President of Iceland urged to work for peace in the Middle East or resign from office

Thor Magnusson, founder of Peace 2000 and former Presidential Candidate of Iceland, delivered an appeal to President of Iceland, Mr. Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, to launch an Icelandic peace imitative in the Middle East or resign from office. A press release from Peace 2000 says that when Mr. Magnusson arrived at the Presidential Residence Bessastadir, the President had just got back from a jog, but spared a few minutes to talk to the guest. The appeal of Thor Magnusson to Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, on behalf of Peace 2000, was the following:

“Now when the world stands on end because of the situation in Israel and Palestine and as our colleagues from European peace movements are trying to take up positions in the office buildings of the Palestinian Home Rule to try to prevent the murder of President Arafat by the Israeli army, I make one more attempt at imploring you to use your position as President of Iceland for peace. Again I recall your promise when we were both Presidential candidates in 1996, that you would if elected, use the office of the President for peace activism. You underlined this many times in television interviews with references to your earlier work as a peace activist, and later reiterated this to me in personal meetings. However, now six years later you have done nothing. The time has come for you to show the solidarity that you promised to peace activism and keep your election promise!

The situation in the Middle East is rapidly developing into an all-out war that may lead the a broader conflict, even to a world war within a very short time. This transformation of events in the age of nuclear weapons poses a real threat to the future of mankind, the future of Iceland and its subjects. Those people who in good faith elected you as their President. I refuse to believe that you will continue occupying the Presidential offices and not even attempt to do anything for peace or to honor your election promises in this grave situation.

Peace 2000 partners have sent us the following news from the situation of the Palestinian town of Ramallah.

1. US made helicopters of the Israeli army hover over the city shooting at buildings and people.

2. Israeli bulldozers are being used to make way for armored tanks in residential areas.

3. The journeys of doctors, ambulances and aid workers have been impeded. Red Crescent workers are prevented from providing medical assistance. Israeli soldiers shoot at people on the streets of the city.

4. More than 500 civilians, including foreigners, gathered at an Israeli army barricade and ask soldiers to allow them leave the town. The solders replied with gunshots over their heads, causing even more fear and resulting in most of the people fleeing back into the city.

5. Israeli soldiers have been holding civilians hostage and using them as human shields. In some cases whole families and even tens of people have been isolated in one room, sometimes without food and drink, while Israeli soldiers have used their homes to take up armed positions all over the city.

6. Some districts of Ramallah are now lacking water and food. The Israeli army has impeded transportation. The Israeli army has even used the residents’ food while they have used their apartments and houses as armed hideouts.

7. Large parts of the city are without electricity. Telephone lines have been cut. Civilians are kept in isolation and increasing numbers are gripped by fear.

8. Soldiers are walking through the streets, taking prisoners and calling upon all men between the ages of 16 and 40 to “surrender”. The injured are denied medical care. There have been occurrences of executions by army personnel.

9. The Israeli army has driven tanks over civilian automobiles and strewn them in the street in front of the owners’ homes. Personal possessions are destroyed in house to house “visits” and army searches.

10. Five officers in the Palestinian security forces were found dead in a building that housed Arabian newsrooms, banks and the Internet company Palestinian Online. It is clear that these men were killed without recourse to trials or laws.

11. The Israeli minister Uzi Landau has said today that it is important to topple the Palestinian Home Rule from power. Another influential person in Israel, Eli Yishai, has today also called for increased and more extensive military action. Such actions are of course completely contrary to the will of the international community and will only result in dramatically escalating the conflict and topple the world further towards a global war.

Peace 2000 has sent a proposal to the Icelandic Foreign Ministry asking for discussions regarding the ALTHING-JERUSALEM concept. The idea is rooted in the Althing meeting at Thingvellir the year 1000, when Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi set the scene for an almost unbroken 1000 years era of peace in Iceland. Peace 2000 has been in contact with President Arafat and the Palestinian Home Rule, together with many other parties in both Israel and Palestine, about the initiative. Those who have studied the proposal feel it is worthy of a closer examination, and that such an imitative from Iceland could play a part in bringing about lasting peace in the Middle East.

In light of the support Iceland gave to the founding of the state of Israel, and recent escalation towards an all out war in the Middle East, the reticent response of the Icelandic authorities can only be described as a total lack of responsibility. Even people in ivory towers must realize that Iceland has a duty to do all in its power to stem against the bloodbath.

We have repeatedly also sent you appeals to use your Presidential position for peace initiatives in the Middle East. We have offered our assistance and support and this offer is now repeated. The undersigned is prepared to travel without delay to the Middle East as your ambassador if this would help. It is important that an Icelandic peace initiative is launched in the area before the situation develops into a wider conflict or even a world war. We have cautioned against looking to the US for a peaceful solution. The importance of our message has been further underlines now that US President Mr. George Bush has taken a firm partial stance with Israel and can no longer be regarded as an impartial party.

I refuse to believe that you, a former peace activist and former head of a global peace network, will continue occupying the office of the President of Iceland without attempting to do anything. That you will allow a conflict develop that endangers the whole future of humankind without a murmur.

If you, Mr Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, do not have the courage to act for peace at this time of distress, I urge you personally, in light of your election statements in 1996, to immediately resign from your position as President of Iceland.”