Israelis to Iceland: Please boycott our country

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.

Stand firm

“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.

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"the whole of the Israeli economy is geared towards profiting from the subjugation of Palestinians"

Surely this is the essential point. It's no longer viable (if it ever was) to distinguish between "Israel proper" and the adjacent colonies. Full economic integration has been achieved- the West Bank and East Jerusalem have been swallowed by the Israeli state. The settlements and military posts were intended from the beginning to achieve this end. They have no other purpose than annexation. The fact that Israel has withheld from formally pronouncing this fact in a legal sense is simply a political calculation. Trying now to separate the Occupation from the State is nonsensical. The Occupation is the State. Either the entire project must be subjected to boycott, or the effort becomes academic- the Israelis will merely relabel goods and open a branch office in Tel Aviv while carrying on as before. You can't fight this thing in a piecemeal fashion. Granting legitimacy to a state whose sole purpose is to dispossess the native population and wage war on its neighbors makes no sense. The boycott must be comprehensive, in answer to the comprehensive nature of Israel's integrated criminal enterprise.

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I have always been in agreement with you, Tom Hall, in your
assessment. I agreed to the BDS call despite the fact that
it is flawed as you point out. I believe BDS has many
accomplishments. In fact I believe most BDS-ers are
in basic agreement with your points.

I fight as well on many other points and on the
very basis of Zionism itself.(See my comment
to "Judaism Not Zionism" in another article)

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.