A group of Israeli citizens is urging members of the Reykjavík city council not to back down from a decision to boycott all goods from their country.
By making this call, the activists say they are violating Israel’s draconian anti-boycott law.
Iceland’s capital passed the measure by a 9-5 majority on 15 September, but a few days later Mayor Dagur Eggertsson said he wanted to withdraw the decision and instead institute a much more limited boycott only of goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“We write to you as citizens of Israel who actively oppose our successive governments’ policies of belligerent occupation, colonialism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid against the indigenous people of this land, the Palestinians,” the 21 September letter from the group Boycott from Within states. “We write to you today to encourage you to stand by your initial and worthy decision to hold the State of Israel accountable for its consistent human rights violations, and to boycott Israeli goods.”
As The Electronic Intifada revealed, Eggertsson’s climbdown followed consultations between his Social Democratic Alliance party and the Palestinian Authority. It also followed intense criticism and threats by Israel and its lobby organizations in the United States.
“We understand that you are under a lot of pressure to reverse your decision,” the letter continues. “We urge you not to do so, as that would be construed as your support of Israeli violations. The Israeli crimes which were mentioned above are not limited to the militarily occupied territories of 1967, but exist throughout historical Palestine, and the same is also true for the Israeli economy as a whole.”
Breaking anti-boycott law
The letter cites Israel’s arms industry, one of the biggest in the world, which is helping fuel atrocities in several African states. It also mentions the complicity of Israeli academia and corporations.
“But what is less known is that the whole of the Israeli economy is geared towards profiting from the subjugation of Palestinians,” the letter stresses.
Boycott from Within argues that supporting the Palestinian call for BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – is also the best way to support Israelis who are resisting Israel’s brutal practices: “We, as Israeli citizens, are very limited in our ability to create change in the current political climate. In recent years, Israel has taken many legislative steps to criminalize human rights activities, such as providing information about the occupation and calling for boycott of the state and war-profiteering corporations. Merely writing this letter to you is an illegal act under Israeli civil torts law and we hereby proudly violate this law.”
But those to whom the letter was addressed did not show as much courage.
Reykjavík City Council announced in a press release Tuesday that it “today withdrew a motion accepted on 15 September 2015, to prepare and formulate a boycott on Israeli products.”
Israel’s foreign ministry sees the pressure that brought the cave in at the Iceland capital’s city hall as a good model for its efforts to fight moves within the EU to label settlement products. Israel is now planning to apply pressure country by country, going over the heads of the European Union’s central bureaucracy.
It remains to be seen if Mayor Eggertsson will keep his promise to at least institute a boycott of settlement goods. But one sure outcome is that many more people in Iceland are now informed about the Palestinian call to boycott Israel.