Reykjavik City Council Has Boycotted Israel, But Are Their Actions Legal?

Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, has voted to enact a city wide boycott on all Israeli goods in support of the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanction movement. The 15-strong council also urged individuals to boycott Israel “as long as the occupation of Palestinian territories continues.”

The motion was proposed by Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, councilwoman for the Social Democratic Alliance, who is retiring from politics and intends to spend the next year volunteering in the Palestinian territories.

It commits the City of Reykjavik to a complete boycott of Israeli goods, not just those produced in disputed territories as the BDS movement usually demands, and also calls on the Mayors Office to enact a similar ban.

The council “supports the right of Palestinians to an independent and sovereign state within the borders of the Six-Day War in 1967,” the motion states, before comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa.

Sóley Tómasdóttir of the Left Green Alliance, who forms part of the governing coalition in Reykjavík City Hall told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that the boycott created pressure on authorities in Israel to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories. She further suggested that the city might boycott products made in other states which engage in human rights violations.

But Supreme Court lawyer Einar Gautur Steingrímsson has slammed the decision, saying that the city council’s approval of the proposal “goes beyond the city’s role as a municipality,” as the council can only perform the actions mandated by law. That doesn’t include foreign policy or deciding sanctions against foreign governments, he insisted.

In fact, he said that even the government would not have the authority to do such a thing, as it would not have the authority of Parliament.

“This is contrary to the constitution,” he told Vísir. “This is just as illegal as refusing to do business with redheads. Iceland has a political agreement with this country, and it is meaningless for the city to contend that they are the only ones with the correct opinion on as complicated a subject as the Middle East.”

The Jewish news website JewishPress.com also questioned the legality of the boycott, pointing out that “Both Israel and Iceland are parties to an international trade treaty which bans such boycotts.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Emanuel Nachson has reacted angrily, calling the boycott “a volcano of hate”.

In a statement, Nachson said:

“A volcano of hate is currently exploding in Reykjavik’s city council building. There is no reason or justification for this move, besides hate itself, which is being heard in the form of calls for a boycott against Israel, the Jewish state. We hope that someone in Iceland will wake up and stop this blindness and one sidedness which is aimed against the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel.”

 

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