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60 Lawmakers Urge Japan to Invite Jerusalem to Conference in Kyoto

Sixty House members have signed a letter to Nobuo Matsunaga, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, urging that Jerusalem be invited to send representatives to a World Conference of Historical Cities to be held in Kyoto in November.

“Any conference on the impact of the major cities of the world on the history of mankind would be noticeably incomplete without a discussion of the historical contributions of the city of Jerusalem,” the Congressmen stressed in the letter initiated by Reps. Mel Levine and Robert Matsui (both D. Calif.). “In this case, such an omission is so blatant and unjustified that it raises concerns of political bias and prejudice,” the letter said.

The exclusion of Jerusalem was first raised with Matsunaga in May by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. Abraham Foxman, at that time the ADL’s associate national director, in a letter to the Ambassador, noted that “not to have Jerusalem, is, in our judgement, unjustified and raises questions as to whether there is some political bias at work here.”

FEARS APPEAR JUSTIFIED

This fear appears justified from the reply Foxman, now national director, received this month from Koichi Haraguchi, the Japanese Embassy’s counselor for public affairs. Haraguchi said that Foxman’s letter was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo, which then received from the City of Kyoto several reasons for not inviting Jerusalem, including a decision that since Jerusalem’s status was the “subject of political controversies as reflected in the debate at the United Nations,” the Israeli capital would not be invited “irrespective of its long history and tradition.”

Enclosed with Haraguchi’s letter was a copy of the Dec. 15, 1980 UN General Assembly resolution rejecting the Knesset action annexing all of Jerusalem and declaring the city Israel’s capital. Japan voted for the resolution.

Foxman replied to the Ambassador last week that “Unfortunately, Jerusalem’s exclusion from the Kyoto conference is not an isolated instance of Japanese political bias against Israel. Your government’s open support for the Arab boycott, its refusal to engage in scientific exchanges and to promote cultural ties with Israel have contributed to the coolness that has characterized the two countries’ relations for more than a decade.”

His remarks were echoed by Jess Hordes, associate director of the ADL’s Washington office, who told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “This incident is unfortunately indicative of Japan’s traditional reluctance to have full and open political, economic and cultural relations with Israel.” Hordes also noted that “No Japanese official of ministerial rank has ever visited Israel.” Haraguchi, who could not be reached for comment Monday, also stressed in his letter that the City of Kyoto wanted “to make it clear” that its decision does not reflect any “racial or religious bias.”

He added that such cities as Fez, Baghdad, Tunis, Quebec and Cuzco had asked to attend and were rejected. Among the 35 cities invited were Alexandria, Egypt, and Damascus, Syria. The only United States city invited was Boston.

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