Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

A Letter to My Friend in Israel
KITAMURA Fumio  / Journalist

September 22, 2011
Dear David,

More than two decades have passed since I enjoyed conversing with you in Jerusalem, in Tokyo, in New York and elsewhere. At the time, I was reporting on international news for a national paper in Japan, and you were an elite bureaucrat of the Israeli foreign ministry. While we have both been relieved of our busy professional obligations several years ago, I still have vivid memories of our happy meeting.

Particularly unforgettable was the dedicated cooperation I received from you during my long reporting trip to Israel in the late 1980’s. A good third of my schedule involved interviewing politicians, journalists, academics and peace activists who were critical of government policy. You took on the trouble of bargaining with the Ministry of Information and with various organizations, fulfilling all my wishes in the end. I experienced firsthand the reality of “press freedom” in which your country took such pride. This was in sharp contrast with the inconvenience I experienced in Israel’s neighboring countries.

I am sending you this letter after a long absence because the year 2011finds both Israel and Japan facing major challenges. Japan was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake, in which a magnitude-9 class earthquake and massive tsunami caused devastating damage to the Tohoku region. And we are still suffering from the dispersion of radioactive substances caused by the meltdown of radioactive fuel rods at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

In the Middle East, turbulent events of the Arab Spring have led to the collapse of the pro-U.S. government in Egypt, and concurrent with such changes in the regional situation, the Palestinian Authority is preparing a declaration of statehood. Meanwhile, there is mounting international opposition to an expansion in Israeli settlement of the West Bank of the River Jordan, a territory occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War. I believe the course of Israel’s future depends on its response to this new situation.

On September 16, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian National Authority, formally announced that the “State of Palestine” will apply for United Nations membership. The United States has warned it will veto the application in the Security Council. However, if the Palestinians present their proposal for statehood to the U.N. General Assembly, it is expected to receive a vote of support that far exceeds the majority. Such an outcome will clearly demonstrate the isolated position in which Israel and the United States find themselves within the international community.

Israel must have its justifications for constructing settlements in the West Bank, including its claim that the land represents the “Eretz Yisrael” promised by god in the Old Testament, or its need to maintain some areas in the West Bank as a strategic zone of national security. However, the West Bank has been home to the Palestinian people for hundreds of years. And there is no way to hide the fact that Israel has been applying overwhelming military force to prevent the sense of humiliation and repulsion felt by the Palestinian people from exploding into the open.

While I am fully aware of the dangers inherent in making simple comparisons, I would like to offer Japan’s own experience. Japan lost its colonies including the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan after its defeat in World War II. I imagine that if Japan had maintained these colonies, and if it had continued to effectively control its puppet state of Manchuria, Japan would have found itself at the mercy of violent resistance from local inhabitants. Japan, which was supposedly reborn as a “pacifist nation” after the war, would have been unable to follow the path of economic recovery to subsequent prosperity. I believe the loss of the colonies and puppet state had indeed been a “blessing in disguise” sent from the heavens for Japan.

In another example, the action taken by French President Charles de Gaulle to end the war in Algeria was a wise decision that evidenced his insight into the changing tide of history. Seeking to revitalize his country, de Gaulle sent regular troops to Algeria to suppress resentment and recalcitrance among local French elements that insisted on maintaining control over Algeria. If France had remained entangled in the Algerian fight for independence, it would have fallen into a quagmire of deepening confusion and a continuous string of bloody incidents. No matter what kind of logic is invocated to justify the act, one who seeks to control by force a land long- inhabited by others must brace against the repulsion, hatred and resistance of the local populace.

I beseech you to please stop constructing further settlements in the West Bank as the first step toward reconciliation through dialogue with the Palestinians. It pains me that my letter to you in a while must contain such bitter words. In Japan, we heed the following maxim: Bitters do good to the stomach. I would be gratified if you could read this letter as a sign of friendship from a good Japanese friend.

The writer is a former Professor of Shukutoku University and former London Bureau Chief and Senior Editor of the Yomiuri Shimbun.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

北村文夫  / ジャーナリスト

2011年 9月 22日







 パレスチナ人との話し合いから和解への第一歩として、ぜひとも西岸への入植地増設を止めてください。懐かしいデービッドさんへの久しぶりの便りが、このような内容になったことを心苦しく思っています。日本には「良薬 口に苦し」という格言があります。日本の友人からの友情の証しとして、この手紙を読んでくだされば嬉しいです。

一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