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September 20, 2015 6:28 am

An Open Letter to Reykjavik, Iceland, on Its Eruption of Anti-Semitism

avatar by Abraham H. Miller /

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Iceland's Foreign Ministry condemned Reykjavik's decision to boycott all Israeli-made products. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Iceland’s Foreign Ministry has condemned Reykjavik’s decision to boycott Israeli-made products. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. – Dear Reykjavik City Council members,

You would think that your country, which routinely violates the international ban on commercial whaling — slaughtering 137 last year and turning its nose up at the very notion of endanger species — might not want to assume it has a “moral” role to play in something as long and complex as the Arab-Israeli conflict. But then again, can your presumption of being experts on the Middle East be chalked up to those endless Icelandic winter nights, punctuated by one of the world’s highest alcoholism rates?

When your city council decided to boycott Israel, you thought you might find some respite from being looked down upon as mere whale butchers. But all you did was show to the world that knowing how to violate an endangered species agreement does not really qualify one for entry into the fray of Middle Eastern politics.

The Israelis are calling it a volcanic eruption of hate, and that is most likely an apt description. Your city is not boycotting any other country — not those who kill gays for being gay, declare women to be second-class citizens, or exploit poor Pakistani children in cruel and dangerous work environments. Countries run by genocidal dictators, narco-tyrants, and erstwhile conquerors are exempted. Only Israel is to feel the cold of Reykjavik’s newly acquired moral policy.

Could it be that your city is less concerned about alleged social justice than a way to follow the wondrous example set by Nazi Germany in the 1930s and boycott Jews?

I know from my discussions with leftist clergy in America that they always say, “You have to start someplace.” But then why is it that after decades of advocating boycotting Israel, these men and women of God never seem to go anywhere else? No brutal, genocidal, psychopathic dictator engenders as much concern as a struggling democracy trying to stay alive while its neighbors call for its extinction and in each war threaten to feed the Jews to the fish.

If you want to do something positive about the Middle East situation and gain some insight into the problem, you might begin by looking at the Palestinian refugees in Syria, in the Yarmouk camp.

Yarmouk once housed 240,000 Palestinian refugees living in poverty and without hope. Despite the repeated concern for the Palestinians enunciated during regularly scheduled Israel-bashing sessions at the United Nations, no Arab state would resettle them or give them full citizenship.

The Icelanders might want to consider that in the same period, the Arab states of the Middle East expelled 900,000 Jews, all of whom were absorbed by Israel even though there were times when there was not sufficient food in the country to provide every Israeli with three meals a day.

In contrast, Palestinians were condemned by their own leaders and the Arab world to fester for generations in camps.

As the Free Syrian Army (FSA) threatens strongman Bashar al-Assad for control of Syria, the Palestinian refugees have been caught in the deadly crossfire. The camp itself is run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which is simply a front group for the Syrian military. The FSA saw the camp as an appropriate target; the large number of civilians were not germane to their tactical calculus. Most Palestinians fled, but somewhere around 18,000 remain and are starving to death. Israel would permit Palestinians in Syria — there are an estimated 500,000—to return to the territories under Palestinian Authority control if they would give up any claims to return to Israel. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that it is better for them to die in Syria than give up their “right of return.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has taken the unprecedented step of letting the Palestinian refugees escape almost-certain death in Syria by resettling them in the Sinai Peninsula. Again, Abbas has said no.

This is the implacable enemy that Israel faces, one that would rather see its people slaughtered than give up a right to replace the Jewish state through resettlement in Israel proper that is never going to happen.

Israel did not blockade Gaza until war materials flowed in from the sea and rockets and missiles were launched from Gaza into Israel’s southern cities. Israel left Gaza on its own accord, trading land for peace — but getting rockets, missiles, and attack tunnels instead.

The unilateral evacuation from Gaza in 2005 was an experiment to see how the Palestinians would respond. As some predicted, they responded with an escalation of brutality, targeting Israeli civilians, and not with peace.

Leaders of Reykjavik, be advised that your boycott of Israeli-made products will neither weaken Israel nor advance the cause of the hapless Palestinians caught between gunfire in Syrian and Abbas’s intransigence in not letting them resettle someplace safe.

 Maybe your city council might consider putting pressure on the Palestinians to rescue their own people. In the meantime, I, for one, hope that you will at least be consistent by also boycotting all the advances Israel has made in recent years in treating and detecting cancer and heart disease. In the latter pursuit, I wish you every success.

Yours truly,

Abraham H. Miller; emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati; senior fellow, Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought; @salomoncenter

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  • Peter

    Please don’t confuse a dissatisfaction with the activities of the STATE of Israel with any enmity towards Jews as a whole. Many of us Jews are only too happy to make it clear that Israeli politics and attitudes do NOT reflect how we feel.

    Knowing a number of Icelanders, I feel very certain that they understand the difference.

