1,000 Finns rally for an undivided Jerusalem

Finnish government defends participation in Durban III process in New York, says can't change process from the outside.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
September 22, 2011 13:13
4 minute read.
Pro-Israel rally in Finland 311

Finland pro Israel rally 311. (photo credit: Martti Kortelainen)

A contingent over over 1,000 Finns showed up last week at rally in Helsinki to call for Jerusalem to remain the undivided capital of the Jewish state.

Jouni Suninen, a pro-Israel activist who attended the rally in Helsinki, told The Jerusalem Post via e-mail on Wednesday, “ I went there to support the undivided Jerusalem. There were many speakers. I remember Gideon Bolotowski from the Helsinki Jewish Community, Pekka Sartola who has written many books from Israel/ Palestine, MEP [member of European Parliament] Hannu Takkula, in Finland , and well known singer Viktor Klimenko, and some 3-4 other speakers whom I did not know before.

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"They spoke briefly and right to the point, expressing in clear terms why Jerusalem must not be divided. In the end a manifest was read, directed to President Halonen and the Finnish Government. It was summary of the speeches held.”

Suninen, who traveled from his hometown Kouvola to attend the rally last week in Helsinki, said that the "Finns are against division of Jerusalem if they know Middle East political history, the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Convention and the Palestine Mandate. They are for division if they do not know these things."

Most Finns, he added, "do not know, unfortunately, although we are working hard to spread correct information. Then there are of course religious people who trust on Bible and are against division for religious reasons.”

Finland defends Durban participation

While most of the major European democracies have pulled out of the Durban III anti-racist conference slated for Thursday, saying that the event is plagued by racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, Finland and other northern European countries are moving forward with their participation in the event.

In an e-mail to the Post on Wednesday, Director of the Human Rights Policy Unit and the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Erik Lundberg wrote that  “Finland considers the work against racism and discrimination, in all its forms, a high political priority."

Finland, he said, "has been constructively participating in and supporting the Durban process and all the UN work against racisim and discrimination. Finland will participate in the Durban meeting at ministerial level.”

He continued that “We support an outcome that gives strong political support for the continued work against racism and discrimination in all its forms. We regret the fact that the process has been politicized and hope that we can refocus on the original purpose of the Durban Process and Program of action, i.e. the struggle against racism and discrimination in all its forms at the national and international levels.”

Kenneth Sikorski, a veteran observer of Finnish-Israeli relations, told the Post on Wednesday that “the recent Finnish pro-Israel rally proves that grass-roots support for the Jewish state remains unchanged, with pro-Israel supporters filling the streets of Helsinki on an average of once every 2 to 3 years over the past decade."

The Finnish political establishment, he added, "maintains a friendly relationship with Israel, more so than the neighboring states of Sweden and Norway. But Finland has proven time and again to hide behind the skirts of international institutions like the EU and the UN, and will usually vote according to how the majority votes.“ They plan to attend this years Durban III conference in New York, as they did a couple of years ago at Durban II in Geneva Switzerland.”

Sikorksi, who lives in Finland and is editor-in-chief of the popular Tundra Tabloids website, which monitors hatred of Israel in the Scandinavian countries, added that “Yes they walked out during Ahamdinejad's speech but not until it became clear that other member states participating were doing the same.“

He said the Finnish Foreign Ministry told him that in connection with Durban III, the “Finns wish to influence the other participants to moderation, and that can't be done if Finland doesn't participate itself. The fact that the anti-Israel platform to these events are hammered out way in advance did not register at all with the press secretary.”

Sikorski said there is not an ”official Finnish position on the [Palestinian statehood bid in the UN] situation, “adding that “the present mindset of the present FM (SDP), which tells me that if he had the chance to influence the Finnish government, he would vote for the recognizing of a Palestinian state.”

Suninen said that the goal of the pro-Israel rally was” to get a message to the Finnish government, which unfortunately, right now contains some Israel-haters like Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja.”


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