Elliott Abrams

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Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Iceland, Palestine, and Israel

by Elliott Abrams
December 20, 2011

Iceland recently recognized Palestine as a state. As I noted in The Weekly Standard,

according to Iceland, Palestinian sovereignty includes 100 percent of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. Palestine, as Icelanders see it, includes the Western Wall of the Second Temple, Judaism’s holiest site. The judenrein policy enforced by Jordan during the years it ruled Jerusalem would thus be reinstated. And Israel in any recognizable form would anyway disappear, for the Allthingi resolution calls for all Palestinian refugees–of whom according to the U.N. there are five million–to “return” to Israel.

Remarkably Iceland made this move exactly sixty-four years to the day after its ambassador to the United Nations played a key and courageous role in helping establish the State of Israel.  It is a marvelous story, told in full in the memoirs of Abba Eban (which I quote in the Standard piece). As I concluded there, “There will probably be very few Icelanders who know this story and wonder how their country fell from being a model of courage and principle to one of self-regard and mock bravery. One doubts it will be widely told in Reykjavik.”

Post a Comment 13 Comments

  • Posted by MethanP

    Considering Icelands economic situation, could Arab oil money be behind this?

  • Posted by Mark Sherry

    A very typical twisting of events.

    Iceland has recognized Palestine before the 67 Conquest by Israel. So this includes all of the parts of Jerusalem not occupied by Israel before the 6-day War. Yes, that includes all of the parts of Jerusalem Abrams listed. What he won’t mention is that Israel today, denies citizenship to all the people it conquered in 67 and claims all of the same parts of Jerusalem and indeed, all the West bank up to the Jordan River as part of Israel. And Israel has steadfastly refused to negotiate over the sovereignty or independence of 250,000 Palestinians denied the franchise of the people conquered in 67 who live in villages surrounding the conquered parts of Jerusalem. Israel also claims their land as Israeli and denies them property rights routinely.

    Further, Israel is in the process of seizing the outskirts of Bethlehem and has plans to cut the town off from the rest of the people living in what would be Palestine. Indeed, in Jerusalem, Israel has made modifications to the Church of the Hold Sepurcher without even consulting the Christians who live around it and work there. And one must presume that the same fate awaits the Church of the Nativity when it too is absorbed into and annexed Jerusalem. The most recent plans include seizing a Monastery on the outskirts of Bethlehem to build racially segregated housing where Christians and other minorities are not allowed to live.

  • Posted by Mark Sherry

    Neither side has clean hands, Mr. Abrams. Neither side wants less than everything if you compare party platforms from both sides. Israel acts unilaterally in contravention of its agreements just as the Palestinians do. And by claiming all of the suburban villages as part of Jerusalem while denying the franchise and property rights of the non-Jews living there, Israel’s segregation policies and Jim Crow laws are just as ugly as anything the Palestinians have.

    Equivalence and equal justice under law and in negotiations might break the impasse. But that is beyond the current all-or-nothing Israeli government.

  • Posted by MANNY

    That was then, this is now. There is a word in
    Yiddish/German to describe how most of the world is disturbed by Israel. GRIJZZET is the word.
    This word is best defined by “bothered”.
    or “disturbed” or “a grinding of the intestines” or “causing to choke”.
    My answer is to choke and let me watch, but Israel will be there forever. Years and years ago. the lump, Bobby Fisher, made his way to Iceland because he and they were of like mind. I once threatened to throw him down a flight of stairs if he opened his mouth again. He never did.

  • Posted by Elliott

    Before answering Sherry’s lies and/or delusions directly, I point out that Jews owned much of the real estate in and around Jerusalem already in the Ottoman period before WW I. Since it was dangerous for Jews to build in some areas in the British period, Arabs illegally took over Jewish lands. After the UN General Assembly partition recommendation –which did not assign Jerusalem to the proposed Arab state but to an international enclave [corpus separatum], Arab forces began attacking Jewish civilians throughout the country. By the end of December 1947, Arab forces were driving Jews out of neighborhoods in what became Judenrein, Jordanian-occupied “east” Jerusalem, such as Shimon haTsadiq where poor Jews lived around a Jewish holy place, the Tomb of Simon the Just.

    Israel now has more than one million Arab citizens, including judges, members of Knesset [parliament], professors, etc. Jerusalem Arabs who were Jordanian citizens can apply for citizenship, as many more have been doing since the Arabs became disappointed with the “Palestinian Authority.” Rather living under jim crow laws, they ride buses and trams with Jews, dine in restaurants and attend university with Jews, etc.

  • Posted by Elliott

    please correct the last sentence in my comment above: Rather THAN living . . .

  • Posted by Mark Sherry

    I do not deny that Jordan did a lot of wrong stuff in the 40-67 period. Jerusalem should have remained untouched by both sides, but it was not. Arabs may be applying for citizenship, but if 10 applications have been granted in the past 10 years, that is news worthy.

