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Jews in Finland face discrimination, EU antisemitism expert says

Finnish law does not recognise antisemitic discrimination, according to Katharina von Schnurbein.

Katharina von Schnurbein has been working as the European Commission's first coordinator on combating antisemitism. Image: ullstein bild/ All Over Press

The EU's antisemitism watchdog, Katharina von Schnurbein, told Yle that Finnish authorities need to do more to combat hate speech, including antisemitic narratives.

"Our surveys suggest that one in two Europeans sees antisemitism as a problem in their home country. Among Finns that figure is 17 percent," she said, noting that Finland's relatively small Jewish community may have impacted the results.

Some 1,500 people in Finland practice Judaism.

Schnurbein noted that antisemitic awareness was also relatively low in Finland.

"If we want to fight antisemitism, we have to make that effort visible," she said.

On a practical level, von Schnurbein said she wanted to see Finland take a stronger approach in tackling different forms of hate speech, including Holocaust denial, a point the Commission also made last year.

In Finland, antisemitism or Holocaust denial are not punishable offences, though they could amount to incitement to hatred, which is a criminal act.

Religious slaughter

During a recent visit to Finland, von Schnurbein heard the Jewish community's concerns regarding changes to animal welfare laws that could prevent Kosher slaughter, a non-stun slaughter method.

"We can't only consider the animals—we also have to think about the people. Ritual slaughter is important for Jews and Tatars. We're not talking about many animals," von Schnurbein explained.

She highlighted Finland's reputation as a forerunner in human rights and equality matters.

"It would be interesting to see what equality means in terms of this aspect," she said. "Growing antisemitism threatens other freedoms—other groups face discrimination and hate increases."

Antisemitic conspiracy theories

The pandemic had sparked a new wave of antisemitism, according to von Schnurbein.

"It didn't take long for Jews to be blamed for developing and profiting from the virus," she said.

Across Europe, some people opposing Covid passes and vaccinations have drawn parallels to the oppression and persecution of Jewish people in Nazi Germany.

"This type of minimisation is dangerous", she said, adding that Russia's claims of "denazifying" Ukraine are another example of Holocaust history distortion.

The EU's new Digital Services Act aims to combat online disinformation and hate speech, including antisemitism.

"Finland is a small language area which is why we also need Finnish-language experts to locate antisemitic content," she said.

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