s foreign policy nor should it be seen to reflect on Iceland‘s relations with Israel.
  6. The boycott is probably illegal as it is contrary to Iceland’s constitution. “Municipalities are the government and they can only perform what they are mandated by law. Day B. Eggertsson and the City has not been assigned foreign policy or decide sanctions against foreign countries. So they have gone far beyond its role as a municipality. In addition, could not even government take such a decision, it would have the authority of Parliament. “
  7. The boycott is probably illegal because both Israel and Iceland are parties to the WTO international trade treaty which bans such boycotts.
  8. The boycott is probably illegal because Iceland is a member of EFTA (European Free Trade Association) which signed a free trade agreement with Israel in 1992.
  9. Most Israeli imported goods are not of the type that the Reykjavik City Council would buy, anyway. The bulk of it are Dead Sea chemicals and machinery.
  10. Of the roughly 300,000 people who live in Iceland, it is believed that no more than 50 to 100 are Jewish, nearly all of whom live in the country’s capital city of Reykjavik.
  11. Iceland has its own problems with boycotts. Their continued commercial whaling is highly controversial and has led to formal protests by the European Union, USA, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand – and yes, Israel. Should actions follow word the results will not be symbolic.
  12. If you were planning on visiting Iceland as a tourist (really?) the Simon Wiesenthal Center has issued a travel advisory on Reykjavik, Iceland. That could really hurt Iceland’s economy and is unlikely to be lifted while the Icelandic boycott is in place.


Late breaking news

Reykjavík to Cancel Boycott of All Israeli Products and only boycott those from the territories. This, of course makes the ‘symbolic’ boycott even more ‘symbolic’ as the city council doesn’t buy anything Israeli produced from the territories.

However, Iceland definitely does buy from Dead Sea Works and that won’t change.

The company was established in 1930 by Moshe Novomeysky. It was known then as the Palestine Potash Company. In the Israel War of Independence in 1948, the northern half of the production facilities was occupied by the Jordanian Legion, which destroyed the plant and looted the machinery (and by definition makes it part of the territories).

In 1951, the company was nationalized by the Israeli government and in 1953, it was renamed the Dead Sea Works.

The back-down by the City Council to only the supposedly illegal occupation makes the rationale for the boycott even more ridiculous. They really, really, really wanted to boycott Israel not just part of it.

† Many and possibly most are not Syrian and indisputably most are not refugees as legally defined.

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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