Israel Detains Finnish Lawmaker for Attempted Breach of Gaza Border Fence

Left Alliance parliament member says she sought to protest the humanitarian crisis in the coastal enclave and arms trade between Israel and Finland

An Israeli Hummer patrols along the Israel-Gaza bordr, September, 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israel Police detained Monday a member of the Finnish parliament for attempting to cross the Gaza border fence in protest of the humanitarian crisis plaguing the coastal enclave.

Forty-two-year-old lawmaker Anna Kontula of the Left Alliance and four other human rights activist sought to draw international attention to Gaza's dire situation by "breaching the border fence," according to Israeli source.

The Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry said that "We expect those who visit Israel, and especially public servants, to respect Israeli law."

The police said in a statement it acted in "full accordance with the law," refusing to further comment on Kontula's detention.    

Taneli Hämäläinen, Kontula's parliamentary aide, told Helsinki Times that Kontula was held in custody for over 10 hours for refusing to sign a statement admitting to endangering public safety. According to Kontula, she also sought to protest against weapon deals between Israel and Finland and “refused to sign the statement, which I regarded as inaccurate,” Hämäläinen said.

“Finland is supporting stakeholders that benefit from the continuing occupation and military activity by Israel. By acquiring weapons systems from Israel, Finland also gets to benefit from the development of weapons technology carried out in occupied areas,” Kontula said.

"The political message that there are no consequences for the over half-a-century-long occupation and serious infringements of international law by Israel," Kontula added.  

The Finnish Embassy in Israel told Haaretz that Kontula "acted as a private person," declining to further comment on the issue.

"Human rights group Gaza 2020: Breaking the siege," which Kontula is a member of, released a statement saying that "An international delegation of activists was arrested by Israeli police for attempting to cut through the Gaza barrier fence and break the siege."

The statement added that "The group demands that the international community end its silence on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is a direct result of Israel’s 13-year blockade."