Antisemitism Reaches Finland and Government Slow to Respond
Israel’s ambassador has been raising the issue for years, but only now are the authorities responding
Four months after Israeli news portal Ynet exposed a wave of harassment against the Israeli embassy, the Finnish Foreign Minister finally condemned the attacks following a surge in antisemitic incidents targeting Finland’s Jewish community over the past two years.
About a week ago, yellow patches with the Star of David and JUDE inscribed (the Nazi tag on Jews) were pasted on the Jewish community compound and opposite the Israeli embassy building in Helsinki. The incident comes after at least 20 similar episodes in the last two years, including neo-Nazis smashing down the doors of the Israel Embassy.
Local Christians led by the State Lutheran Church joined together with the Jewish community in a show of solidarity in front of the Helsinki Synagogue, which is the only one in the country. The demonstration was attended by hundreds, including religious leaders of the Russian-speaking Muslim community and other friends of Israel in the media. Also present were representatives from the diplomatic community, including ambassadors from Germany, Austria, Hungary and Israel’s ambassador in Finland, Dubi Segev Steinberg.
Thousands of flowers donated by various shops around the city were placed on the fence surrounding the synagogue in response to the yellow hate patches. The Foreign Minister of Finland was the main speaker at the event and addressed the spread of antisemitism in the country, adding a strong condemnation and emphasizing the need to protect the Jewish community. “Finland is a country where there is no place for antisemitism of any kind, including threats, ridicule, negative attitudes and expressions of hatred against religions and minorities,” the minister said. “It is important that we respond quickly, and this event constitutes a compelling demonstration that the Finnish people do not accept this phenomenon. The Finnish people condemn these actions targeting the synagogue in Helsinki, the Jewish community and the Israeli embassy.”
In an interview with two Lutheran weekly newspapers in Helsinki immediately following the gathering in support of the Jewish community, the foreign minister said that he wished to “express the country’s solidarity with the Jews in Finland, which is a country in which all groups must live in peace with freedom of religion. Actions that threaten and interfere are obscene and unacceptable. The most dramatic of these is the deceitful narrative that denies the Holocaust. That worries me, but at least today at this event we have an active group that responds in the opposite direction,” the minister said.
Israeli Ambassador to Finland Segev Steinberg thanked the foreign minister and called on the Finnish Government to take all necessary measures to combat the phenomenon of antisemitism and to protect the small Jewish community, about 2,000 people, the Israel Embassy, and its representatives and employees. “Silence is in fact acceptance and consent, and we must not wait for another catastrophe,” concluded the ambassador.
Over the past two years, the Israeli embassy building has faced a wave of abuse from the radical right and neo-Nazis. Among other things, the entrance to the building was plastered with graffiti of swastikas, pictures of Hitler, and more. In February, there was an illegal demonstration of neo-Nazi elements on the entrance stairs to the building. Israel’s ambassador has frequently raised the issue to the relevant and senior officials in Finland. However, the Israeli appeals notwithstanding, Finnish authorities failed to put an end to the incessant harassment.
At last year’s Finnish Independence Day celebration on December 6, Nazi flags were brought to the center of the city by some right-wing groups. Following these blatant antisemitic demonstrations, the Interior Minister Kai-Makonnen said that in Finland there is a right to free expression. The President of Finland, on the other hand, in his annual media interview at the end of the year said that such phenomena had no place in his country.