The Jerusalem Post reports that the head of Finland’s branch of Amnesty International stands by his comment that Israel is a “contemptible country” (nilkkimaa).
In a post now deleted from his Iltalehti blog, but still available in Google’s cache, Frank Johansson writes:
Ystäväni, joka työskentelee Israelissa, oli käymässä ja puita vajaan kasatessa päästiin hänen lempiaiheeseensa. Usean vuoden pyhässä maassa oleskelun jälkeen, hän on tullut siihen tulokseen, että ”Israel on nilkkimaa”. Omien vierailujeni perusteella, jotka ajoittuvat 1970-luvulle ja 1990-luvun loppuvuosille olen aika samaa mieltä.
“A friend of mine, who works in Israel, was visiting and while we were stacking firewood in the woodshed we got onto his favourite subject. After a few years of living in the Holy Land, he had come to the conclusion that “Israel is a contemptible country”. On the basis of my own visits, which took place during the 1970s and late 1990s, I am quite of the same opinion.”
The word nilkkimaa, which I’ve translated here as “contemptible country”, as it derives from the Finnish word nilkki, is actually more derogatory than that – the Jerusalem Post translates it as “scum state”, and that is not too far off, as the expression is stronger than “rogue state”.
One wonders why a regional head of Amnesty would make such a statement about an entire country and its people, yet apparently feel no shame about it. He claims to be “breaking the silence”, but is surely breaking a lot of other things as well.
Update: in the Jerusalem Post interview, Johansson appears to acquiesce in the “scum state” translation of the word he used.
In an e-mail to the Post on Wednesday, Johansson wrote, “I decided to take down my blog because I appreciate that my comments were ill-judged and appear all the more so when taken out of context, and have obviously caused offence to many people although it was not my intention, at all, to cause such offence.”
He added “I am especially conscious, and regret that my ill-judged action may be detrimental to Amnesty International’s work on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the valiant human rights work being undertaken by my colleagues working for Amnesty International in Israel.”