    As of today, Bethlehem is being squeezed in the Israeli expansion of exclusively segregated housing on private land seized. from farmers and monasteries belonging to non-Jews. And in places like the village of Silwan, people whose families have lived there since the Crusades are being deprived of schools and housing so segregated housing can be built to push them out.

  • Posted by Jeff

    Mr. Sherry,
    You do not know what you are talking about. Many, many more than 10 citizenship applications have been granted, so perhaps you should contact the New York Times and complain. In fact, all native arab Jerusalemites are eligible. Non-Israeli citizens are also granted all the same city services, health care benefits and pensions as citizens, have the right to vote in municipal elections, and can choose to live anywhere in the city – east or west.
    If you’re looking for Jim Crow the place to find him is in the PA and Hamas. Their numerous and well-documented statements and policies can attest to this.
    Mr. Sherry,
    It’s really time for you to stop the nonsense and go find something else to do, perhaps get a life.

  • Posted by ProphetZarquon

    Like so many human conflicts, this territorial dispute will never be settled so long as one person desires the space occupied by another.

    What makes it so acerbic and dangerous and painful to admit is that this particular area has been in dispute for a very, very long time. There is a lot of history there, little of it friendly.

    I’m lucky enough to love where I live. I’m not so happy with the country I live in, but I love my home and I love the area and the people.

    If that were not true, then I’m sure I’d have something to say about it. Frankly, this whole country was conquered long ago or I would not be here today.

    Everybody could just decide that the whole west bank is a theme park and call it Holy Land. Of course then corporations would take over, and you’d end up worse off than before.

    Frankly, I’m starting to wish we could abandon all this nationalism altogether and just live as a unified people capable of voting for or against any laws, initiatives and projects in any area we have lived for more than one year.

    Elected representatives are sooo last century anyway.

  • Posted by Nikos Retsos

    Obviously, Iceland’s recognition of Palestine is on line with other North European moves to bridge gaps in conflicts around the globe. The Norwegian involvement in the Oslo Accords of 1993, and subsequent long term Norwegian involvement in the Sri Lanka – Tamil Tigers conflict is another example.

    Iceland’s move is obviously symbolic, but the U.S. veto at the U.N. Security Council yesterday on a motion condemning Israeli construction on Palestinian land, shows the
    U.S. stands alone with a condemned Israel. All the other 14 members supported the motion – including all European states. In simpler terms, the U.S. and Israel are more and more discredited and isolated in the global opinion about the persisted failure to resolve the Palestinian problem. Even Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak called to convene a special cabinet session to discuss Israel’s growing isolation on December 12, 2011 The day before, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had warned Israel that its policies puts it on risk of global isolation!

    The moral of the story: Iceland’s recognition of Palestine is not just a single flickering candlelight that will burn itself out very soon. Anti-Israeli sentiment around the world has been smoldering since 1967, and it is not burning itself out. It is expanding! Nikos Retsos, retired professor

  • Posted by neville craig

    Is there not a particular problem with small isolated nation-states’ sense of reality?
    Also it is established scientifically that the Icelanders and Republican Irish share a great deal of DNA (from past sailors).
    So we get self-serving, ill-informed actions.
    Israel seems to fall into this category too.

    The Russians put a lot of money through Iceland when it rode its cloud of delusion.

  • Posted by Eliyahu

    Prof. Retsos, can you not conceive that sometimes the majority can be wrong? Indeed, Jews have been disagreeing with the majority since the Roman Empire became Christian after Constantine. Can you prove objectively that the Jews’ religious beliefs were less valid than those of the Christians, although the Jews were surely outnumbered? In this situation too, where Iceland acted in favor of mass murderous terrorists, was it right? Could there have been many or several unacknowledged motives behind Iceland’s action that would not withstand inspection in the light of day? There are many more Arabs than Jews, for example. Does the numerical relationship have a moral weight? These many Arabs have much oil, although most of the oil wealth is not shared with the poorer Arabs. But could access to oil be a motive for the pro-Arab policies of Iceland and other Euro states? Could investments by rich Arabs in Western universities [for instance, Yale, Georgetown, and others in the USA, the LSE in the UK] lead in several ways to a pro-Arab viewpoint among faculties and administrations of universities? Especially in Middle East studies departments? Etc, etc.

  • Posted by Christian S.

    BTW, there are stores in Iceland’s capital that have signs: “No Jews Welcome” Do a google search for:

    Útilokar Gyðinga frá búð á Hverfisgötu

    The sign is still up to this day. The Foreign Minister is an known anti-semite.

    Is Iceland demanding that the Arab countries give back what they stole? See the Wikipedia article on the ’67 war. After the war, mobs attacked Jewish neighborhoods in Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Morocco, burning synagogues and assaulting residents. A pogrom in Tripoli, Libya, left 18 Jews dead and 25 injured; the survivors were herded into detention centers. Of Egypt’s 4,000 Jews, 800 were arrested, including the chief rabbis of both Cairo and Alexandria, and their property sequestered by the government. The ancient communities of Damascus and Baghdad were placed under house arrest, their leaders imprisoned and fined. A total of 7,000 Jews were expelled, many with merely a satchel.

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