Of Iceland, Israel and the Banana Republic.

It was reported that Iceland’s city of Reykjavík has decided to ban Israeli products:

Reykjavík will no longer purchase goods made in Israel. The City Council voted that the city would not purchase any goods manufactured in Israel as long as the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories continues.

The motion was put forward by Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, councilwoman for the Social Democratic Alliance.

The explanatory memorandum argues the boycott is a symbolic act. It shows that the City of Reykjavík supports the right of Palestinians to independence, while condemning “the Israeli policy of apartheid” in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Sóley Tómasdóttir. credit: twitter.com

Sóley Tómasdóttir of the Left Green Alliance, who forms part of the governing coalition in Reykjavík City Hall, along with the Social Democrats, Bright Future and the Pirate Party, said that the boycott created pressure on authorities in Israel to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The decision has caused some controversy. A local barrister Einar Gautur Steingrímsson claims it violates the Icelandic constitution. The city has no place setting foreign policy,

“This is as illegal as refusing to do business with red haired people and it makes no difference whether they justify their decision with references to some alleged actions by the Israelis.”

The boycott won’t cause much of a ripple, as an Icelandic council is as insignificant as Marrickville Council, which also tried to boycott Israeli goods – until it was realized it would cost them about $4 million to replace the Israeli-made computers, whereupon they hastily backtracked:

It’s hard to take seriously a council whose governing coalition includes a Pirate Party, though as befits such a boring country, it’s not the swashbuckling type from children’s stories, but something far more pedestrian:

Iceland is in the grips of piracy, albeit the Pirate Party who have managed to become the biggest political party in the country, after local polling showed public support in overwhelming numbers.

The Party, which has sprung up in over 60 countries, campaigns for internet and data freedom. It now has a 23.9 per cent share of the vote…

By comparison the poll…, showed that the country’s ruling Independence Party had slipped from 25.5 per cent to 23.4 per cent.

Over the past month the party has seen its membership soar, and would win 16 seats in Iceland’s Parliament in the event of an election.

Pirate Party leader in Iceland Birgitta Jonsdottir says that they were thankful for the people’s support In 2013, the Pirates won three parliamentary seats in Iceland’s election and have also been using their seats in the European Parliament to bring pressure on the European Union to overhaul copyright laws.

Jonsdottir, previously a member of Iceland’s Parliament for the Citizen’s Movement, a party that formed in the wake of the Iceland’s financial crisis, said.

“To be completely honest, I don’t know why we enjoy so much trust, we are all just as surprised, thankful and take this as a sign of mistrust towards conventional politics”

Iceland has contributed little to world affairs, although scientific researchers are attracted by the population’s genetic purity:

ICELAND’S unique gene pool, with direct links to the Vikings, has been used to identify the rogue gene responsible for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The finding follows similar local discoveries of genes linked to multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia. DeCode Genetics, founded by Kari Stefansson, a Harvard-educated geneticist, has spent four years compiling a genetic history of the small Icelandic population from the Vikings onwards.

…DeCode’s “method” is based on the purity of the Icelandic gene pool. For the past 1,000 years, the island’s ethnic balance – about 85 per cent Nordic and 15 per cent Celt – has remained largely unchanged.

According to Mr Stefansson, Iceland is the ideal testing ground for observing “disease pedigrees” because of its size, the vast amount of genealogical data available and the insularity of its history. It is easier to spot genetic variations between the tall, blond Nordic people of Reykjavik than among the multi-ethnic populations of London or Paris.

Mr Stefansson said:

“Genetics in a country like Iceland is an absolutely beautiful set of tools because these diseases are inherited – there are genetic components to them. By nailing down the gene and then crystallising the rest of the knowledge around that we are able to mine knowledge out of the data.”

DeCode, which has just been floated on the American stock market, is one of a growing number of “gene hunting” companies in Europe and the United States.

Their insularity and inbreeding might well explain their inability to realise that Israel is the opposite of an apartheid country, while the ‘Palestinians’ they support do practice apartheid; by contrast,  the genetically diverse Marrickville councilors have no such excuse for their ignorance.

Perhaps we could retaliate by boycotting Icelandic goods, but what on earth do they produce? Let’s look to Wikipedia for answers:

The economy of Iceland is small and subject to high volatility. In 2011, gross domestic product was US$12.3bn. With a population of 321,000, this is $38,000 per capita, based on purchasing power parity (PPP) estimates. The financial crisis of 2007–2010 produced a decline in GDP and employment.

Iceland has a mixed economy with high levels of free trade and government intervention. However, government consumption is less than other Nordic countries. Geothermal power is the primary source of home and industrial energy in Iceland.

In the 1990s Iceland undertook extensive free market reforms, which initially produced strong economic growth. As a result, Iceland was rated as having one of the world’s highest levels of economic freedom as well as civil freedoms. In 2007, Iceland topped the list of nations ranked by Human Development Index and was one of the most egalitarian…

From 2006 onwards, the economy faced problems of growing inflation and current account deficits. Partly in response, and partly as a result of earlier reforms, the financial system expanded rapidly before collapsing entirely in a sweeping financial crisis. Iceland had to obtain emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund and a range of European countries in November 2008.

So it seems Iceland is an economic basket-case and produces very little. Nothing to boycott there!

