Boycott Israel sign.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The boycott which the Reykjavik municipal council last week declared on all Israeli products (and then clumsily backpedaled from, to include only “occupied-territory” goods) was always meaningless in practical terms. But its meaning was mega-distressing on the moral plane.
Iceland is chillingly emblematic of phenomena greater than its own minuscule role in world affairs.
This lone windswept island – astride the juncture- point of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, as well as the North American and European tectonic plates – is as far-removed from the Jewish people, the Jewish state, and the entire Middle East as can be.
Our Israeli travails aren’t only history-steeped, but are unimaginably complex. Even savvy observers find it difficult not to generalize and oversimplify. It’s doubtful that the remote Icelanders have amassed any outstanding expertise in the annals and twists of our struggle for survival. Odds are they know even less about us than the average European.
Not only are most Icelanders probably clueless about our complex history, but it would be surprising if they can spot our tiny country on a map. It would be surprising if they knew that at direct proximity to our densest population centers – at the heart of our tortuous and narrow territory – Israel’s waistline is just a terrifyingly nine-miles-wide.
Add to this the fact that Israel is the world’s most threatened nation – with a significant portion of the Arab/Muslim world it vowing to annihilate it – such boundaries become an existential peril. By comparison, it’s worth noting that Iceland is more than four times Israel’s size and has a population of 330,000 that could be easily squeezed into a Tel Aviv suburb like Holon.
It’s okay not to know us or not to want to delve into our predicaments. But it’s quite another matter when those who don’t know also presume to judge us and compound their prejudice with punitive measures.
That takes hubris to a singularly sinister level – one that significantly surpasses galling chutzpah. It transforms into an irrational animosity harking back to the sort of barefaced abhorrence with which the Jewish people has had to contend time and again in one land or another.
There is no point accusing Icelanders of Jew-revulsion, because anti-Semitism is so politically incorrect in our postmodern reality that any bigot’s knee-jerk inclination is to indignantly deny it. Indeed, there has been too little Icelandic contact with Jews to breed particular ill-will. But this is where we encounter the illogical.
Most Jew-haters have no cogent reason for their antagonism. It may be an atavistic enmity going back to church-inspired demonization, which has now imperceptibly or otherwise been pinned on the Jewish state. This empowers anyone anywhere to arrogantly censure us without cause.
Icelanders know nothing of our troubles, but feel sanctimoniously authorized to impose sanctions against us. Their claim is that we oppress Palestinians – but that’s a transparent trumped-up pretext where malevolent slander expunges the truth. Doubtless, few in the Icelandic capital can even pretend to back their bias with solid facts rather than rank propaganda.
Theirs is a pretentious pose born of ambition to impress themselves and others with their professed righteousness. It speaks volumes that a far-flung mini-country like Iceland would feel impelled to gang up on the Jewish state in concert with European powers – those driven by realpolitik cynicism and subliminal needs to ostensibly clean up their blood-stained history of persecution and genocide.
Hate spreads to where we wouldn’t expect it to sink roots and all for the sake of basking in the supposed aura of enlightenment.
Of course, in real terms the joke was on the Reykjavik city councilors, who may have been unaware of the fact that there are negligible Israeli exports to their distant jurisdiction, much less exports from the so-called occupied territories.
Icelanders likely are blissfully oblivious to such basics, to say nothing about more intellectually challenging aspects of our enduring Israeli endeavors to keep ourselves alive in a vast sea teeming with primal hate. Like Iceland, we too are an island – but of a very different sort.