Finland's capital attack on Israel

Helsinki's city government obligated officials to take actions to stop the city from cooperating with companies that “benefit from the illegal Israeli occupation” in Judea and Samaria.

 Tiedosto: Helsinki City Hall (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
Tiedosto: Helsinki City Hall
(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)

It seems that there are still some politicians in Europe that haven’t learnt lessons from past atrocities.

The leading newspaper in Finland, Helsingin Sanomat, reported on recently that the city of Helsinki, the capital of Finland, intends to attack Israel with the help of its procurement lawyers. The story centers around a decision that the city government made on November 8 obliging city officials and lawyers to take actions to stop the city from cooperating with companies that “benefit from the illegal Israeli occupation” in Judea and Samaria which is 4,000 kilometers from Helsinki. Practically, this would mean mainly Israeli/Jewish-owned businesses that serve both Arabs and Jews in those areas.

The move had already been reviewed and rejected by the city’s legal department which determined that it was legally impossible to pursue, but nonetheless, red-green members of the city government, still dissatisfied with their response, insisted on a new vote in order to return it back to the lawyers for a new consideration. The city board subsequently approved the initiative by an 8-7 vote, with conservatives and right-wing parties opposing it. Helsingin Sanomat, was delighted with the decision, and praised politicians for their courage and values.

This decision, taken by the city board members of the social democratic party, the Greens and the left alliance not only highlights their limited knowledge of history, but also demonstrates the fact that they have all adopted a strong antisemitic mindset, in which Israel - the only Jewish state in the world and the only democracy in the Middle East - is also the only country in which Helsinki seeks to impose sanctions. In addition to Israel, a possible boycott would primarily target companies owned or run by Jews. Does this sound familiar? 

The decision made by a city government is reminiscent of German society in the 1930s, when Jews and their businesses were first harassed, then persecuted, and little by little destroyed. From thoughts, speeches, writings, and political decisions, antisemitism progressed to the destruction of thousands of synagogues and shops on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, solely as a result of being Jewish owned. Just seven years later, six million Jews had been murdered in the Holocaust by the same Nazi regime. It is somewhat grotesque that Kristallnacht remembrance day was just marked on the very day the news of Helsingin Sanomat was published. The decision of the city government reflects that same antisemitic spirit.

If the politicians in Helsinki were truly just, fair and interested in promoting human rights – as they believe themselves to be - they would attack the real human rights violators, those who harass, imprison and even kill dissidents, infidels, Jews and Christians around the world. Yes, these countries can be easily identified, but the politicians are reluctant to do so, as it would have a hugely negative impact on capital’s flow of tourists and income.

Helsinki's politician can also adopt the IHRA working Definition of antisemitism, that was adopted by dozens of countries and municipalities around the world. The IHRA clearly states that it is antisemitism is " Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation," and antisemitic discrimination is "the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others."

Helsinki is just one sad example from around the world, where antisemitism is on the rise, on a local level and government level. Politicians are often masking their antisemitic actions as a “fight for human rights”, but de facto, it is all about antisemitism, because they always target on Jews and Israel. 

It is about time that elected officials, business leaders and activists understand that advancing peaceful solution in the Middle East and making the Jewish community around the world safer is about bringing people together, rather than trying to target Jews or Israelis. 

The writer is Chairman of the Federation of Finland-Israel Associations and Vice-Chair of the Finnish Holocaust Remembrance Association. Mr. Huvila is also the author of the book “The Miracle of Israel and President Truman."  This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Sacha Stawski.