‘Israel is a scum state’ removed from Finnish paper's site

Amnesty International disassociates itself from branch head’s blog.

August 26, 2010 06:05
2 minute read.
Head of Amnesty International in Finland, Frank Johansson

Frank Johansson 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

BERLIN – A blog entry in a Finnish newspaper’s Web site by the head of country’s Amnesty International branch, Frank Johansson, which termed Israel a “scum state,” is no longer online following an inquiry into the matter by The Jerusalem Post.

Speaking from Helsinki, Asmo Halinnen, head of Iltalehti’s Web section, told the Post Wednesday that “he [Johansson] removed the blog post,” adding that “All of the blog writings on our site are the opinion of the writer.”

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When asked if there is a policy barring anti-Semitic and racist blogs, Halinnen referred the query to Iltalehti’s editor-in-chief, Kari Kivelä . The top editor did not immediately reply to an e-mail query and telephone call.
The Post reported Wednesday about the blog, which prompted a flurry of activity at AI’s headquarters in London.

In an e-mail to the Post on Wednesday, Johansson wrote, “I decided to take down my blog because I appreciate that my comments were ill-judged and appear all the more so when taken out of context, and have obviously caused offence to many people although it was not my intention, at all, to cause such offence.”

He added “I am especially conscious, and regret that my ill-judged action may be detrimental to Amnesty International’s work on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the valiant human rights work being undertaken by my colleagues working for Amnesty International in Israel.”

Amnesty spokeswoman Susanna Flood said, “Johansson remains as the director of Amnesty International in Finland.

“Obviously, we regret it if such a term was used by an individual whose personal views could be misunderstood as reflecting those of Amnesty International, and we disassociate Amnesty International fully and clearly from such comments and we are making this clear to Mr Johansson,” Flood told the Post. “Amnesty International has never described Israel as a ‘scum state’ or used any such terms to describe Israel,” she added.

Finnish media watchdog site, Tundra Tabloids, which exposed the blog on Monday, said that the post’s removal was “not good enough, there needs to be a full apology coming from AI chairman Frank Johansson.”

Web site editor-in-chief Kenneth Sikorski had criticized Johansson’s attacks remarks on Israel as anti-Semitic.

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, head of the watchdog group NGO Monitor, told the Post on Wednesday, “The removal of the offensive anti-Israel language from Johansson’s blog in no way removes the stain from Amnesty’s record. Anyone who holds such discriminatory views and uses the language of hatred has no place in an organization that claims to promote universal human rights. Similarly, Amnesty’s weak response to the immoral attack against the Jewish state reflects a corporate culture and agenda that promote the very discrimination that officials claim to condemn. Amnesty head Salil Shetty has the responsibility to put an immediate end to this bias.”

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