Left-Green Party Condemns Israel’s “Abuse of Power”

In an official statement published today, Iceland’s LeftGreen Movement has condemned the Israeli government‘s “abuse of power” in its response to rocket strikes from Gaza. The party calls the attacks indefensible.

The worst violence since 2014

Over 100 people have been killed in Gaza since Monday, in what has been the worst violence in Gaza and Israel since 2014. The violence followed weeks of Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem, culminating in conflict at a holy site venerated by both Muslims and Jews. Rocket strikes from Hamas the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip triggered retaliatory strikes from Israel.

Last night, the Israeli military aimed heavy artillery fire and dozens of airstrikes into Gaza, with fears growing that Israel could launch a ground invasion to quell the rocket fire, CNN reports.

Abuse of power, land expropriation, and deportation

This morning, the Left-Green Movement – the leading party of Iceland’s three-party coalition formed after the 2017 elections – condemned the actions of the Israeli government. The statement, which was published on the party‘s website, reads as follows:

The Left-Green Movement condemns the abuse of power, land expropriation, and deportation of Palestinians from settlements that are subsequently destroyed and colonized by Israelis. This constitutes a flagrant violation of international agreements, international law, and human rights.

The Israeli government’s harsh response airstrikes with sophisticated weapons (or unmanned drone strikes), in densely populated areas within Palestine – to rocket strikes from the Gaza strip is indefensible. The operations of the Israeli police against protestors in Jerusalem are also indefensible.

The Left-Green Movement has always emphasised the necessity of seeking out a peaceful solution in the region. Lasting peace will never be attained by the force of arms or oppression, and it is important to preserve the integrity of international law and to avoid violating the human rights of the region’s inhabitants.

The Left-Green Movement would also like to recollect the resolution passed by Parliament that authorized the government to officially recognize the independence and autonomy of the state of Palestine.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Tweets

In a Tweet last Monday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and member of the Independence Party, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, called on “all sides” to refrain from violence.

Protective Barrier to Be Erected Near Volcano

Flowing lava

The construction of a protective barrier near the Geldingadalur volcano began last night, Vísir reports. Local authorities hope to impede the flow of lava into Nátthagi valley, from where it may proceed south toward Suðurstrandarvegur and cause damage to infrastructure.

Suðurstrandarvegur in jeopardy

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Fannar Jónasson, Mayor of Grindavík, expressed his concern regarding the flow of lava from the eruption near Fagradalsfjall toward Suðurstrandarvegur (a coastal road running between Grindavík and Þorlákshöfn, which besides being an important transportation artery has also been widely used by travellers visiting the volcano). If the lava were to flow into Nátthagi valley, it could stream south toward the coastal road, resulting in disruption to traffic and damage to infrastructure (including fibre-optic cables).

According to Fannar, the Grindavík Town Council resolved last week to do everything in its power to impede the flow of lava into Nátthagi, having already drawn up plans for a specially-made barrier. “We’re planning a four-meter high barrier. Within it, there will likely be a kind of cavity, which we hope will steer the lava in a different direction.”

Fannar also emphasized that the barrier was designed, first and foremost, with people’s safety in mind. “There’s been a Herculean effort in this area to ensure the safety of visitors.”

Large bulldozer” on the scene

This morning, Vísir reported that a large bulldozer had begun work on the barrier, and in an interview with Mbl.is, Mayor Fannar Jónasson remarked that construction was progressing nicely.

The project will involve, among other things, the filling of two rifts, with rocks from the area being utilized for this purpose. Construction workers hope to fill the western rift today and the eastern rift over the coming days.

The construction is undertaken by the Department for Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

Neither representatives from the town of Grindavík nor the Department for Civil Protection and Emergency Management could be reached for comment.

Icelandic Travel Association Publishes Road Map to Recovery

Jóhannes Þór Skúlason

The Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF) has published 11 proposals to accelerate the rebound of the tourism sector. The proposals are directed at the government set to accede this fall, with Parliamentary elections taking place on September 25.

The basis for economic recovery

An association of Icelandic tourism companies, the Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF) aims to promote the common interests of its members and to support the improvement of their services and operations. Looking ahead to the upcoming elections, SAF has published a so-called road map containing 11 proposals on how the government can expedite the revival of the tourism industry, which is the “precondition of society’s economic recovery,” according to the association.

In addition to the proposals, SAF has also launched the website vidspyrnan.is, which features a dashboard of indicators, designed to measure the government’s progress in meeting the aforementioned goals.

11 proposals

The proposals are geared toward the following aspects of the Icelandic tourism industry:

  1. Operational environment (among the proposals is an abolition of the overnight-stay tax, an aspect of improving the competitiveness of local companies).
  2. Global marketing (including increased funding to Business Iceland to help promote Iceland as an international travel destination)
  3. Debt (the resolution of debt, e.g. the deferring the payment of duties)
  4. Supervision of illegal operations (aiming to limit the illegal operations of foreign entities, which hampers the success of local companies)
  5. Governance (streamlining the cooperation between different government institutions, for example)
  6. Data collection, processing, and research (studying the effects of the tourism sector on the economy as a whole)
  7. Luxury, health, and incentive tourism (direct support for companies within these sub-industries, among other things)
  8. Rural employment opportunities (incentives to increase the activities of travel companies beyond the Greater Reykjavík Area)
  9. Qualification and education (permanent funding for the Tourism Skills Center)
  10. Tourist destinations (support to municipalities to improve facilities at tourist destinations)
  11. The local market (improving transport between different parts of the country)

“Wont Happen on its Own”

In an interview with RÚV, Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, Director of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, stated that the road map was the travel industry’s contribution to the call for a quick recovery following a pandemic-induced recession. “We hope to demonstrate, with these proposals, what is required if we are to achieve as quick a recovery as we believe is possible.”

When asked if the travel industry requires such “privileges” as called for in the road map – given how quickly the tourism sector seems to be rebounding, with signs of a resurgence already apparent – Jóhannes pushed back against the term: “As regards the section on the operational environment, for example, it’s not only about travel companies – it’s about the economy in its entirety. It’s this idea that although we’re beginning to see a resurgence, such a thing won’t happen on its own.”

Jóhannes concluded by saying that every report concerning the recovery of the economy assumes that the travel industry will lead the way, and that a failure to act could prove costly. “The tourism sector is that industry that can best help us accelerate our recovery. This is not to say that the tourism industry should take over the entire economy. Not at all.”