by Bruce W. Davidson
In contrast to the American presidential election, the recent election in Japan displayed better sense among Japan's electorate, a majority of whom voted the incumbent leftists out of office. However, Japan continues to be afflicted by widespread leftist ideology among academics and the mass media. One of its unfortunate fruits is pervasive anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment in Japan.
One prominent advocate of anti-Semitism in Japan is the photojournalist Ryuichi Hirokawa. I first encountered his work in the early 1990s, when I discovered that my women's junior college students were making use of his books to write research papers in a class I was teaching there about the Arab-Israeli conflict. I had been baffled to read papers from the mild-mannered Japanese young women in my class condemning Israel and calling for the destruction of the Jewish state as the only solution to the conflict. Investigating their references turned up the name of Hirokawa, a radical leftist with close ties to academia in Japan.
Hirokawa's view of events in the Middle East is much the same as that of Noam Chomsky and other Israel-bashing academics in the US and Europe. In brief, this is the thesis that Israel is the root of all Middle Eastern evil, since it represents an outpost of Western imperialism. According to this view, the origins of the Palestinian problem can be traced solely to a ruthless and unprovoked expulsion of Palestinians from their villages when Israel became a state. This view also entails the necessity of the elimination of the state of Israel, which will then presumably turn the Middle East into a haven of peace and harmony. Sol Stearn appropriately dubs this narrative about the origin of the conflict "The Palestinian Big Lie." Unfortunately, thanks to the efforts of Hirokawa and others, the Big Lie has become the conventional wisdom in Japanese academia and the mass media.
Among Hirokawa's publications in Japanese are collections of photographs like Children of a Stolen Land: Documentary Photographs of Palestine, which uses children to pull at the heartstrings of readers and inflame them against Israel. The title says it all about the book's outlook on who is responsible for all their suffering. Hirokawa has also collaborated with academics to produce works such as the two-volume Yudayajin ("The Jews"). The second volume, named Merchants of Diamonds and Death: Israel's Global Strategy, spins a web of intrigue implicating Jews in economic and military oppression all over the world, extending from Africa to the Middle East and involving Israel, South Africa, and Taiwan.
This leftist conspiracy-mongering resembles the mentality of people like the movie director Oliver Stone. Their Marxist interpretation of historical events is increasingly irrelevant to a Middle East where violence often springs from militant Islam, not class conflict, yet this leftist vitriol continues to find an audience among Japan's intellectual elite. Academics who have joined Hirokawa in his mission to demonize Israel include Tokyo University's Yuzo Itagaki, who helped to establish an office for the PLO. Ignoring the difference between scholarship and political advocacy, scholars such as Itagaki equate Zionism with Nazism and make Israel morally equivalent to the Third Reich. America's support for Israel they explain away as Jewish financial dominance of US politics. As Goodman and Miyazawa point out in their book Jews in the Japanese Mind, their anti-Semitic ideas come directly from Soviet and Arab propagandists.
Hirokawa is still very active and influential. In 2009 he produced a documentary film series available on DVD named Nakba: Palestine 1948. Nakba is the Arabic word many Arabs use to label the establishment of the state of Israel and means "catastrophe." The DVDs focus almost exclusively on the suffering of the Palestinian refugees, with the intention of evoking pity and outrage on their behalf against Israel. Two copies of the series, a bound set of 30 disks, stand on a shelf in my university library's DVD collection. I pointed out to library staff that this DVD series is pure, unadulterated political propaganda, with little or no scholarly or educational merit, but it remains in place. Outside Japan, Hirokawa's work has been featured in the British press and elsewhere, such as one online site named "My Hero Project" that lionizes him.
Ideas can be deadly. Hirokawa has been pushing some poisonous ones for over four decades now. People like him and his fellow-travelers in leftist academia in Japan have molded public perceptions of the Arab-Israeli conflict in lamentable ways. Like their European and American counterparts, it is not an overstatement to say that the Japanese intelligentsia has been an accessory to terrorist violence in the Middle East. Sometimes the influence has been more direct: In 1972, acting on belief of the Palestinian terror group named the PFLP, three Japanese Red Army terrorists murdered 24 and injured another 76 in an attack on Lod Airport in Israel in an incident now known as the Lod Massacre. They were acting out of the same kind of leftist revolutionary idealism that Hirokawa espouses. Needless to say, academic institutions and journalists have a responsibility to help people beware of dishonest and destructive propaganda, not aim it at them.
Bruce W. Davidson teaches at Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo, Japan
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.