Denmark finds Israel’s war crimes acceptable

A man speaks into a microphone

Denmark’s foreign minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen speaks to reporters on 6 June after Denmark was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.  

Xie E Xinhua News Agency

The late Danish comedian Eddie Skoller used to perform his own version of Tom Paxton’s “What Did You Learn in School Today?”

Skoller’s version took an imaginary tour around several countries and usually ended with a Danish father asking his son – in English but with a thick Danish accent – what he had learned in school that day.

I learned that Denmark is a little land
And in Denmark we do not understand
What the big world want us for
And then we did not learn no more.

The song first came out in 1977 and perhaps, as the son of a Russian Jewish father and a Swedish mother, who was born in the US but lived in Denmark from the age of 6, it was Skoller’s outsider status that allowed him to sum up Danish attitudes to world affairs so succinctly.

That is, a slightly insecure sense that world affairs are too complex for Danes to meaningfully engage with, mixed with a somewhat arrogant bemusement that the rest of the world doesn’t simply organize their states like the Danes.

Like most countries around the world, Denmark has seen plenty of demonstrations over Gaza since 7 October.

And like most countries of the West, these protests have been brushed aside by government.

In late May, Folketinget, the Danish parliament, rejected a proposal put forward by four smaller parties to recognize a Palestinian state along with neighbors Norway and fellow EU members, Ireland and Spain.

That vote came on the same day parliament also comprehensively rejected a motion to end arms sales to Israel.

Danish arms exports to Israel are predominantly in the form of parts made in Denmark for Israel’s American-supplied F-35 fighter jets that Danwatch, an investigative journalism site, reports play a significant role in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Did not learn no more

The motion to end arms sales to Israel had made its way through parliament since March when four non-governmental organizations had declared their intent to sue the Danish government.

The suit, brought by Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (ActionAid Denmark), Amnesty International Denmark, Oxfam Denmark, as well as the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, charged that by continuing selling weapons to Israel, “Denmark violates international rules on arms trade and risks becoming complicit in violations of international humanitarian law – including war crimes – and a plausible genocide.”

Remarkably, in justifying his government’s opposition to an arms embargo, the Danish foreign minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen declared, “Even if there is basis for charging Israel with war crimes, it doesn’t change the fact that Israel has a right to self-defense. There is therefore nothing that says we must reject all military exports.”

In other words: Israeli war crimes are acceptable to Denmark’s government.

Not a good look for a country recently elected to take up a non-permanent seat at the UN’s Security Council from 1 January 2025.

Israel’s war crimes were acceptable in December too, when parliament was forced to vote on a citizens’ motion – under Danish law, if a motion secures 50,000 signatures, it has to be presented to parliament – that demanded that Denmark “condemn Israeli war crimes, increase aid to Palestine and promote a political solution.”

The 50,000 signatures were secured in a record less-than-two-days – and eventually increased to nearly 80,000. But the motion was again resoundingly voted down in a parliament clearly not swayed by its own citizens’ outrage.

More responsive were administrators at Copenhagen University, who in response to a student encampment at the campus in protest at Israel’s genocide, in May agreed to divest from any companies on the UN’s blacklist of companies operating in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

It is perhaps little wonder that the Social Democrat-led three-party ruling coalition government has seen a 20 percent drop in popularity since the last elections in 2022.

During this time, the government also got itself embroiled in a controversial arms deal with the Israeli arms company Elbit Systems, that was signed under murky circumstances, and forced a sacking, an apology and a dropped lawsuit, though no change in policy.

Indeed, that deal is now proving even more of an embarrassment for Denmark, as the Danish ministry of defense was forced to concede that the deal will run one year late and more than $100 million over budget.

As Eddie Skoller might have put it: “And then we did not learn no more.”




Another European society experiencing schism between its citizens and its ruling class. Time to listen to what the people want. End support to Zionist genocide of Palestinians in occupied Gaza and the West Bank.


It is worth looking into the role of Maersk who, through their sub-company Maersk Line Ltd, is transporting weapons for the US Army and this delivering American weapons to Israel. This is a major part of why the Danish government and most of the political parties are continuing to support the genocide.


I can concur with the Danish attitude on the topic being too complicated but it's a similar sentiment from most Americans and many other Europeans. Denmark has long toed the line of US foregin policy vis-a-vis Israel and the broader ME.

On a slightly more positive note, the SF party in Denmark just received the largest percentage of total votes for the EU Parlimentary elections. SF, along with three other progressive left parties have called for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza (believe starting back in the fall) and recently pushed for Denmark to officially recognize Palestine. One of these parties, the smaller Red-Green party, has gone much further and called for a full boycott of Israel until it finally ends the Occupation.


The behavior coming from the Danish government is the consequence of 500 years of European colonialism, imperialism, racism, apartheid, and genocide. Commiting so many atrocities for so long left an inprint into the genes of the European societies, so that they believe until this day that they are genetically and culturally superior. This racism ingrained in the collective consciousness creates the conditions for colonial aggression, and for the historical behavior of European countries where they turn a blind eye to what is happening or even support the colonialists in their dehumanization of other peoples.

Unfortunately, this is just Europe being Europe.

Add new comment

Omar Karmi

Omar Karmi is an independent journalist and former Jerusalem and Washington, DC, correspondent for The National newspaper.