Reykjavík's Boycott Of Israeli Products Met With Harsh Criticism - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Reykjavík’s Boycott Of Israeli Products Met With Harsh Criticism

Published September 18, 2015

Photos by
Natsha Nandabhiwat

Within 48 hours of the boycott’s approval, Reykjavík city council has been met with criticism and threats of legal action. Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson maintains the boycott is defended by the law.

Last Tuesday, Grapevine reported that Reykjavík City Council passed a measure that stated city hall would no longer buy products from Israel. The brainchild of outgoing Social Democrat councilperson Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, the measure reasons that the boycott will be in place “so long as the occupation of Palestine continues”.

The European Jewish Congress (EJC) are amongst the many who have seen and responded to the news, Israel National News reports, as they are now considering legal action against the city.

“This is clearly a discriminatory move and we have already sought advice that it might break international law and treaties,” EJC president Dr. Moshe Kantor said. “Once again we see one nation, over all others, subjected to a ban and boycott, and we would like to ask those that sought this boycott if it is a mere coincidence that this nation also happens to be the only Jewish nation in the world.”

Further, the World Jewish Congress released a statement to the press calling upon the Icelandic government to condemn the city’s boycott.

“The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement only strengthens extremists on both sides,” WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said. “It feeds into the worst stereotypes Israelis and Palestinians have of each other, and prevents any political or social dialogue from taking place. Instead of boycott calls, Iceland should initiate or support efforts aimed at fostering dialogue and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.”

MBL reports that Professor William Ian Miller of the University of Michigan, who was slated to teach a class in Icelandic history at the University of Iceland, has since declined the post. Citing city council’s boycott, he said that he “felt he had no choice” but to cancel his arrival in Iceland.

Despite the response, Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson stands by the boycott, Vísir reports.

“A reaction could of course be expected,” he told reporters. “But our purchasing regulations are very clear that environmental and human rights aspects be taken into consideration. So we’re on pretty solid ground here. This is a decades-old, controversial subject, with strong feelings and opinions on all sides, but that doesn’t change the fact that city council, just like everyone else, must take a human rights position in every case, whatever their involvement may be.”

In the mayor’s newsletter, Dagur added the following:

“I have noticed this has been called an embargo, which it isn’t, and is a testament to anti-Semitism, which is of course ridiculous. Reykjavík is a city of human rights. We have protested against China’s infringements on freedom of expression and the government’s oppression of dissenters, we have protested against the Russian government’s treatment of homosexuals and their allies by cutting ties with Moscow. The approved proposal from Tuesday is the logical extension of this.”

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