In fact, Iceland’s main claim to fame was when Stephen Fry, during his quiz show Q.I., asked which was the largest banana producing country in Europe. Surprisingly the answer was Iceland:

Incidentally Iceland and Stephen Fry have something else in common; they share a fondness for boycotting Israel


Despite his urbane charm and obvious intelligence, Stephen Fry is mistaken on two counts; he has bought into the myth of a Palestinian people who are victims of evil Zionists, and the myth of abundant Icelandic bananas:

The temperature outside hovered around 5°C, but inside the greenhouses that dot the South Iceland town of Hveragerði, you can taste the humidity. A hotbed of geothermal activity located on a 5,000-year-old lava field, the town has espoused the title ‘hot springs capital of the world.’ I had come to Hveragerði to visit one greenhouse in particular, a 1,100-square-metre tropical greenhouse and the largest banana farm in Europe outside of the Canary Islands. I had come to Hveragerði in pursuit of the elusive Icelandic banana.

My first fill of Icelandic banana talk came at a bar. Someone launched into a conversation about Iceland’s attempt in the early 2000s to become carbon neutral and begin growing all previously imported produce domestically. We talked about the near-self sufficiency with which Iceland had been using greenhouses and geothermal energy to produce tomatoes and cucumbers and—bananas? With the self-certainty that follows a few beers, someone posited that Iceland was, in fact, the largest banana producer in Europe.  

The next morning I went to see if I could find an Icelandic banana. I found only the fruit-laden head of Chiquita stuck to every yellow peel. I asked several supermarket employees where I could find the Icelandic bananas. They looked at me with expressions that said the Icelandic banana was right next to the grave of the Icelandic Jimmy Hoffa.

Before I dove into the topic with Icelanders again, I needed to make sure I wouldn’t come off as completely… bananas. I found a June 2010 article in the Christian Science Monitor titled, “Wait, Bananas Grow In Iceland?” in which the author and his Icelandic cohort claimed to have seen piles of bananas being burned outside of Hveragerði. The Icelander explains in the article. “The price of bananas has collapsed, so the farmers are burning them to create a shortage.”

Furthermore, I discovered claims that circa 2005, the Icelandic government was set to begin implementing large-scale banana production to end the import of some 4.7 million tons of bananas to the country each year. In 2005, Icelanders each ate about 13.5 kilos of the fruit, making them the Western hemisphere’s number one per capita banana consumers, according to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

More research revealed that, in December 2006, the BBC quiz show QI further perpetuated Iceland’s mythical banana kingdom by making it a game-winning question. Host Stephen Fry asked a contestant, “Which is the biggest banana republic in Europe?” to which the correct answer was, seemingly, Iceland.

I tested my banana research on random Icelanders. When I asked if they knew or believed that Iceland was producing hoards of bananas, the response was equal parts rejection of the claim and slight belief that it could be true. “How come I’m still buying Chiquita at the grocery store?” they would ask.

“Maybe they’re not allowed to sell the bananas,” I would counter. I had no other explanation.

“That’s ridiculous,” we would laugh together with nervous speculation. But what if this was all some United Fruit Co. driven, agricultural imperialism? Sixty percent of the world’s bananas come from South America. If Iceland could begin producing bananas for large swaths of Europe, what would that do to the South American banana market?

Before I retreated to a dark room to pour over Illuminati theories and re-watch Zeitgeist, I decided to just get in touch with Iceland’s foremost banana expert, Dr. Guðríður Helgadóttir, head of the Faculty of Vocational and Continuing Education at the Agricultural University workstation in Hveragerði.

Within the first ten minutes of our meeting, Guðríður cleared the air on everything.

In 1885, the Icelandic Horticultural Society was founded. By the 1930s, the Society had discovered the ability to heat green houses with geothermal energy and, in the beginning, they thought they had the potential to grow anything this way.

They were looking to grow crops that would generate the most income per square metre, and one crop they were hopeful for was bananas. By the 1940s, experiments with small-scale banana production were under way and agricultural textbooks began to speculate on the future of Icelandic banana production.

What these textbooks never went on to mention was what Icelandic growers learned several years into their banana experiments that growing bananas would never be commercially viable in Iceland because it takes too long to grow them with the whack sun schedule. It’s too dark in the winter even with artificial light and, in Hveragerði, it takes 1.5–2 years to get a crop from each banana plant compared to only a few months in South America or Africa. Large-scale production of bananas for export was abandoned.

By the late 1940s most Icelanders who had tried to grow bananas on their own simply gave up and donated their plants to the Agricultural University and today, the University is still saddled with the plants. They live in a tropical greenhouse with a few orange and fig trees and the nearly one ton of bananas grown there annually are eaten only by students, faculty and visitors. Because the University is government-funded, they are not allowed to sell bananas for profit, but the bananas are definitely eaten, not burned.

Guðríður is used to fielding questions from speculators of the Icelandic banana. Several years ago she got a call from a location scout who was helping to plan a travel show about Iceland. He was interested in visiting one of Iceland’s giant banana plantations. “I told him I could show him our banana room,” she says.

What to make of Iceland’s antipathy towards Israel. Could it be the result of constant inbreeding, which clouds their critical faculties, to the extent that they believe any myth, whether it’s about a mythical Palestinian people who are the true owners of the land of Israel or that they are the world’s leading exporter of bananas.

Or could it be the longest hatred, plain old antisemitism, rearing its ugly head in yet another corner of the world? Whatever the reason, it’s enough to make you go bananas!


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  1. Lynne, giving up all these vital and often life-saving Israeli inventions doesn’t seem to worry the good inbreds of Iceland, who feel going back to the Stone Age is a small price to pay in order to retain their moral superiority! I’m happy that they made that choice.

    Contrast Marrickville, who quickly backtracked when they realised their BDS actions would result in enormous expense, as their computer system relied heavily on Israeli expertise.

    The BDS mob are not only racist, but extremely stupid.