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Anti-Semitism in the European Union:
Finland

(Updated December 2003)


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The Finnish Jewish community is rather small (1500 members) of the overall Finnish population of 5.2 million. In Finland, the Jews are well integrated into society and are represented in nearly all sectors of it. Most of them live in the metropolitan area of Helsinki, with small numbers of members living also in the cities of Turku and Tampere. Due to Finland’s continuing pro-Arab attitude since the 1967 Six Day War, there were minor threats against the Jewish community during the Middle East crisis. In the monitoring period there have also been many pro-Palestine demonstrations and movements directed against the government of Israel and its actions in the Palestinian areas. These activities cannot be evaluated as anti-Semitic; nevertheless there is always a possibility that they can create extreme expressions of opinion, so that people may no longer distinguish the Israeli government from the Jewish people, thus increasing the danger of anti-Semitic thoughts and acts.

1. Physical acts of violence

On 6 May a window of the Jewish synagogue in the centre of Helsinki located on the building’s 2nd floor was smashed and raw eggs thrown against the walls at the Jewish Community Building. The attack was carried out by a group of about 10 skinheads. This is the first time that an incident of this kind has occurred in Helsinki.

Earlier in the spring there were two bomb threats. One bomb threat was not reported at all in the media and the other one was reported on different scales depending on the paper.

2. Verbal aggression/hate speech

Direct threats

The Jewish community in Helsinki has received threatening letters throughout the spring, especially in the earlier part, but also in May.

Telephone

Earlier this spring, at the same time as the Israeli army invaded the city of Jenin, the Finnish Jewish community began to receive threatening phone calls on a daily basis. Also in the monitoring period covered by this report there have been threatening phone calls to the Jewish Community Centre because of the recent incidents in the Middle East.

On 4 April an anonymous telephone bomb threat to a Jewish school in Helsinki caused the evacuation of the Helsinki synagogue and the Jewish old people’s home. No device was found.

Graffiti and anti-Semitic inscriptions

There has not been much anti-Semitic graffiti in Helsinki. While most of the graffiti expresses pro-Palestine sentiments, some of it is also very anti-Israeli.

Publicly distributed leaflets

Pro-Palestine movements have distributed their leaflets on many occasions. Some of these leaflets contain (extreme) anti-Israeli material, and others have asked people to boycott Israeli products to help attain peace in Israel.

Media

According to a representative of the Jewish community in Helsinki , Jews are blamed for what happens in Israel and the news and articles in the Finnish media have tended to be biased about issues dealing with the situation in Israel. He believes that the anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish tone of these writings could have been intentional or unintentional. He also sees that the recent development of anti-Semitism in Europe may lead to an increase in anti-Semitic acts in Finland.

Some of the writers of letters to newspapers have expressed their concern over the way the Finnish media handles the situation in Middle East. Some writers see that the media can really damage the general picture of Jews and weaken their position in society by presenting news from a narrow point of view, without taking all relevant matters into consideration.

Public discourse

The Archbishop, when referring to the situation in Middle East, said that the borders of a state cannot be drawn with the help of the Old Testament’s guidelines. He has agreed that the Jewish people are God’s chosen people, but still this fact should not affect how Christians react to the policy the Israeli government practices. Some people reacted very strongly to the Archbishop’s opinions. They could not understand how the Archbishop of the Finnish Lutheran Church could criticise the actions of the Israeli government. Others believed that he showed a great deal of courage by expressing his opinions on the situation in Middle East.

Internet

In some of the Internet’s news groups and chat rooms there has been discussion about the situation in Israel. The opinions have been both pro-Palestine and pro-Israel. On some occasions the discussion has been impolite from both sides. Hence, there are some anti-Semitic opinions in Internet chat rooms. It is common in these Internet discussions that people cite the Bible in making their arguments. Some argue that the Bible says that Jews are the chosen people of God and now they are persecuted as the Bible has predicted; others argue that the Jews killed Jesus and they will always be blamed for this.

3. Research studies

During the period no research studies were done in the field.

4. Good practice for reducing prejudice, violence and aggression

FLHR interviewed the representative of the Friends of Israel Association, who said that they have done a lot of work to reduce prejudice and violence towards Jews. The main method for doing this has been the dissemination of information. They have organised events informing the public about Israel and the Jewish culture. Some speakers have come from Israel to give lectures about the situation in Israel. There was also one pro-Israel demonstration on 11 May 2002.

5. Reactions by politicians and other opinion leaders

There has not been much discussion about the increase of anti-Semitism; more generally politicians have expressed their concern about a rise in support for extreme right-wing parties in Europe. Politicians and parties have declared that this kind of development is unacceptable in Finland and that a lot of work must be done to prevent this development from also taking place here.


Sources: C.R.I.F. - Released by the European Jewish Congress

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