by Michael K. Smith
A "Holocaust Education Center" near Hiroshima has sparked public controversy about the meaning of Jewish suffering in Japan.
Speaking to an overflow audience at the annual Japanese Holocaust Survivor Conference in Tokyo, Abraham Foxman, National Director of of the Anti-Defamation League, articulated a viewpoint that enjoys increasing prominence in Japan of late: "Japanese banks, some of the largest in the world, are as free of Jews as Hitler would have wanted. It's disgraceful."
Heads nodded and eyes welled up with tears as Foxman went on to observe that, "The prejudice and hatred against Japanese Jews is one of the great untold stories of human history." To objective observers only one explanation for this silence stands out. "That Japanese public life can remain nearly 'Jew free' in the 21st century is chilling testimony to the genocidal impulse that has been allowed to triumph here," explained Foxman. Asked what it all means, he said, "Never again will Japanese Jews be meekly led to the slaughterhouse."
Calling for a worldwide sushi boycott until every sushi shop in Japan has a Holocaust memorial detailing the monstrous 2000-year history of Japanese anti-Semitism culminating in complete Jewish exclusion from Japanese life, Foxman urged Japanese Holocaust Survivors to spearhead a movement dedicated to overcoming the country's hateful past. Roaring applause greeted his call for, "One, two, a thousand Elie Wiesels."
Taking the opposite view is the increasingly embattled "Japanese Association For the Advancement of Japanese People," a racist organization dedicated to the idea that logic deserves a role in historical debate, an extremist notion finding little support among mainstream historians. The group's president, Yasuo Murayama, claims that charges of Japanese anti-Semitism are senseless, because Japan shut itself off from the world for more than two centuries to prevent Christian "contamination" of the country, a militant policy that included the 1638 Shimabara Rebellion in which tens of thousands of Christians were slaughtered to keep Japan free of Christian proselytizing. For this reason the country is almost completely free of anti-Semitism. Foxman disagrees, insisting that although all Christians are racists, anti-Semitism does not derive from Christianity at all, and actually pre-dates the Big Bang. He claims that Jew hatred has spread to the far reaches of the universe billions of galaxies away, including Japan, although an overwhelming Japanese majority denies that Japan is part of the universe.
Among the displays at Hiroshima's Holocaust Education Center are a pictorial representation of Jewish influence on the evolution of Kabuki and Noh, featuring the Japanese penchant for beauty in miniature, and items left from a Tokyo Bar Mitzvah that the Simon Wiesenthal Center claims was raided by the Gestapo in August 1943. According to the organization's super-sophisticated intelligence operatives, all of the Bar Mitvah participants were shipped to Auschwitz on ocean-going rail cars, never to be heard from again.
A Japanese teenager who recently became the 6 millionth visitor of the Holocaust Education Center received a free copy of the best-selling "Diary of a Young Geisha," which tells the tragic story of a young Japanese girl who adopts the identity of a geisha in order to hide from the Gestapo, only to discover that the Nazis are thousands of miles away in Europe, leaving her to a life of mindless banter and playing the shamisen. She commits suicide.
The more cynical minded visitors to the Holocaust Education Center have alleged that the location of the museum just forty-five minutes from where the atomic bomb was dropped represents a Zionist ploy to elbow out atomic bomb survivors for entitlement to the world's most prestigious victim monopoly. As is well known, competitive victimhood is a fiercely contested sport around the world, and, to quote the legendary major league baseball manager Leo Durocher, "nice guys finish last."
"Teen Becomes 100,000th Visitor at Holocaust Center in Japan,"Japan Today, August 30, 2009
-------Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire," and "The Madness of King George," with Common Courage Press