Amnesty International Frank Johansson Scum Gate


Chairman of the Finnish branch of AI Fran Johansson: Oh crap, with the Tundra Tabloids, Vasarahammer, NGO-Monitor and the JPost watching, I can try to hide my anti-Semitism in Finnish, but not successfully!
UPDATE: He’s now saying that it was a mistranslation, though he had the chance during the Weinthal interview to distance himself from the translation of the word he used, “scum state”, he’s now saying after the fact that it was a bad translation, with the design to blow things out of proportion. But (a) he refused to challenge the journalist who used the term more than once and (b) spoke of using similar highly charged wording when directing it against GWBush while (c) then claiming later on that he hadn’t meant to offend anyone by the term.
J’lem Post journalist, Benny Weinthal, contacted the Tundra Tabloids to enquire further about the anti-Semitic incident involving the chairman of the Finnish branch of Amnesty International, Frank Johansson, after coming across the initial story published at the Tundra Tabloids (H/T: Finnish blogger Vasarahammer) detailing Johansson’s labeling Israel as a “scum state”.

The article by Weinthal appears in today’s edition of the J’Lem Post, and surprise, the offending blog post by the AI chairman at the Iltalehti website has been scrubbed, thrown down the memory hole, but thanks to Vasarahammer we have the cached picture of the post. 

Interestingly enough, though the Amnesty International chairman (Finnish branch) is totally unrepentant, nonetheless the post has disappeared. A passive mea culpa?

Even if the removal of the post is an admission of guilt, it’s not good enough, there needs to be a full apology coming from AI chairman Frank Johansson. KGS

JPOST: Asked why he termed Israel a “scum state,” Johansson told the Post in a telephone interview that it was because Israel has “repeatedly flouted international law,” and due to his “personal experiences inside and outside of Israel with meeting Israelis.”
Johansson said that his remarks were not anti-Semitic. “I actually praise Breaking the Silence,” he said, referring to an Israeli organization claiming to collect and share testimonies of former IDF soldiers over human rights violations they allegedly witnessed, while rarely providing names of troops, dates and locations of these incidents.
Asked whether there are other countries aside from Israel that, according to him, meet the definition of a “scum state,” Johansson did not specify any, but noted that there are “Russian officials” who meet the criteria.
The Amnesty International official said: “I have been on record on Finnish TV as saying George Bush is the biggest executioner in the Western Hemisphere, [I] use strong language… I am writing those [blogs] in my capacity as a private person, not as an Amnesty official.”

However, Iltalehti’s Web site clearly provides readers with his title as “director of the Finnish branch of Amnesty International,” which appears above his blog.

NGO Monitor chief Gerald Steinberg condemned Johansson’s remarks in the context of his organization as a whole. The head of the watchdog organization, which tracks anti-Israel activity among NGOs, told the Post in an e-mail on Tuesday that “Amnesty International has promoted an intense anti-Israel ideology, resulting in statements like these. Such one-sided ideological campaigns, with false allegations of war crimes, are entirely inconsistent with Amnesty’s claim to support ethical principles and universal human rights.
“Amnesty International’s new secretary general, Salil Shetty, must immediately condemn this immoral statement by the head of the Finnish chapter, freeze links to the chapter until he resigns, and take measures to end Amnesty’s central role in demonizing Israel,” he added.
Also Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International’s headquarters in London, Susanne Flood, told the Post in a telephone interview that “Amnesty would never use an expression like this toward the State of Israel, or any other state.”
Read it all here.

UPDATE: The highly influential Die Achse des Guten, links to the TT’s story, the site gets 30,000 unique hits a day. Welcome

UPDATE II: Finnish media takes notice: Uusisuomi : Finnish blog enrages abroad: “Anti-Semitism”

UPDATE III: Finnish online news org.Verkkouutiset states the following on the story:
Johanssonin purkaus on sikäli outo, että ihmisoikeusjärjestö Amnestyn perusperiaatteisiin on kuulunut pidättäytyminen eri konfliktien osapuolten arvioimisesta, jotta järjestön toiminnan uskottavuus säilyisi.

Trans: Johansson’s outbust is therefore strange, because one of the fundamental principles of the human rights organization Amnesty International, has been to refrain from evaluating the various warring parties, in order to preserve the credibility of the organization’s activities.

15 Responses

  1. This is getting blown way out of proportion. Johansson merely used the word nilkki which is an idiomatic expression roughly equivalent to the word scoundrel. This is clearly a reference to the term rogue state used by Bush. In his blog post, Johansson quotes Yehuda Shaul, one of the founders of Breaking the Silence. Since Shaul is an Israeli Jew, it's hard to call him anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli. And since Johansson agrees with Shaul, how can Johansson be anti-Semitic if Shaul isn't?

