Tuomioja´s interview on Middle East

Foreign Minister Tuomioja gives an interview for Israeli TV tonight, Friday, August 31 at 8 pm local time. Its text will be available on this site afterwards.

Interview published by Suomen Kuvalehti on August 24, 2001

Israel sows endless hatred

According to Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja, expecting a state of peace to take root in the Middle East is futile as long as Israel continues to humiliate and impoverish the Palestinians.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja (Social Democrat) is of the opinion that concerning the cause and effect relationships of the increasingly aggravated crisis of the Middle East, people should finally call a spade a spade. As a former peace activist, he is annoyed at the failure to end Israel’s policy of oppression. Even if Tuomioja does not approve any acts of violence from the part of the Palestinians either, he thinks that Israel’s policy line makes them in a certain way inevitable.

"I am appalled at the Israeli policy of suppression, humiliation, subordination and impoverishment towards the Palestinians. What else can it breed but endless hate," says Tuomioja.

He considers that it is particularly difficult to understand Israel’s activities because the Jews themselves should know better than others how awful it is when an entire nation becomes an object of persecution. "It is quite shocking to note that in their relations with the Palestinians some advocate a similar policy to that they themselves were victims of in the 1930s."

Minister Tuomioja denies the idea that the recent discussion among the Swedish Social Democrats had inspired him to develop these thoughts concerning the Middle East. The Swedish discussion originated in former foreign minister Sten Andersson’s allegation that Sweden’s present government is guilty of excessive sympathy towards Israel and his demand that Sweden should more clearly acknowledge the rights of the Palestinians. According to Minister Tuomioja, the opinion that a stricter line should be adopted towards Israel has recently started to gain ground everywhere in the EU.

"In the meetings at the foreign ministerial level, the continuing enlargement of the colonies was recognised to be the worst threat to the entire peace process even before the latest intifada phase. We have become increasingly unanimous in time about the need to take powerful action against Israel’s activities," he says.

Mr Sharon met with a strict policy line The Europeans’ new, more stringent policy line has started to show in practice. In Belgium, action has been brought in a war crime case against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, concerning his share in the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon in 1982. In Denmark, a hullabaloo was raised when Mr Carmi Gillon, a former head of security who has been involved in torturing the Palestinians, was appointed as Israel’s new Ambassador to Denmark.

Minister Tuomioja considers that both parties are awarded according to their merits. "Fortunately the world has changed so that various kinds of dictators and human rights offenders can be safe nowhere any more. Having read Israel’s own report on Mr Sharon’s part in the events in Sabra and Shatila, one certainly finds reason to serious thinking."

The excitement that rose after Mr Gillon’s appointment was aggravated by the fact that he himself has informed that he is still in favour of “the physical pressurizing” of Palestinians that are suspected of being guerillas. Minister Tuomioja points out that torture has actually been allowed in Israel for several years already. "It is incredible that this kind of activities can be permitted in a civilised world," he laments.

However, he does not still want that any changes be made in the bilateral relations between Finland and Israel. Visits at a high level are not on the agenda, the number of tourists travelling to Israel has diminished due to the unrest, but trade continues as before. The EU is about to slightly scale down the economic exemptions granted to Israel.

"The EU has long turned a blind eye on the fact that Israel has, contrary to its free trade agreement with the Union, exported products from the occupied territories as Israeli products, thus violating the rules of origin. Action will be taken at last in this issue," Minister Tuomioja says.

According to him, there is no reason to conclude any unnecessarily far-reaching notions about the Union’s tougher policy line.
"No country except Israel could have acted in a similar manner for so long. Taking action is not politics but normal trade policy, controlling of the rules of the game."