European Commission Coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, Katharina von Schnurbein, has called on the Finnish authorities 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,” Ms. Von Schnurbein said in interview with state broadcaster Yle, adding that awareness of antisemitism was 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, in line with the EU strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life.
In Finland, antisemitism or Holocaust denial are not punishable offences, though they could amount to incitement to hatred, which is a criminal act.
During a recent visit to Finland, von Schnurbein heard the Jewish community’s concerns regarding changes to animal welfare laws that could prevent shechita.
“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.”
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 concluded.