  2. Mikko, you'll then have to explain why Johansson didn't object to JPost journalist Benny Weinthal's usage of the words "scum state" when he interviewed him on the phone?

    He didn't object to that translation when it would have been in his best interest to do so, no, instead he defended his use of the word SCUM.

    Seeing that the Google version would have translated it as "TWAT", I chose to use the term that four other independent native speaking Finns chose, and they were unanimous on my translation.

    As for being anti-Semitic, choosing Israel from all of the grossly human rights offending states, including China, N.Korea, Sudan and Cuba…and say that Israel is indeed a scum state…falls into my category of anti-Semitism.

    I could care less how Jews he pulls out of his closet to prove he's not an anti-Semite. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it's a duck.

  3. I agree that Amnesty should criticise Muslim states and other barbaric rogue states. I have previously written about this on the facebook group of Amnesty Finland.

    This does not change the fact that the reaction of the readers of Jerusalem Post is totally hysterical and unrealistic.

    The exact translation of the word nilkki is not particulary important. I think nilkki should be translated as scoundrel or crook, but some people might think that the word "jerk" or the word "asshole" would be an accurate translation. The word is clearly pejorative, but it's not a good idea to run amok because of one word in one blog post.

  4. I disagree.

    Again…when he interviewed Johansson, and used the word "SCUM STATE", asking him if he wrote that, which he admitted, then asked what other state would qualify in his opinion to be labeled in the same way, as a "scum state", he said no other state that he can think of..outside of a few Russian officials.

    He agreed with the translation then, now he's pulling back due to inside pressure.

    It's not a little issue, this is an official of a supposedly neutral organization that's not supposed to take sides….at all. Seeing that he used his blog to promote his position in AI, he is then speaking as an official of AI.

    The Verkkouutiset article stated the same thing.

  5. I generally hate Johansson because he thinks that e.g. Gypsies from Bulgaria and Romania have some sort of God-given right to come to Finland to beg and steal, but I think it is intellectually dishonest to label him anti-Semitic.

    Johansson agrees with Israeli soldiers who have criticised the actions of the Israeli Army. If what Johansson says is anti-Semitic in your opinion, you would have to argue that those Israeli soldiers are themselves anti-Semitic, which is ridiculous, of course.

    It is true that Amnesty is one-sided. Amnesty does not criticise Islamic terrorists or the governments of Muslim countries. This is why nobody should ever give money to Amnesty.

    However, this is not a reason to go on a rampage because of one word ("nilkki") in one blog post. Pro-Israeli bloggers like you should not be as hysterical as the Muslims.

  6. Sorry that you feel that way Mikko. It's of couse your right to think I'm being unfair over just one little word.

    Look at teh history of the man, the fact that he's more than willing to label an entire country as scum, or whatever other word you choose, but a highly derogatory one, to descibe a country that he has a hand in disseminating…"bias free" information, and doing so under his title of Chairman of Amnesty International Finland.

    It's great that he agrees with IDF soldiers, but that in my opinion does not exonerate him, from time immemorial, of having anti-Semitic opinions.

    Again, while you may (you do) disagree with me, but try to look at it from my perspective as well, I more than likely wouldn't have acted upon it if he didn't happen to be Chairman of Finnish AI. At least admit that much.

  7. OK, I agree that the opinions of the chairman of Amnesty Finland can be interpreted as an official statement of Amnesty, and therefore it is reasonable to comment on them.

    This does not change the fact that the flamewar in the comments section of Jerusalem Post is totally idiotic. For example, some American commentator was raving about "how Finland helped starve over 1,000,000 people in Leningrad" as if this were somehow relevant.

  8. I think Johansson pretty much summed up Amnesty International's attitude toward the Jewish State. I'll bet this isn't the first time Amnesty International got caught with its pants down wrt Israel and anti-Semitism.

  9. Ok…those are the comments in Jpost…understood. Obviously there is some hyperbole going on there.

    Well, the other side of the coin is, welcome to the world in which Israel is front and center, being lambasted in the exact same way as Finland is now.

    Not condoning it, but it should cause most Finns to mull it over and see how the other side lives.

  10. Most of the people writing in the comments section of Jerusalem Post are not stupid enough to attack Finland generally because of Johansson, but they seem to be hysterical in other ways; e.g. some of them are saying Johansson is a pedophile, a homosexual, a transvestite etc. which is obviously a primitive knee-jerk reaction.

    I'm not particularly interested in the anti-Finnish comments there. I'm commenting on the general atmosphere in the comments section. It is clearly totally paranoid and unrealistic. Those people should realise they're shooting themselves in the foot by acting like maniacs.

  11. Congratulations!

    I am not interested in anti-immigration or libertarian circles any way, but keep up the good work!

    Maybe one day some balance can be achieved what comes to hateful outbursts by the academic left and biased journalists.


    A member of the silent majority

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