Iceland’s History of Hostility toward Jews and Israel

July 17, 2018 | Manfred Gerstenfeld
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With a Jewish population of around 250, Iceland has little in the way of organized Jewish life. Anti-Semitic hymns—written by a 17th-century Icelandic churchman—are played on the radio every year during Lent. And both recently and in the past, the country’s government has a poor record when it comes to relations with Israel and the Jews, as Manfred Gerstenfeld writes:

In 2015, the city council of . . . Reykjavik decided to boycott Israeli products. A week later, the city’s mayor, Dagur Eggertsson, amended the proposal so that the city would be boycotting only those goods produced in the “occupied” areas. . . . In 2011, Iceland’s parliament was the first country in Western Europe to recognize a Palestinian state. The foreign minister at the time, Ossur Skarphedinson, was extremely anti-Israel. Iceland’s Birgitta Jonsdottir was the first parliamentarian of any country to visit participants of the failed second Gaza flotilla.

Iceland’s attitude toward Jews, both recently and in the past, can be described as wretched. The latest indignity was a proposal this year to be the first country in Europe to ban circumcision. In addition to politicians, 400 doctors supported the bill. . . .

Iceland [also] gave warm refuge to the Estonian Nazi war criminal Evald Mikson. At the end of the 1980s, the Nazi hunter Ephraim Zuroff tried to bring Mikson to trial for his involvement in the murder of Jews in Estonia. This led to many Icelandic media attacks against Israel. The country’s government took more than ten years after Zuroff’s initial appeals to set up a commission to investigate Mikson’s war crimes. Only after his death did the investigators find that he had indeed committed atrocities.

[Another] example involves the deportation in 1938 of an impoverished German Jewish refugee [from Iceland] to Denmark. The Icelandic authorities at that time offered to cover all costs for his expulsion to Nazi Germany if Denmark refused him entry. Decades after the war, similar cases became known.

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