Pressure Gets Iceland to Backtrack
by Stephen Lendman
After its capital City of Reykjavik voted to boycott Israeli products days earlier, it backtracked on Saturday – Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson telling Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RUV the decision was withdrawn.
His excuse rang hollow, claiming it was “poorly prepared. In the past, I have taken great pride in preparing all big decisions thoroughly,” he said.
“I’ll admit here and now that I am angry with myself for not doing that, and for not having prepared the decision as well as I would have liked to. This was very unfortunate.”
Heavy pressure followed the 9 – 5 majority city council ruling – only affecting city purchases, a largely symbolic move, yet delivering a stinging message against longstanding Israeli ruthlessness.
All members of Reykjavik’s ruling left-wing coalition approved it – all center-right members against. Henceforth, only settlement products won’t be purchased, following a precedent set by Copenhagen, Denmark.
In early June, its city councillors voted in favor of boycotting illegal settlement products. At the time, council member Sisse Marie Welling said “(w)hen trading with illegal settlements, you are indirectly supporting them, which the UN and the Danish government has encouraged us not to do.”
Eggertsson said he expected criticism following the boycott move, but nothing like what followed domestically and internationally. Iceland’s Prime Minister Digmundur Davio Gunnlaugsson called it “ridiculous.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a travel advisory, saying “Iceland is a major tourist destination, including for many Jews and Israeli tour groups.”
“However, when the elected leaders of its main city pass an extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic law, we would caution any member of a Jewish community about traveling there.”
The European Jewish Congress said it may sue Reykjavik. Its president Moshe Kantor called the announced boycott “a discriminatory move, and we have already sought advice that it might break international law and treaties.”
Days earlier, Netanyahu outrageously compared the European Parliament’s overwhelmingly passed (525 to 70 with 31 abstentions) non-binding resolution to label settlement products with identifying everything Jewish in Nazi Germany.
Anti-Defamation League international affairs director Michael Salberg said Reykjavik’s move “will certainly harm Iceland’s reputation in the US, which imported almost $300 million of goods from Iceland in 2013,” as well as potentially affecting American tourism.
The World Jewish Congress “strongly denounce(d)” Reykjavik’s announced boycott. Its president Ronald Lauder “urge(d) the government of Iceland to act against” it.
Heavy-handed Israeli pressure along with its Lobby and perhaps Washington got Reykjavik to back off. The symbolic victory stands along with numerous tangible BDS successes.
Ahead of Eggertsson’s reversal, BDS official Riya Hassan issued a statement, saying:
“This motion to exclude Israeli products from the city’s procurement system is an impressive victory for human rights and the Palestinian people in its struggle for justice, equality and freedom.”
“The fact that Israel is already gearing up to use all means to overturn this decision proves that this is a significant decision that challenges Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.”
“Whatever Israel and its supporters throw at the city council, nothing can undo the moral stand taken by the Reykjavik council, which has made a democratic decision to hold up human rights principles in the city’s procurement policies.”
“We particularly welcome that the motion uses the word apartheid to describe Israel’s regime. There’s a growing realization that Israel’s system of oppression meets the definition of apartheid as set out in international law.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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