Iceland says Reykjavik’s Israel boycott not its policy

Iceland says Reykjavik’s Israel boycott not its policy

Municipality’s symbolic boycott of Jewish state ‘not in line’ with country’s foreign policy, spokesperson says

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

View of Reykjavik, with city hall at far left (CC BY-SA Maksim, Wikimedia Commons)
View of Reykjavik, with city hall at far left (CC BY-SA Maksim, Wikimedia Commons)

Iceland’s foreign ministry on Thursday distanced itself from a decision by Reykjavik’s city council to boycott Israeli products earlier this week, saying the move was “not in line” with the country’s foreign policy.

Reykjavik’s municipality voted Tuesday in favor of the motion, which approved a boycott of Israeli goods “as long as the occupation of Palestinian territories continues.”

Council members said the boycott was a symbolic act demonstrating the Icelandic capital’s support for Palestinian statehood and condemnation of Israel’s “policy of apartheid.”

But the island nation’s government told The Times of Israel that the resolution by the capital was its own and not representative of the country’s stance.

“The Ministry for Foreign Affairs wishes to underline that the City Council’s decision is not in line with Iceland’s foreign policy nor does it reflect on Iceland’s relations with the State of Israel,” a spokesperson said by email.

The ministry pointed out that Reykjavik, Iceland’s largest city and home to one-third of the island’s population, “formulates policies pertaining to its own local affairs, including its procurement policy, ensuring that it is in accordance with national legislation.”

In 2013, 2014, and 2015, Iceland’s total imports from Israel amounted to roughly $6 million, the bulk of which was Dead Sea chemicals and machinery.

City council leader Björn Blöndal defended the municipality’s decision, saying it “is in no way motivated by anti-Semitism,” the Iceland Review reported Thursday.

Israel’s deputy ambassador in Oslo, Dan Poraz, who manages Israel’s affairs with Iceland, told Icelandic TV station RUV that city councilwoman Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, who proposed the motion, should give up her tablet computer, which runs on Israeli research and development.

Posted by Björk Vilhelmsdóttir on ceturtdiena, 2014. gada 31. jūlijs

Israel’s Foreign Ministry condemned the move, and, in an apparent reference to Iceland’s famed geological activity, said “a volcano of hatred spews forth from the Reykjavik city council building.”

“For no reason or justification, except hatred for its own sake, calls of boycotting the state of Israel are heard,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We hope someone in Iceland will come to their senses and end the one-sided blindness fielded against Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”

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