A prominent Japanese daily newspaper has formally apologized to Jewish groups for advertising books that claim the world is secretly controlled by Jews.
The apology by Yomiuri Shimbun, said to be the world’s largest-circulation newspaper, was issued Tuesday to the American Jewish Committee and Anti- Defamation League in response to protests by these groups and by the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo.
The offensive advertisement by the Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co., which ran two weeks ago in the 10-million circulation newspaper, promoted a number of books that “explain” modern history as a series of Jewish plots to dominate the world.
In an identical letter sent to Neil Sandberg, director of the AJCommittee’s Pacific Rim Institute, and ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, the heads of Yomiuri Shimbun’s advertising and public relations departments wrote, “We sincerely regret the publishing of an advertisement which, as you point out, can be said to promote racism.
“We accept your criticism on this matter and disassociate ourselves from the contents of the advertisement in question,” they wrote, adding:
“Please be assured that henceforth, taking your point into consideration, we shall redouble our efforts to avoid the printing of advertisements without checking their credibility, and to deal with world affairs without bias or bigotry.”
According to reports from Tokyo, Jewish conspiracy books are a cottage industry in Japan. Generally in the form of mystery-thrillers, the books’ plots might link such people as the pope, the queen of England and U.S. presidents as Zionist conspirators bent on destroying Japanese industry.
Despite the popularity of such books, with sales over I million, Rabbi James Lebeau to Temple Beth David in Tokyo said he had never heard of any attacks or violence against Jews in Japan. An estimated 2,000 Jews, mostly Americans, live in Japan.
The issue of the anti-Semitic books is years old and has been on the agenda of numerous meetings between Jewish groups and Japanese officials. Symposiums have been held on the subject and Japanese scholars have spoken out vociferously against the books while explaining the myriad reasons for their existence.
The AJCommittee and Simon Wiesenthal Center held meetings in past years with the Japanese Publishers and Editors Association, advertising executives and government officials.
Asked why the problem continues, Sandberg of AJCommittee ventured that “the Japanese culture moves very slowly. When decisions are made, even major ones, by government or other key institutional entities, it takes time for the messages to be conveyed and appropriate corrective action to take place.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he attended four meetings on this matter in October 1993 in Japan. He met with executives of the newspapers Yomiuri Shimbun and Nikei Shimbun, “both of which had run the same kind of ads last year.”
He also met with executives of Asahi Shimbum and with the publishers and editors group.
Given the recurrence of this type of advertisement, he said, “It is quite appropriate that they would issue an apology.”