Anti-Jewish leaflets were distributed on the windscreens of cars in the Tallinn city centre on 7 November; two days before, five protesters were arrested for chanting Hamas’ slogans at the demonstration protesting against Israel’s war against the terrorist group in Gaza.
On 7 November, several people in the Estonian capital were shocked to find leaflets on the windscreens of their cars, the contents of which contained postulates of conspiracy theories about Jews.
Stanislav Nemerzhitski, a researcher at the Estonian Language Institute, noticed a piece of paper underneath his car’s windscreen wiper in Tallinn’s Old Town late on Tuesday evening, which on closer inspection turned out to be a leaflet inciting ethnic hatred. “The whole street was full of them, and the leaflets were also attached to the windscreens of other cars,” Nemerzhitski, who used to be a school headmaster, told the Estonian newspaper Postimees.
Police took action
Inna Toater from the Estonian police told another Estonian outlet, Delfi, that officers responded to the call about the leaflets.
“The police patrol went to the scene, carried out the necessary investigation and removed the leaflets from the cars. Now, we are investigating the circumstances, including who put the leaflets on the cars, and we will decide whether there are grounds to open proceedings,” Toater said.
It is important for the police that everyone feels safe in Estonia, Toater stressed.
“The police will consider each case, both in public spaces and on social media, individually and decide whether to open a procedure,” she said. “For foreign citizens who do not behave in accordance with the Estonian legal framework, we will also review the grounds for their stay in the country.”
Toater said the police had registered one case where a foreigner living in Estonia shared various posts on his Facebook page expressing support for the Hamas terrorist attack against Israel.
“We have opened a procedure under the paragraph 151’1 of the Estonian Penal Code, ie supporting and justifying an international crime. In addition, as part of a follow-up investigation, we have identified four Estonian e-residents whose status has been terminated for the same reason,” she said.
Five people arrested at the anti-Israel demonstration
Toater added there had been other kinds of anti-Semitic manifestations.
On Sunday, police arrested five people from the demonstration that was supposed to be held in support of Palestine, for chanting and carrying slogans, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.
The terrorist organisation Hamas, whose gunmen killed 1,400 people on 7 October, claim the slogan in their rejection of Israel. “Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” says the organisation’s 2017 constitution, effectively calling for an end to the existence of the State of Israel.
According to the police, the demonstration on Tallinn’s Freedom Square on Sunday was predominantly peaceful, but five people were nevertheless removed from the crowd of about 300 people, and proceedings were launched against them.
Madis Allak, the head of operations at the North Prefecture of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board, told Postimees that the organisers of the demonstration were previously informed that justifying aggression and using materials promoting anti-Semitism would be prohibited.
However, in the demonstration’s Facebook event page called In Solidarity with Palestine, one of the organisers actively encouraged the participants to use the “from the river to the sea” chant. The slogan was chanted in the middle of the Freedom Square, while the surrounding diverse crowd of both Estonians and foreigners joined in. Anti-Israel leaflets were also delivered.
In total, the police removed five people from the demonstration and launched proceedings against them under the section dealing with the support and justification of an international crime. All cases were related to the slogan or wording “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.
“This message can be interpreted as a public exhibition of a symbol of a crime against humanity, as it calls for the end of the existence of the state of Israel. It is also an anti-Semitic slogan, the use of which justifies committing acts against humanity,” Allak said.
Protesters: Israel “brutally killing children”
According to the organisers of the Sunday’s protest, the purpose of the demonstration was to “raise awareness based on reliable, academic sources and public information, to influence the Estonian government to condemn the illegal and inhumane use of force by the Israeli government against civilians in Gaza and to demand a ceasefire, as well as to remember those who have died in Gaza”.
Each participant of the demonstration could pick up sheets of paper bearing the name of children “killed by Israeli military forces in recent attacks”, which were laid down on Freedom Square.
“With this, the lives of these innocent children are remembered and commemorated and attention is drawn to the fact that the Israeli Defence Forces have brutally killed thousands of children, which the governments of many Western countries, including the Estonian government, have so far turned a blind eye to,” the organisers said.
In addition to the five arrested protesters on Sunday, the police had to respond to a similar challenge a day later. In Tallinn’s Freedom Square, people were reported to be holding a Hamas placard, but by the time the police arrived they had left.
“Anyone noticing such threats or incitement to violence should report it to the police by calling 112 and contacting a district police officer or an online police officer,” Inna Toater told Delfi.
The government promising to protect Estonia’s Jewish community
In a letter sent to the representatives of the Estonian Jewish community on 25 October, the country’s interior minister, Lauri Läänemets affirmed that the state is doing everything possible to ensure that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has escalated again as a result of terrorist attacks by Hamas, does not spill over into the Estonian society and is not expressed in anti-Semitism-driven hatred, provocations or attacks on persons and property.
Estonia is home for about 2,000 Jews, although the number of those having mixed Estonian-Jewish heritage is greater.
Hamas, officially the Islamic Resistance Movement, is a Sunni Islamist political and militant organisation, governing the Gaza Strip of the Palestinian territories since 2007.
On 7 October, thousands of Hamas’ terrorists broke through the Gaza–Israel barrier, attacking nearby Israeli communities and military bases. At least 1,400 Israelis were killed, including a massacre at a music festival that killed at least 260 people. Over 200 Israeli civilians, including women and children, were taken as hostages to the Gaza Strip. The day was described by the US president, Joe Biden, as “the worst single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust”.
The invasion was followed by an Israeli counteroffensive and Israel formally declared war on Hamas a day later. According to Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, over 10,000 people have been killed in the strip in Israel’s war against the terrorist group, including over 4,000 children and 2,500 women.