To the Editor:
It has just been reported in the Israeli press that the city council of Reykjavik has voted to boycott all Israeli products. What this means in practice is hard to say as I have no idea of what Israeli products are in use by the Reykjavik municipality. In addition, a local attorney named Einar Gautur Steingrímsson claims the move violates the Icelandic constitution so this decision may not stand the test of law.
Those issues aside, the motion as passed compares conditions in Israel with those of apartheid in South Africa. Nothing could be further from the truth. Apartheid was an institutional practice in South Africa that separated blacks from whites in all aspects of life: restaurants, hospitals, education, transportation, housing, even park benches. A 10 minute walk down Jerusalem's main street, Jaffa Road, would be sufficient to expose this lie, where Arabs and Jews mix freely in the outdoor coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants. Though the area where I have my fine art photography gallery in Jerusalem is in the western, mostly Jewish area, it borders on the eastern part of Jerusalem and the Old City, where there is a significant Arab population (many of them Israeli citizens by choice with full and equal rights). It is a common sight to see groups of well dressed Arab women enjoying shopping and recreation in the Jewish part of the city.
As a photographer, I was once hired to do a short photo essay on the nanotechnology research at the Technion in Haifa, where I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Hossam Haick, an Israeli Arab, who is the director of the Laboratory for Nanomaterial Based Devices. In 2010 he was named one of the “Ten Most Promising Young Israeli Scientists”. He has won so many awards and so much recognition that I will just request readers to visit his web page at http://lnbd.technion.ac.il/NanoChemistry/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&TMID=139&LNGID=1&FID=502&PID=0&IID=741
Among other things, I was asked by the project editors in the U.S. to show Arab and Jewish students together. It was probably pretty close to an equal mix of Jewish and Arab students. When I sent the photographs in to the editors, they complained that it was impossible to differentiate the Arab students from the Jewish students. Precisely so!
Recently I had some surgery in the Shaarei Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. My doctor was Jewish, his intern that followed up on my treatment an Arab. The patients next to me were Arabs. This is the same scene that you will see in any Israeli hospital.
So how is this apartheid?
Israel vacated the Gaza strip in its entirety ten years ago. Now it is ruled by an Iranian proxy called Hamas who use a large portion of their resources to fire random missiles at the civilians of Israel. For what? I suggest that if they used their considerable abilities to benefit their population they would accomplish wonders, as Israel has done over the years. Similarly, the Palestinian Authority headed by Abbas continues to blame Israel for all their problems. Israel wanted a responsible Palestinian state to live in peace alongside us, which is why Yitzhak Rabin made an agreement with Yasser Arafat. It is the Palestinian Authority which wishes to prolong the conflict indefinitely, for reasons only they can explain. Without Israeli security assistance, Abbas' regime, which refuses to hold general elections, would collapse tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Israel, which was established by the United Nations in 1948 thrives despite the now defunct Arab Boycott, wars, etc. because we believe in doing the best we can with what we have.
If Iceland wishes to boycott Israeli products the list will be long indeed, but I doubt it would make much of a dent in the robust and innovative Israeli economy. If Israelis wish to retaliate, they might have to eat Norwegian lox. But the fact of the boycott is wrong in itself and boils down to traditional anti-Semitism. What other evil powers does Iceland boycott? The list should be long indeed but it isn't. I have read that Russia has banned the import of Icelandic food products, which could result in the loss of some 1000 jobs. This sounds somewhat more harmful. I would think that truth, trade, dialogue and cultural exchanges are more effective methods for communicating ideas.
But if after reading all this you still want to boycott Israel, then turn off your computers with Microsoft operating systems and Intel chips, both developed in large part in Israeli R&D centers operated by these companies.
Then if you live in the Reykjanes Peninsula or use the airport at Keflavik, shut off the heat and power provided by Sudurnes Regional Heating, who use turbines engineered by Ormat, an Israeli company. When I come to visit you next, I'll bring a very heavy coat in case there is no geothermal power.
Meanwhile, I plan to go ahead with the upcoming exhibition (opening October 15) in my Jerusalem gallery of an Icelandic artist, Agnieszka Sosnowska, whose work was just shown at the Reykjavik Museum of Photography. I believe in art and culture and humanity.