Reykjavík wasn’t ready for “brutal” Zionist backlash, says Israel boycott author

Björk Vilhelmsdóttir presents Israel boycott motion to Reykjavik city council, in a 15 September photo posted on Instagram by Mayor Dagur Eggertsson.

Councillors in Iceland’s capital were not ready for the “brutal backlash” from Israel and its US lobby groups, Björk Vilhelmsdóttir has told The Electronic Intifada.

She was the Reykjavík city council member who proposed the shortlived boycott of Israeli goods that passed on 15 September by a 9-5 majority.

It was Vilhelmsdóttir’s last legislative act before she left the council. She is currently in the occupied West Bank, volunteering with the solidarity organization International Women’s Peace Service.

The purpose of the boycott, she explained, had been to give “a clear message to Israel that we know how they treat Palestinian people and that we know they do not comply with international human rights conventions and laws.”

“We wanted to respond in a peaceful, but effective way,” Vilhelmsdóttir added.

“Brutal backlash”

On 22 September, the city council rescinded the measure after a storm of pressure and threats, including specific economic threats, from Israel, its supporters and its lobby groups.

“That makes me very sad, but I forgive my colleagues,” Vilhelmsdóttir said. “They had no other option because they were not prepared for this brutal backlash from Israel, the United States and the Zionist lobby.”

Even Vilhelmsdóttir said she was surprised by the fierce reaction.

“I didn’t imagine that the Israelis and the Zionists in the US would accuse us in the city council of anti-Semitism and hate,” she said. “I have never felt that hate – only a desire for peace and love.”

Silver lining

But the former councillor is clear where the responsibility lies: “I blame Israel’s government. My opinion is that they are the worst enemy to the Jewish people, because many people do not understand the difference between Judaism and Zionism. But there is a big difference between them. One, Judaism, is a faith, and the other, Zionism, is a political ideology which produced Israeli apartheid policy.”

Still, Vilhelmsdóttir sees a silver lining to the controversy.

“The message is coming through,” she said. “The discussions which dominated Iceland’s political life in the last 10 days have raised the profile of the boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] movement, and I think people are now very much aware of the Zionist apartheid system in Israel against the Palestinian people.”

The result, she thinks, is that now more people than ever will boycott Israeli goods.

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It was enormously brave for Icelandic officials to take a stand on BDS, and I am sorry they received such a vicious attack from the Zionist entity. Those of us, including Jews like myself, who support ending the occupation and giving Palestinians their land back, face these brutal assaults every day. One needs to develop a thick skin in order to persevere in the struggle for justice for Palestine.

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I agree with Ms. Velhelmsdottir's knowing "israel's gov. ... are the worst enemy to the Jewish people." I see and feel it every day with worse fear only, when I experience the half hearted efforts of (our) left. I respect Ms. Velhelmsdottir's humanity and her inclusion of Jews in that, by her most kind action, touches me very deeply. How I wish her collegues had had the courage of their culture. I denounce as Jew haters all those who, by threat and cohersion , forcing people to abandon their good consciences and the lifting of human misery, would teach that such vicious inhumanity might be Judaism when Judaism denounces these as hate which harmed us not too long ago. Ms. Velhlmsdottir is a better jew than any of those.

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It took courage for the Reykjavik City Council to rollback the BDS sanction measure. The relations between the Palestinians and Israel is complex. It would do well for Palestinian cause supporters and people of conscience to see both sides.

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Anti-Racism v Racism. OK.

Sort of reminds one of Darth Vader in "Star Wars" making a case for the Dark Side. "Its real KKKool over here Luke, come on over."

Zionism must be fought in any of its manifestations when ever and where ever one meets it. It is racist and it is wrong. It must end.

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.