Israel envoy rebukes Amnesty over Finnish remarks

Wiesenthal Center calls for inquiry into group’s charity status in the UK after ‘scum state’ critique.

Granot 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Granot 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
BERLIN – Amid growing controversy around the anti-Israeli head of the Finnish Amnesty International branch, Frank Johansson, Israeli Ambassador to Finland Avi Granot and the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Thursday issued stinging rebukes of Amnesty’s approach to Israel and human rights.
“Amnesty International professes to be a neutral body that cares about human rights. When, a priori, AI can call any free democratic state a ‘scum state,’ he [Johansson] is not suitable for the position he is holding. To call Israel a ‘scum state’ offends 7.5 million people,” Granot told The Jerusalem Post from Helsinki on Thursday.
Granot said Amnesty, which has dissociated itself from Johansson’s branding of Israel as “scum state” on a blog, missed the point: Johansson has a “public position,” he said, and that “takes away the whole idea that this is a private matter.”
While publishing commentary denigrating Israel on the Web site of the large circulation Finnish tabloid, Iltalehti, Johansson identified himself as the chairman of the Finnish Amnesty branch.
Asked about Israeli-Finnish relations, Granot noted that “Finland is very friendly country to Israel.
We have good relations.”
Preparations are under way for Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb to visit Israel in October, Granot said.
Dr. Shimon Samuels, head of the international department of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris, asked in a letter sent to the United Kingdom Charity Commission on Thursday that an inquiry be mounted into Amnesty’s non-profit status.
Pending the outcome of the inquiry, Samuels asked UK Charity Commission chairwoman Dame Susan Leather to order that Amnesty’s “tax privileges be suspended and that the organization be treated by the Charity Commission as any other alien political agency with an address of convenience in the UK.”
According to Samuels, “AI, on its Web site, indicates its London address as the focal point for its global fundraising campaign. It is therefore clear that AI, through its various representations, must comply with the audit requirements and values enunciated by the Charity Commission.”
Citing Johansson’s description of Israel as a “scum state” in his letter, Samuels wrote that “AI is apparently reluctant to modify its constant and obsessive assaults on the State of Israel, even when it reaches such despicable depths. It is thus complicit by omission in the anti-Semitic statements of its Finnish representative.”
Susanna Flood, a spokeswoman for Amnesty in London, told the Post by email, “We do not consider that this instance provides grounds to call into question either Amnesty International’s integrity and commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights or, indeed, its charitable status in the UK.”
Samuels, from the Wiesenthal Center, also called on the Charity Commission “to launch an official enquiry into AI’s politicization and possible contribution to a climate of hatred that affects Jewish communities globally.”