The city council of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, has made the very controversial decision
to ban all goods made in Israel to show solidarity with the
All products made in Israel will no longer be available in Reykjavik due
to what local authorities are calling the illegal “occupation of
Palestinian territories,” as well as Israel’s “policy of apartheid” against the Palestinian people .
Concerns regarding Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians were renewed following Israel’s announcement in July that it would build Israeli homes in the contested West Bank, inciting violent protests.
Most countries consider these new settlements as well as previous ones illegal and even the US State Department has expressed its concerns
over Israeli settlement expansion. In the past, Reykjavik’s city
council has been critical of Israel and has previously adopted
resolutions that acknowledge Palestinian rights to independence and a
sovereign nation. According to Iceland’s foreign ministry, the small
island nation purchased $6 million of Israeli imports, most of which in
the form of fruits and vegetables, equipment, and machinery.
Iceland’s national government said that the boycott would only be
limited to the country’s capital and has tried to distance itself from
the action of Reykjavik’s city council. Yet, as Iceland’s largest city
and home to half its population, Reykjavik’s decision to boycott Israel
will likely cause some economic impact though it is hard to say whether
or not it will be significant. Israeli exports totaled $53.7 billion in
2014, meaning its exports to Iceland represent a meager 1.1% of its
total annual exports.
Overall, it appears that Israel is much more concerned with the
symbolic impact of the boycott as opposed to its economic effects as
they have been actively fighting against several recent international
boycotts in response to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people,
most notably the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions).
Concerns about the growth of boycott movements have led Israel to
pass legislation allowing for the deportation of foreign activists, to
threaten the lives of BDS supporters, and to lobby for legislation in
other countries to prevent future boycotts. They have even teamed up
with Facebook to try and prevent criticism of Israel on social media.
Israel’s government responded to news of Reykjavik’s boycott with harsh criticism. Emmanuel Nahshon, Israel’s foreign minister, responded by saying:
“A volcano of hatred is erupting out
of the city council building in Reykjavik. Without any reason or
justification, other than pure hatred, we hear calls to boycott Israel.
We hope someone in Iceland comes to their senses and stops the blindness
and the one-sidedness that is directed at Israel, the only democracy in
the Middle East.”
Some Icelanders were also critical of the boycott, including a local
attorney who said the ban on Israeli goods violates the Icelandic
constitution. It remains to be seen if Israel will take action against
Iceland as a result of the new boycott.
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