A Jewish member of Finland’s parliament said that he was assaulted in a Helsinki subway station on Saturday, where an assailant punched him in the face and hurled antisemitic insults.
Ben Berl Zyskowicz, a member of the conservative-leaning National Coalition Party, said that in addition to the antisemitic comments, the assailant blamed him for Finland’s recent attempts to join the NATO alliance, the Associated Press reported.
How did Zyskowicz respond to the attack?
Zyskowicz, who is the son of a Polish Holocaust survivor and a Finnish Jew, added that he was unfazed but felt the attack had dire meaning for democracy in Finland.
“Physically attacking candidates must under no circumstances become part of Finnish society, even as a completely marginal phenomenon,” Zyskowicz said according to Finnish media.
President Sauli Niinisto called the alleged assault an “offense against the people’s power.”
According to Finnish police, the assailant was apprehended the same day, though his identity has not been revealed.
Jewish life in Finland
Fewer than 2,000 Jews live in Finland, according to the World Jewish Congress, but in 2021, the Helsinki Jewish Community reported they spend nearly half a million euros a year on security. Last year, the European Union’s antisemitism commissioner criticized Finland for not having an official framework to deal with antisemitic crimes in the country.
Finland has long taken a neutral position on Russia, a country it shares a border with. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February has reignited debate in the Scandinavian nation over NATO membership. Zyskowicz’s National Coalition Party has been advocating NATO membership for decades.