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September 17, 2015 2:50 pm

European Jewish Groups Rail Against Reykjavic Decision to Boycott Israeli Goods

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Reykjavik, Iceland, where the city council adopted a boycott resolution against Israel. Photo: Wikipedia.

Reykjavik, Iceland, where the city council adopted a boycott resolution against Israel. Photo: Wikipedia.

European Jewish groups railed against the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik’s decision this week to adopt a boycott of Israeli goods, with many calling the move purely discriminatory.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said his group had “already sought advice,” indicating that on top of the boycott’s clear singling out of the Jewish state, “It might break international law and treaties,” as well.

“Once again we see one nation, over all others, subjected to a ban and boycott, and we would like to ask those that sought this boycott if it is a mere coincidence that this nation also happens to be only Jewish nation in the world,” he said, according to the U.K’s Jewish News.

Kantor also questioned supporters of the boycott who have said that other such initiatives will follow and be directed against various human rights-abusing nations. 

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“Many have stated that they will start with Israel and then explore other situations, and none have ever gone beyond Israel,” he said.

Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Orthodox Conference of European Rabbis, derided the Icelandic resolution for failing to account for Israeli tech innovation, which has in many cases become an inseparable part of everyday life in the West.

“If Reykjavik is serious about their ban, they need to shut down their computers and hand in their mobile phones, all of which work thanks to Israeli innovation that benefits every part of modern life,” said Goldschmidt in a statement to The Algemeiner. “As a democracy, the [Reykjavik] Council surely has a duty to ask their people if they would be willing to go without their cell phones in support of their leaders’ silliness. In reality, if the Reykjavik city council wanted real change in the Middle East, it would seek ways of constructive engagement to help on the ground, rather than a symbolic gesture which is nothing more than an affront to the Jewish community.”

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Anti-Defamation League called the boycott “counterproductive and frivolous,” warning the motion could strain ties with the U.S., which is largely pro-Israel across the board.

“The Reykjevik city council’s decision to boycott Israeli products is one of the most counter-productive boycotts we can recall.  The municipality itself has likely never bought any Israeli products, and all of Iceland only imported $6 million in Israeli goods last year. Yet, this decision will certainly harm Iceland’s reputation in the U.S., an overwhelmingly pro-Israel country, which imported almost $300 million of goods from Iceland in 2013,” said ADL Director of International Affairs Michael A. Salberg.

“Millions more were spent on tourism by the 150,000 Americans who visited Iceland last year. We imagine Iceland’s leading exporters of goods and services are the ones who will be most concerned about the potential consequences of the city council’s decision. With one frivolous decision, the Reykjevik city council has damaged Iceland’s expensive multi-year marketing campaign. While ADL does not support counter-boycotts, we imagine Iceland’s leading exporters of goods and services are more concerned than Israel about the consequences,” he said.

And in Israel, legal activist group Shurat Hadin-The Israel Law Center, which has targeted U.S. companies and organizations that have moved to boycott the Jewish state through litigation, said the Reykjavik boycott violated many of the country’s European and international trade agreements, “including the EFTA, OECD, WTO and the EEA.” In light of this, the group predicted the boycott would soon be “shut down.”

“The announced boycott by the unimportant city of  Reykjavik would by humorous if it wasn’t so pathetic and sad,” said a statement from Shurat Hadin-The Israel Law Center provided to The Algemeiner. “Iceland, which is still weathering the results of its own massive economic crisis, has no business trying to bring financial or political sanctions against anyone, much less against the only stable and democratic nation in the war torn Middle East. It seems they have learned nothing about free trade from their own near economic collapse. Like their soulmates the Palestinians they neither invent nor manufacture anything and do not play any role in the world economy. Iceland has in the past provided refuge to fugitive Nazi war criminals and is merely intent on blatantly impressing Muslim countries in its bid to become members of the U.N. Security Council. We challenge the city and the rest of Iceland too to really disconnect from Israeli technology and go back to living in the stone age. Israel needs to place an export embargo on Iceland and not allow any more of our technology to be sold there.”

The Iceland & Israel Friendship Connection called the move, which was adopted by the Reykjavik city council on Tuesday, “ridiculous” and a “farce,” adding that such initiatives actually do the opposite of what supporters hope to achieve.

“Any boycott that harms one side and drives a wedge between the two sides only serves to perpetuate a cycle of hate and mistrust. As a responsible objective party Iceland should adopt a message of reconciliation and economic cooperation. Win-win situations are the only solutions that will have positive long-term implications,” the group said in a statement sent to The Algemeiner. 

Reykjavik city councilman Kjartan Magnússon of the Independence Party in the opposition accused fellow lawmakers of hypocrisy, noting the absence of punitive measures against China over its ongoing occupation of Tibet.

The boycott itself, which was initiated by outgoing Social Democratic Alliance councilwoman Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, calls for Reykjavik to cease purchases of Israeli goods as long as the “occupation of Palestinian territories,” ostensibly those captured by Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, continues.


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