Pushing back against an “apparent lackadaisical attitude” towards the Boston Mapping Project – an anonymous website hosted by an Icelandic company targeting Boston-area Jews and organizations – the Anti-Defamation League has forcefully called on the Icelandic government and the country’s national police force to take action.
This week, the ADL got a response: There’s not much Iceland can do about it.
“The Icelandic authorities do not have jurisdiction to investigate possible criminal offenses against subjects located in other countries,” the Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in a statement, adding that it will “cooperate with police authorities in the United States if a request for mutual legal assistance is received.”
Icelandic police also declined to get involved, citing legal complications and weak legislation in Iceland.
“For the Metropolitan Police here in Reykjavik to take any action against hosting services based here, they will need a court order,” Runolfur Thorhallsson, national commissioner of the Icelandic Police wrote the ADL on July 12. “First step in that direction would be to press charges in Boston.”
“Cooperation with these hosting services here in Iceland has proven difficult,” he added. “Both our legislation is flawed and also it has been difficult establishing … communication channels with these services. The [National Security Unit] has pushed for legislation improvements and hopefully we are moving in the right direction.”
Robert Trestan, New England regional director of the ADL, isn’t buying the response.
“Since the server is within their jurisdiction, they have a responsibility to act,” he said in an interview. “American courts have no authority over Iceland.”
The Mapping Project – which has generated headlines internationally – appeared online in early June, just before Shavuot. The website features an interactive map singling out scores of “Zionist leaders” and Jewish communal organizations in Massachusetts, saying they are complicit in harming Palestinians. It lists names and addresses and calls for them to be “disrupted” and “dismantled.”
Among the 497 entities targeted are Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, and the ADL itself. Also on the list are smaller groups with no particular political agendas, including an arts organization and a Jewish high school. The Jewish Journal is on the map, too, as are hundreds of so-called “agents of oppression” – Harpoon Breweries, Berklee College of Music – whose missions were perceived to intersect with those of the Jewish groups.
On its website, organizers state: “We are a multi-generational collective of activists and organizers on the land of the Massachusett, Pawtucket, Naumkeag, and other tribal nations (Boston, Cambridge, and surrounding areas) who wanted to develop a deeper understanding of local institutional support for the colonization of Palestine and harms that we see as linked, such as policing, US imperialism, and displacement/ethnic cleansing. Our work is grounded in the realization that oppressors share tactics and institutions – and that our liberation struggles are connected. We wanted to visualize these connections in order to see where our struggles intersect and to strategically grow our local organizing capacities.”
The website has been swiftly condemned by lawmakers and Jewish leaders. The FBI announced it was getting involved.
The website was initially hosted on the U.S.-based Internet domain GoDaddy, but was taken down before popping up again on a Bulgarian domain.
“We reached out to Bulgaria, and then it went to Iceland,” said Trestan. Now it’s hosted by an Icelandic service called 1984 Hosting, describing itself as “Iceland’s biggest web hosting company by far.”
“Other hosts removed the Mapping Project for doxing the Jewish community. Why is #Iceland giving it a home?” the ADL tweeted.
According to its website, one of 1984’s core values is “to always go the extra mile to protect our customers’ civil rights, including the freedom of expression [and] the right to anonymity and privacy.”
The provider, 1984 Hosting, declined to respond to a phone call and an email from the Journal.
Trestan said the ADL first reached out to Icelandic authorities on June 22 to make them aware of the threat. In a letter to the country’s minister for foreign affairs, Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s chief executive officer, wrote: “While we deeply respect freedom of expression, this website crosses the line into specific threats against individuals and institution … [We] ask that your government take expeditious measures to prevent this website from being hosted in your country.”
“The question is: Is Iceland willing to harbor and become a safe haven for people who want to not just disseminate hate but pose a security risk?” Trestan said. “This is about the Boston Jewish community, but what if it’s another group that poses a threat to people of color, or immigrants, or from the LGBTQ+ community, or in another country?”
He referenced the statement from Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which said the country “is a strong supporter of equality and non-discrimination. Any incitement to violence and hate is anathema to these principles and should be resisted.”
“If that’s true, then they should be taking action against this website,” Trestan said. “You can’t just say you adhere to these principles. You need to act.”
Linda Matchan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org