In letter to ‘Post,’ Finland vows to fight antisemitism and racism

This comes after the Israel Embassy was vandalized 15 times in the last year and a half

August 15, 2019 04:55
2 minute read.
Finland's flag flutters in Helsinki, Finland, May 3, 2017

Finland's flag flutters in Helsinki, Finland, May 3, 2017. (photo credit: INTS KALNINS / REUTERS)

In response to the continued harassment in the country, Finland’s Ambassador Kirsikka Lehto-Asikainen wrote a letter to The Jerusalem Post after it published a report of the most recent attack, making it clear that the Finnish government is taking this situation very seriously.

Israel’s Embassy in Finland has been vandalized by neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists 15 times in the last 18 months. The most recent attack was just three weeks ago, when the glass front door of the embassy in Helsinki was shattered, and images of swastikas and Adolf Hitler were hung in the entrance to the building, according to JTA.

“The Finnish authorities relate to any suspected hate crime or act of racism, including those with antisemitic motives, with utmost concern,” Lehto-Asikainen said. “Finland is committed to combating antisemitism as a part of its activities to fight discrimination and racism in order to guarantee the right of freedom of religion and opinion.” She stressed the police in Helsinki and Finland’s Foreign Ministry “have regular contact with the Embassy of Israel in Helsinki regarding security issues” and will increase police in the area.

“Relevant Finnish authorities have taken actions in this respect,” Lehto-Asikainen continued in the letter. “These actions include increasing police patrols to monitor the Israeli Embassy and the residence premises. The reported crimes and incidents are currently being investigated by the authorities.”

The Post published an opinion piece on August 3 referring to the troublesome nature of the July 25 attack and its effect on diplomacy.

According to the ambassador, antisemitic crimes are relatively uncommon in Finland. However, she made it clear that they do “share the concern on the increase of antisemitism in Europe and worldwide.”

“The Finnish government has adopted the working definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance formulation on antisemitism,” she wrote. “We implement and promote it nationally, within the European Union and internationally.” Lehto-Asikainen highlighted that Israel and Finland have a “long-standing, strong and diverse” relationship.

“We have active cooperation in the fields of trade and economy, culture and science,” she said, adding that Finland’s Embassy in Tel Aviv “is striving for strengthening further dialogue and cooperation between our countries together with our honorary consuls in Israel.”

She also made it clear that the two countries “have lots of common interests,” including in the innovation, hi-tech and start-up sectors. She added that Israel and Finland’s people-to-people relations are also vibrant.

“More and more Israeli tourists visit Finland,” she said. “Next year, we will celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations between Finland and Israel.” Lehto-Asikainen also emphasized that there is “close and active cooperation” between the Finnish Interior Ministry, the police and the Jewish community in Finland to combat antisemitism and security threats to the community.

“Government funding is allocated to improve and ensure the safety of the synagogue and the community center in Helsinki,” she wrote, making it clear that confronting antisemitism, racism and xenophobia is a common endeavor, and that “Finland takes part in this cooperation.” The ambassador also said that Finland has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to any issues of racism, with the government being “committed to combating discrimination in all sectors of society.”

“The promotion of human rights, the rule of law, democracy, peace, freedom, tolerance and equality also forms the central element of the value base on which Finland’s foreign and security policy rests,” she concluded.

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