Foreign Minister Tuomioja´s interview to the Israeli television (IBA)

Foreign Minister Tuomioja´s interview to the Israeli television (IBA)

- Do you think the conduct of Israel towards the Palestinians reminds you of the conduct of the Nazis during the second world war?

- I have to be very clear on this. I have never compared the Israeli policies to the Nazi policies. It would be totally inappropriate and historically quite wrong. There is no comparison in this respect. What I have noted, however, is that there are some features in the Israeli political debate which do not - as far as I know – represent a majority opinion, but which appear to us a discriminatory, and I would say quit harrassing policies towards the Palestinians. But even if they are a minority opinion, we have to pay attention to them, as we have to pay attention to many other opinions or even more deeds which endanger the very fragile prospect for peace.

- But, Mr. Minister, you mentioned Nazi policies in the context of your criticism of the Israeli policies. You cannot deny it?

- I have never compared Israeli politics with Nazi policies. That is quite clear, but I only mentioned in this context some minority views concerning the treatment of the Palestinians that bear some resemblance, and that is that. I don’t want to make any further comparisions.

- Your remarks have been critizised by Foreign Minister Peres and by other politicians of the center and of the left. Do you plan to apologize?

- I have written a letter to Foreign Minister Peres, which was sent today. It was a private letter so that I’m not going to refer more to it, but I went through the misrepresentations that my original interview had caused. I have recognized that these are very, very sensitive issues, and obviously one should be more careful about wordings which either unintentionally but sometimes even intentionally are misrepresented and create a false impression. For that I am sorry. But the fact remains that there are, and I think that is quite natural, divergences of opinion, I would say between Europeans and the European Union countries and foreign ministers in general and Israeli policies. We are very worried that the prospects of peace are diminishing, seem to be diminishing, each day.

- But you mentioned also in your interview in the Finnish weekly Suomen Kuvalehti Prime Minister Mr. Sharon in the context of war criminals. You also made a compliment to the Belgians for their effort to put Mr. Sharon on trial as a war criminal. So how can Finland conduct normal foreign relations with the state of Israel?

- We have no quarrel with the state of Israel. We have always recognized the right of Israel to exist and the need to guarantee Israeli security in the context of a general peace frame. This is, has been and will continue to be our policy, and we have always condemned all Palestinian and other acts of violence and incitement to hatred. There will never be any doubt about this.

- You have also critizised the appointment of Mr Carmi Gillon as the Israeli Ambassador to Denmark. And you also, as I mentioned before, mentioned Mr Sharon in the context of war criminals in Belgium.

- I’m not aware of mentioning war criminals in general but the fact is that the political leaders do have to bear responsibilities for the deeds in the past. This is primarily a matter for the Israelis and what I refer to was the report on the then defense minister which was then drafted in Israel. I have nothing to add to that.

- Some people in Israel are asking how the Foreign minister of Finland, a country which at one point co-operated with Nazi Germany during World War II, how can you, of all the statesmen of Europe, make such remark?

- Let’s be quite clear. I do not think that any past wrongs or victimizations can give the right to making any new victims. Secondly, the role of Finland during the Second World War was a very specific one and we are very proud of the fact that Jews in Finland were the most protected ones and that all our Jewish population enjoyed during the whole war exactly the same citizenship rights as all the other Finns in democratic Finland. In the circumstances we were fighting on the same side as Germany. Quite a lot of people in Finland even at the time did not like the fact. It happens that my grandmother was in prison for her opposition to that. But this is all history. But we in Finland are proud of the fact that our Jews were not endangered at the time of the Holocaust. It happened that eight immigrant Jews were returned to Germany. That was something which is unpardonable but that should be kept in perspective.

- I understand today Mr. Minister that you met today with the Israeli Ambassador to Helsinki Shomrat.

- Yes

-Did you clarify your remark or did you apologize before the Ambassador and the representative of the state of Israel?

- We discussed the matter thoroughly and we’ll actually be meeting again next week and we will continue our discussion. I think it is our common understanding that we do not want to have this developing to any issue between Israel and Finland.

- In other words Mr. Minister, you do not apologize for your remarks in the Finnish weekly Suomen Kuvalehti?

- Actually when we look at the remarks I can stand behind them, but I’m sorry for the misinterpretation which is now circulating around the world, and which does not in any case represent my views or the views of my country.

- But you are free to correct, you are free to explain your remarks, and you are free to apologize if you want to do so.

- If I am free to do so, of course I can do so. But I have clarified our position in the letter to Mr. Peres.

- Thank you very much.