  • Maurice

    What moral code? These people are descendents of Vikings like Eric the Red and Lief the Lucky Ericcsen. They just don’t rape and pillage anymore.

  • Annette Frumberg

    Shame on you for siding with murderers. You are no better than them.
    You have no honor and no pride in behaving in such cowardly manner
    You don’t contribute anything to he world unlike Israel who is doing so much
    It’s shows your ignorance and selfishness

  • **************************************************
    Hypocrisy of the Anti-Israel BDS Movement
    by Mr. Cohen, 2015 June 8

    In year 2012 CE, the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report revealed 17 countries that still practice or tolerate slavery: Algeria, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Kuwait, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Papua New Guinea, Yemen, Madagascar, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, DR Congo, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and Cuba.

    Notice that NONE of these 17 countries suffers the wrath of the BDS movement, no matter how guilty they are of practicing slavery.

    Also notice that most of these countries are MUSLIM, which means that the Far-Left-dominated news media will NEVER give them the criticism they deserve, because the Far-Leftists are the loyal allies of the Muslims.

    Last but not least, the Far-Left-dominated BDS movement will NEVER target these counties with boycotts, because the Far-Leftists are the loyal allies of the Muslims.

    According to the year 2014 CE Freedom in the World Report, the ten most oppressive countries in the world are: Central African Republic, Somalia, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Eritrea, Syria, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan.

    Notice that NONE of these ten countries is suffers the wrath of the BDS movement, no matter how much they oppress their own citizens.

    Since year 1950 CE, China has occupied the land of Tibet and murdered around one million Tibetans. Does China suffer the wrath of the BDS movement? NO!

    Russia invaded Georgia in year 2008 CE.
    Russia invaded Ukraine in year 2014 CE.
    Is Russian boycotted by the BDS movement?
    NO! And it never will be.

  • Elise Sheppard

    Thank you, Abraham! Beautiful article.
    Elise Sheppard

  • joey

    Also, you say dear Reykjavik (the locale who passed the restriction) then blast the entire country.

  • joey

    Nice. No better way to drum up compassion and understanding then to launch bitter attacks at someone. Bearcat? Bearcat.

  • Daniel Morris


    I lived and worked in Iceland, on the now de-commissioned (circa. 2005)(closed) NATO base of Keflavik, Iceland, from 1991-1992.
    I can say without hesitation that educated, upper-class Icelanders, hard-working, adult Icelanders, and the young Icelandic ladies I tried to romance during the midnight sun of the short, Icelandic summer, when the nightclubs of downtown Rekyavik rock all night long, for days on end, has met, face-to-face, as many Jewish people as any of you have lunched with Native Americans. They know as much about Zionism and the Arab-Israeli conflict as you know about their Cod Wars with the U.K., the whole in your own education where a conversant knowledge of the Icelandic Sagas (or at least a simple statement of their importance to Western history and political science) should be, or How Iceland achieved universal freedom of worship in their parliament in the 800s.
    So on behalf of my gracious, unwilling hosts during the year America won the Cold War and first ventured into the general vicinity of Iraq under a President named Bush with a great, multi-national, armed host: if you really want to have any kind of conversation with Icelanders, they mostly speak excellent English, and they love to talk, especially about ideas, their feelings, fairness and how to treat other people. They’ll talk especially freely in bars, pubs and nightclubs, where they are prone to buy you drinks, and then drink them for you (okay, it can be a challenge to drink with a happy Icelander during the days of the midnight sun–you’ve got to build up to it). But I don’t think this august publication has distinguished itself in this “debate” or made any friends in this NATO ally by calling them whale-chomping, no, whale exterminating, boozehounds.
    And listen smart guy: we all know that the current Jewish state isn’t run by God, or administered by the divine hosts under the Tanak and the Talmud. Peace, stability, and an ennobling civic dignity you and I and other Zionists brag that the surrounding Arab and Muslim states lack–personal freedoms, courts of justice, freedom of religion, come (believe it or not) from the Knesset and the Israeli constitution. And where did these come from? Copied without leave or even a “hey Thorbjorn Siggurdson, how d’ye do?” from the Althing and Njall’s Saga–the Norse Seafarers and Farmers (okay, ranchers and planters) of Iceland. So if they give up their post-1980s computer, telecommunication, and medical technology, will Israel give up all political and civic institutions not directly referenced in the extant historical and religious texts that minutely discuss the Judean state from 300BCE-200CE. And that includes the Anglo-American justice system. And we’ll see how each nation does for a two-years trial. So let’s talk nonsense or bash Icelanders. A violent rant against Iceland? How politically insecure are you? Who amongst you has ever felt the heel of an Icelandic boot? Landsmen: what nation amongst the gentiles had never oppressed a Jew? Let me remind you: just about all of them. But near the top of that small list, just after Zanzibar and Thailand, is Iceland.

    • a drink buys a friend for life?