EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Whenever the media mention Iceland in the context of Israel, it is usually to report negative news. It is difficult to find in Iceland’s history more than one substantial occasion when it played a positive role for Israel. There have been many cases of anti-Semitism in Iceland over the centuries. Every year, during the Lent period before Easter, 17th century hymns full of hatred for the Jews are read out daily by distinguished citizens and broadcast on Iceland’s public radio station.
Whenever the media mention Iceland in the context of Israel, it is usually to report negative news. One recent development is a petition going around the country not to participate in the Eurovision contest, which will be held next year in Israel. So far this petition has received 11,000 signatories. That is significant in a country with only about 350,000 inhabitants. (Apparently the national broadcaster nevertheless intends to participate in the Eurovision program.)
It is difficult to find in Iceland’s history more than one substantial occasion when it played a positive role for Israel or Jews. The Icelandic representative at the UN, Ambassador Thor Thors, was the rapporteur for the 1947 Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). This committee recommended partitioning the British Mandate into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. In his autobiography, Abba Eban reports that Thors was “magnificent” in introducing the recommendation to the General Assembly where the vote would be taken.