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World Jewish Congress condemns Finnish MP's Gaza protest

Left Alliance MP Anna Kontula was also accused of anti-Semitism by the Jewish Community of Helsinki.

Anna Kontula was arrested on the Israeli-Gaza border and held by police for 10 hours. Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

The World Jewish Congress, an international federation of Jewish communities and organisations, has criticised Finnish MP Anna Kontula's attempt to demonstrate against the blockade of the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

The congress accused Kontula of holding Israel "fully to blame" for the humanitarian and economic consequences of the blockade, thus ignoring Egypt's role in Gaza. This singling out of Israel is, according to the congress, a double standard that amounts to an expression of anti-Semitism.

"Holding Israel to a double standard not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation is never legitimate, and in fact constitutes an expression of antisemitism," the congress said in a press release.

In a Facebook post (siirryt toiseen palveluun) written in Finnish, the Jewish Community of Helsinki has also questioned Kontula's actions.

"By criticizing only the Israeli embargo on Gaza, and without any criticism of or action against a similar embargo by Egypt, the MP is, according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition, quite likely guilty of anti-Semitism," the community wrote.

Israel and Egypt imposed a land, air and sea blockade of the Gaza strip in 2007 after Hamas took control of the territory. Israel’s justification for the blockade is to curb the activities of the militant organisation and to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.

According to the UN however, the blockade of Gaza is a "flagrant violation of international law (siirryt toiseen palveluun)" as it prevents food and medicine from reaching the citizens of Gaza, with about one million people in the area in need of immediate food aid because of the blockade.

Kontula defended her actions

Kontula was arrested by Israeli police on the Gaza-Israeli border on Monday alongside members of an international activist group.

She was released after being held in custody for about ten hours, telling STT news agency on Tuesday that she wanted to draw attention to the plight of the people of Gaza by protesting against the blockade, as well as highlighting Finland’s arms trade with Israel.

"Finland's arms trade with Israel sends a political message that Israel's occupation of more than half a century and serious violations of international law have no consequences," Kontula said.

The Left Alliance MP further defended her actions by emphasising the importance of the issue.

"There are issues, when the attention of the world is elsewhere, that conventional means, even those of a politician, are not enough to put them on the global agenda, but where the issue is still so important that it deserves attention," Kontula said.