Amnesty head calls Israel 'scum state'

By Jennifer Lipman, August 25, 2010
The post has now been removed

The post has now been removed

The chairman of human rights organisation Amnesty International in Finland has described Israel as a “scum state”, prompting a call for him to resign.

Frank Johansson made the comment on a blog the Finnish tabloid newspaper Iltalehti.

The phrase used by Mr Johansson was “Israel on nikkimaa”, which one Finnish blogger also translated as meaning “punk”.

Referring to discussions with a friend who had lived in Israel for several years, he added: “he has come to the conclusion that 'Israel is a scum state.'

“On the basis of my own visit, which occurred during the 1970s and 1990s for the final time, I agree."

The post, which went on to criticise the Israeli soldier who posted photographs of herself with Palestinian detainees on Facebook, has now been removed from the site.

Mr Johansson said he had not been “in any way expressing the views of Amnesty International.”

He said: “I recognise that my comments were ill-judged and appear all the more so when taken out of context.

“I very much regret that my comments caused offence and it was not my intention, at all, to do so.

“I am conscious, and regret, that my ill-judged action may be detrimental to the valiant human rights work being undertaken by my colleagues working for Amnesty International in Israel.

Jonathan Sacerdoti, director of public affairs for the Zionist Federation, criticised Mr Johansson for "openly displaying prejudice" and said the statement was "at odds with the facts".

He called on Amnesty Interantional to condemn the comment, and to freeze links to Amnesty Finland until Johansson resigns.

He added: "We further call on you to end all of Amnesty’s actions in demonising Israel.

"The blog clearly provides readers with Johansson’s title, thus associating his deplorable comments with Amnesty.

"It is no less appalling whether he said it in his official capacity or otherwise.

"That Amnesty is represented by someone with such a view is disgraceful."

NGO Monitor's advisory board, which includes Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, said they condemned the "unacceptable" remarks.

"It does not help those that have legitimate human rights grievances.

"His statement is indicative of the anti-Israeli ideology that has permeated Amnesty International, leading to one-sided calls for an arms embargo against Israel, false accusations of Israeli 'war crimes' and 'deliberate attacks on civilians'.”

They called for the Finnish branch of Amnesty to be suspended until Mr. Johansson agreed to resign and said there should be "an independent evaluation of biases in Amnesty's activities and publications, particularly related to Israel."

In April Amnesty International came under criticism for holding a meeting about Israel's policy in east Jerusalem under the title of "Capital Murder" and featuring the author of a book on Israeli "apartheid".

The organisation also had to issue an apology in January for alleging that the co-chairs of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel had committed “war crimes” by defending Israel.

Last updated: 12:00pm, August 30 2010