WASHINGTON (Feb. 7)
American Jews should construct a Jewish cultural center in Tokyo to disseminate information that would counter negative Japanese perceptions of Jews, Japan’s sole rabbi urged here last week.
Michael Schudrick, spiritual leader of the Jewish Community Center in Tokyo, explained that the stereotypes were essentially the result of a recent spate of anti-Semitic books. He delivered his comments following a conference on that literature sponsored by the American Jewish Committee last Wednesday.
Approximately 170 Jewish families live in Tokyo and no more than 1,000 Jews are in Japan at any given time, the rabbi estimated. The Japanese government and people are not anti-Semitic, he said, and “no significant acts” of anti-Semitism have taken place in Japan in recent years.
The problem, as he saw it, was that some “very unscrupulous authors” were “taking advantages of” the Japanese public with the anti-Semitic books.
Theodore Ellenoff, AJCommittee president, said that two officials from the Japanese Embassy in Washington attended portions of the conference. He said one of the political counselors told the group the phenomenon of anti-Semitic literature in Japan was short-lived.
David Goodman, professor of Japanese comparative literature at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, told the conference that roots of these books may be concern over Japan’s international stature, including economic and political ties with other countries.
NOT AIMED AT ISRAEL
He said the literature “is not related to Israel” and is intended specifically “‘to discredit the Japanese-American relationship,” as well as Japan’s democratic institutions.
Goodman cited two anti-Semitic works that have sold a combined one million copies: Masami Uno’s “If You Understand Judea, You Will Understand the World” and “If You Understand Judea, You Will Understand Japan.”
The books invoke ” a long-since discredited forgery from Czarist Russia, ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ to explain everything from the devaluation of the dollar relative to the yen to the shooting down of Korean Airlines flight 007 — that it’s all the machinations of the Jews,” Goodman said.
Uno warned that “the internationalization of Japan is the Judaization of Japan,” and should the Japanese “want to avoid being taken over by the world Jewish community, they must not internationalize, but they should adopt the strategy of Adolf Hitler.”
Uno acknowledged that Hitler and former Soviet leader Josef Stalin killed millions of Jews, but argued “this was done out of necessity.” Goodman said.
He said Uno’s books show “the Japanese are capable of full-blown Nazi anti-Semitism.”
Goodman added that a television program aired last December was anti-Semitic in discussing “Jewish capital.” It was adapted from a comic book describing the Japanese economy. He said that while Japanese viewers probably do not find such anti-Semitic portrayals of Jews “objectionable,” they are “profoundly offensive to the Jewish community in this country and they present a very real danger in cordial U.S.-Japan relations.”
David Harris, AJCommittee’s Washington representative, said in an interview that Japan’s limited diplomatic relations with Israel and sympathy toward Palestinians likely exacerbates the anti-Semitic writings, although the two are not directly related.
OIL RELIANCE CITED
Japan’s till toward the Arab world often has been considered a result of its enormous reliance on oil and other energy resources from the Middle East. Japan receives more than 99 percent of its petroleum from abroad.
A Palestine Liberation Organization office was set up in Tokyo in 1977 and PLO leader Yasir Arafat visited the country in 1981.
Harris said there has been a recent improvement in Japanese-Israeli relations. Trade over the first half of 1987 was up 50 percent over the comparable 1986 period, when it totaled $400 million.
He also noted the Mitsubishi company’s recent announcement that it would market its cars in Israel and the November 1987 visit to Israel by a Japanese economic delegation, following a similar visit to Japan the previous month by Israelis.
Japan’s ambassador to the United States, Nobuo Matsunaga, cited those developments in a November 1987 letter to members of Congress.
Matsunaga also cited the September meeting in New York between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Tadashi Kuranari, then his Japanese counterpart, as well as an October visit to Israel by Takeshi Hamano, then Japan’s vice minister of foreign affairs.
Harris said improvements are needed in Japanese reporting on Middle East affairs, which he said is “largely sympathetic to Palestinians.”
He also asserted that while Japan vigorously denies it has participated in the Arab boycott of companies doing business with Israel, “more observers believe otherwise.” He said there is potential “for substantially greater trade between the two countries.”
He also called for senior Japanese officials to pay their first visits to Israel.