“The compulsory transfer of the Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we have never had, even when we stood on our own during the days of the First and Second Temples: [a Galilee almost free of non-Jews].” David Ben Gurion uttered these words in the early part of the 20th century and they are still fraught with significance.
For some Israelis—including large sections of the Haredi and even the Likud party—this discourse has constructed a social cultural framework where the notion of a two-state solution, or even a one-state solution, is impossible. Not all Israelis agree. Some, such those from the Meretz party and other liberal elements of Israel, see it differently. This, however, is an oversimplification and I wish to discuss the matter from an Icelandic perspective.
When discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there is unfortunately a tendency amongst Icelanders to use incorrect terminology and to generalise too much. For example, when criticising civilian causalities afflicted on Palestinians, one sometimes hears the phrase “Israelis” used unilaterally as if all Israelis are to blame for the matter, which is of course factually untrue and detrimental when discussing the matter. One only has to listen to Ruth Dayan, the widow of Moshe Dayan, who stated in an interview with Newsweek: “I’m a peacemaker, but the current Israeli government does not know how to make peace. We move from war to war, and this will never stop. I think Zionism has run its course.”
Quite frankly, one can understand why people could misconstrue Icelandic society as being anti-Semitic when the Minister of the Interior is quoted in the media referring to Israel as a monster. In no way is such hyperbolic discourse conducive to any party discussing the conflict. Since it reeks of anti-Semitism and makes the Minister seem like a pontiff espousing hate speech against Israelis, people in general, and I for one, do not condone such sycophantic behaviour.
It also doesn’t help to circumvent discussing the conflict by simply sharing images in cyberspace that compare Jews to Nazis. Such behaviour reminds me of this quote: “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.”
Moreover, I would be the last person to deny that there were, and are, instances of anti-Semitism in Iceland. Nonetheless, such views can be mainly attributed to xenophobic conspiracy nuts that lament the fact that all mass media is run by Jews, including the banking system. Of course that is laughable.
On the other hand, there are dogmatic Christians residing in Iceland that disguise anti-Islamic beliefs with rhetoric that conflates all Palestinians with terrorists that deserve to be collateral damage when opposing Israel.
In addition to these individuals, you have conservative pundits discussing the conflict on shows like X-ið’s Harmageddon, spouting silly utterances like: “There has never been anything like a Palestine state” despite states being imagined communities, or regurgitating a false dichotomy of Arabs versus Jews, or David versus the Arab Goliath.
Even worse was a pundit’s claim that Jews had simply bought the land that was to become Israel. In fact it was an area annexed by the Allies from the Ottoman Empire and later partitioned in accordance to the British Mandate. To claim that this land was simply bought is an egregious approach to historiography.
Another facet of the debate is what might seem to the non-Icelander to be a disparity of the debate. Icelanders seem in general to be more pro-Palestine in the debate. However, it has only recently gained momentum due to the increased and diversified ways of obtaining information on the matter. Quite frankly, the debate was for a long time skewered in favour of Israel while the Independence Party, which resisted any meaningful debate or support towards Palestine, governed Iceland.
Although the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is now more balanced than it was before, I do not think that boycotting Israeli goods will do any good. Who is being punished in this case? What entities are involved in creating the goods? Is it the government or simply individuals that suffer from this conflict as well? I think that the danger of such emotive debate is that nuisances are ignored in favour of emotions; neutrality falls to identity politics and simplistic Bible school lessons and rigorous historical debate suffers in favour of instant mass media gratification.
I think most rational Icelanders want a peaceful solution for both Israel and Palestinians but tragically there seems to be vicious cycle of hateful discourse echoing this Biblical passage: “two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated.”
Marvin is doing a Master of Philosophy in Medieval Studies.
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