Municipalities which boycott Israel’s illegal settlements do not violate Norway’s international obligations, a foreign ministry official has insisted, dealing a blow to right-wing parties that tried to have two such municipal boycotts rescinded.
Audun Halvorsen, state secretary at the foreign ministry, said early May that a boycott of “goods and services produced in settlements does not contradict Norway’s international commitments.”
Three local right-wing opposition parties filed a complaint with the Tromsø county governor’s office, requesting a ruling on the resolution’s legality. In addition, the World Jewish Congress urged the Norwegian government to oppose Trondheim’s settlement boycott.
But the attempts to block the local settlement boycotts have failed with Halvorsen’s comments to Tromsø county that such boycotts did not contradict international trade law.
Indeed, international jurists, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been clear that governments which facilitate or engage in any trade in or with the settlements do not fulfill their human rights obligations.
Apartheid, not conflict
Halvorsen added that the Norwegian government does not recommend municipal boycotts because it is not “an appropriate means of resolving the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
Using the term “conflict” conceals Israel’s establishment of an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people, however. The 2017 UN report “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” left no doubt about the apartheid character of Israel’s policies and practices towards the Palestinians.
Norway, just like many European states, has close ties with Israel and Norway’s embassy in Israel boasts on its website that “cultural exchange, scientific collaboration, and trade are also growing.”
Norway has a legal obligation under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to act immediately to end the crime of apartheid. It should refuse to aid Israel in maintaining apartheid.
A boycott of settlement products would be a small step.
“The ministry’s statement confirms what we have said all along,” Jane Filseth Andersen, a representative of the organization Norwegian People’s Aid told The Electronic Intifada.
Banning the procurement of illegal settlement goods and services is neither a violation of Norway’s international trade obligations nor any other obligation under international law, Andersen said.
Halvorsen’s statement should be seen “as a green light” for similar resolutions in other councils, some of whom have been waiting to see how the ruling would turn out, she added.
Norwegian People’s Aid will follow this up through its local branches and “encourage as many municipal councils as possible” to pass similar resolutions.