Survey: Despite Little Contact, Japanese Negative Toward Jews

Many Japanese hold negative attitudes toward Jews despite the fact that only one in 100 has had direct contact with them, according to a Gallup poll commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

The findings were presented at a session of ADL’s National Executive Committee meeting at the Breakers Hotel here last week.

Burton Levinson, ADL’s national chairman, said the poll was commissioned in response to the publication of a number of anti-Jewish books and articles in Japan over the last two years.

The poll, conducted in late November, revealed that Japanese perceptions of Jewish personal traits and characteristics were formed on a second-hand basis, garnered mainly from television, books and newspapers.

In addition, the poll also found that Japanese perceptions of Israel are negative, including doubts about the country’s “trustworthiness” and “commitment to peace.”

Israel received the lowest rating of five countries — West Germany, the United States, Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union and Israel — in terms of trustworthiness. The Soviet Union fared only marginally better than Israel.

However, the poll found that a full 81 percent of Japanese people felt their government should be neutral in its dealings with Arab nations and Israel.

Only 9 percent felt Japan should “lean toward the Arab side.”

Among the negative character traits Japanese seem to ascribe to Jews are greediness and unfriendliness.

However, Jews were appraised more often than not as brave, hard-working and, to a lesser degree, intelligent and spiritual.

Jews were rated considerably below Christians and Buddhists by most Japanese surveyed.

PERSONAL DEALINGS WITH JEWS

But the I percent of Japanese people who have had personal dealings with Jews reacted to the poll’s questions in a “positive or neutral” way.

Many of Japanese negative connotations of Jews are believed to come from William Shake-spear’s “The Merchant of Venice,” which is assigned reading in Japanese high schools.

However, 60 percent of those questioned said they had not read the book.

But of the 37 percent who said they had, 30 percent replied the play gave them “a bad feeling about Jews.”

It was recorded, too, that 57 percent of the play’s Japanese readers said it “didn’t make much difference.”

The survey concluded that three in 10 was “a far higher negative proportion than was recorded among those aware of the polemical books” — the controversial anti-Semitic books.

“The ‘Merchant’s’ influence, it would appear, is not inconsiderable,” the survey finds.

The poll was conducted by the Nippon Research Center, an affiliate of Gallup. Personal interviews were conducted with 1,365 Japanese adults, age 18 and above.

It was designed by Potomac Associates, which is solely responsible for the interpretation and comments.

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