Helsinki vs. Israel: Finland’s capital wants to limit business with Judea and Samaria

Helsinki council members ignored legal advice, and passed a motion to stop the City trading with businesses in Judea and Samaria.

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

The council running Finland’s capital wants to ban the city municipality from doing any business with companies that “benefit from the illegal Israeli occupation” in Judea and Samaria, against the advice of their own lawyers.

Council members were told by the municipality’s lawyers that the measure did not fall within the law, but have rejected that view, voting 8-7 to ask the lawyers to reconsider so that they can press ahead.

The motion was backed by members of the Social Democratic Party, the Greens, and the Left Alliance, but was opposed by Conservatives and other right wing members.

Risto Huvila, Chairman of the Federation of Finland-Israel Associations, commented in an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post: “This decision, taken by the city board members of the social democratic party, the Greens and the left alliance not only highlights their limited knowledge of history, but also demonstrates the fact that they have all adopted a strong antisemitic mindset, in which Israel – the only Jewish state in the world and the only democracy in the Middle East – is also the only country in which Helsinki seeks to impose sanctions.”

He added: “In addition to Israel, a possible boycott would primarily target companies owned or run by Jews. Does this sound familiar?”

The move was reported on approvingly by Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest newspaper, which praised the members who passed the motion for their courage and values.

According to Manfred Gerstenfeld, former Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the paper has a history of antisemitism.

“The Helsingin Sanomat, the nation’s largest subscription newspaper, devoted an entire page to review a book by Israeli Avraham Burg on Holocaust Memorial Day in 2009. Thus Finnish readers learned from this leftist that “Jews are obsessed with the Holocaust and need to get over it,” he noted in an article published by Arutz Sheva, adding: “Middle East conflict related issues found their distorted way into the paper’s ‘Reality of the Holocaust’ series.”

According to Gerstenfeld, the paper “also published a cartoon depicting a scene from 1943 of a German guard holding a bar of ‘Jew-free-soap’,” and interviewed a “young Jewish woman who explained that she prefers to live in Iran where Jews and Muslims have friendly relations, rather than in Israel. She added that Ayatollah Khomenei had built a just republic which cared for religious minorities.”

Gerstenfeld interviewed Ken Sikorski, an American ex-pat who has been living in Finland since 1987, where he publishes the Tundra Tabloids blog, exposing Finnish antisemitism.

According to Sikorski, a rift has opened up in the country over the matter, and is even driving a division within the Lutheran state church.

“The official attitude of the Lutheran Church vis-a-vis the Jewish community is one of joint cooperation and mutual respect. Increasingly however, activists within the church’s outreach organizations such as Finn Church Aid (FCA) and its Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) attack Israel policies,” Sikorski told Gerstenfeld.

He continued: “Antti Pentikäinen – brother of Mikael Pentikäinen, editor-in-chief of the Helsingin Sanomat – has recently been appointed head of the FCA. He stated publicly that pro-Israel support by Lutheran Christians is one of the reasons for the continuation of the conflict. Pentikäinen also says that pro-Israel church members should no longer be allowed to use the church facilities.”

But the antisemitism isn’t only coming from the left. Sikorski reports that Finland’s Muslim community, which stands at about 50,000 people, vastly outnumbering the 1,500 Jews in Finland, have begun to align with left leaning groups over antisemitism, although to a lesser extent than in other European countries.

“Mohammad Azzizi, who was involved in an anti-Israel demonstration, was elected in 2012 to the Helsinki municipal council. I myself have witnessed Muslims giving the Nazi salute or shouting Allahu Akbar during pro-Israel rallies,” Sikorski said.