Israeli Ambassador Urges Japanese Leaders, Scholars to Denounce Growing Anti-Semitism


OSAKA — Japanese academic and business leaders should denounce signs of growing anti-Semitism in this country, says Israeli ambassador to Japan Dr. Yaacov Cohen.

The ambassador labeled as “trash” two recently published books from Japanese author Masami Uno that warn of unsubstantiated Jewish capitalist plots to undermine the U.S. and Japanese economies.

The books, “If You Understand the Jews, You Will Understand Japan,” and “If You Understand the Jews, You Will Understand the World,” have reportedly sold more than 1 million copies in Japan.

This has led to Jewish concern here and abroad that seeds of anti-Semitism are being spread to an unknowing Japanese public.

“This is a phenomenon that should worry Japanese more than anybody,” Cohen said in a recent interview here. “It’s inexplicable how a million copies of this trash — books by Mr. Uno — were sold.”

Cohen said that it is up to Japanese academicians and business leaders to “protest” and “condemn” such anti-Jewish stereotypes.

The ambassador, however, dismissed notions that anti-Jewish sentiments were responsible for a controversy surrounding a Kyoto conference last November.

Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek had accused Kyoto mayor Masahiko Imagawa of “succumbing to political blackmail” in excluding Jerusalem from the three-day World Conference of Historical Cities hosted by Kyoto.

Imagawa denied the charge, but could not dissuade the [U.S.] city of Boston from pulling out of the conference in Jerusalem’s defense.

“I presume that this was a decision of the mayor of Kyoto and his advisers, in anticipation that there would be some (political) pressure,” Cohen said. “I’m not aware of any pressure.”

He said the uproar stems from “people whose internationalization is very limited,” rather than from anti-Jewish Japanese.

“This is an unfortunate incident with Kyoto, but it doesn’t affect overall relations” between Israel and Japan, Cohen said. “I think that (Kyoto city officials) will learn from it.”

On other international matters, Cohen said that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflicts have been blown out of proportion by “a lot of exaggerations in the media.”

Israel has been criticized by some of its political allies for allegedly using excessive force against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel has controlled since 1967.

“If somebody is approaching you with a stone or a knife…it’s not peaceful negotiations,” the ambassador said. “We think the (Israeli) army is doing everything to keep the order.”

Cohen said that allowing foreign press coverage of the fighting is “the price that you pay for a democracy, and this is the price that we are willing to pay.”