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By: Prof. Dr. Walid ‘Abd al-Hay.
(Exclusively for al-Zaytouna Centre).

The study overviewed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and written by William Buchanan and Hadley Cantril in 1953, is considered an important reference to understand how nations see each other. The study focused on the importance of the “history of relations between societies” in forming mental images of each other, For the historical accumulation of negative interaction leads the nations to negatively see each other, and vice versa.[1] Then came the mirror-image hypothesis by Urie Bronfenbrenner, which is based on the notion that the other is portrayed through the “mirror” of subjective cognitive and value perceptions. A study applied to understand the American perception of the Soviets and vice versa, showed that social context of childhood is the basis of how one perceive the other. [2]

When reviewing the World Public Opinion on how societies view each other, it drew the attention of this author that the negative image of Israel, and of the Jews in general, in the Japanese mind is almost the worst, when compared to how other societies—including the Islamic ones—view Israel. The international opinion polls during 2010–2019 indicated that Japan was the least country in viewing Israel’s influence in a positive way. A sample of polls prior to the indicated period shows that this negative image was largely stable since long ago, as a matter of fact this image in the Western or Asian public opinion polls, or even Israeli ones was not significantly different statistically. By monitoring 13 polls, they indicated that the “average” positive view in Japan of Israel’s influence during 2010–2019 was as follows: [3]

View of Israel’s influence %
Mainly positive 2
Mainly negative 52
Neither/neutral 46

This means that those in Japan who view Israel’s influence positively are less than those in most Muslim countries, as can be seen in surveys:

Positive views of Israel’s influence %
Egypt 3
Pakistan 4
Turkey 6
Azerbaijan 12
Indonesia 15
Nigeria 37

In 2014, a nation-wide survey was conducted on how Japanese view Jews/Israelis, and the results were as follows:

49% believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to [this country/to the countries they live in].
46% believe that Jews think they are better than other people.
34% believe that Jews have too much power in the business world.
34% believe that Jews have too much control over the United States government.
31% believe that Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.

The previous data motivated me to understand this phenomenon, which deserves reflection and research. On one hand, how to employ and even strengthen it in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and on the other hand, how to prove the falsity of what the Zionist thought tries to promote—as professor Ben-Ami Shillony of the Hebrew University has done—concerning the role of the Jews in supporting Japan to achieve victories in the Russo-Japanese War between 1904-1905, or to portray the visit of Albert Einstein to Japan in 1923 as part of a historic positive relation between the Japanese and Jews. This image is neither reflected in the global opinion polls, nor in the positions of Einstein, who refused the establishment of Israel and the 1952 offer of making him the president of Israel. [5] In addition, there are some Christian authors of Japanese descent, who have attempted to draw similarities between Japanese and Jewish religious texts in a number of areas, such as the interpretation of sin and the way the Japanese emperor takes over and the Jewish prophets. They even reached some interesting conclusions, such as many Japanese traditions have Jewish roots, and more than that some claimed that the ethnic origins of the Japanese belong to the Israeli ten lost tribes, etc.[6] Furthermore, some Zionist studies tried to distinguish between the Japanese societal views and the image portrayed by the government and the media, so as to weaken the negative social perception of Israel. [7]

The above two theories, mentioned at the beginning of this article, greatly explain the Japanese negative societal view of the Jews in general, and Israel in particular. The following is an attempt to explain this image:

First: The Historic Experience of the Jews-Japanese Relations

1. In 1845, at the end of the Shogun reign (military rulers), western forces forced Japan to open its ports to world trade. Jewish merchants were among the first to arrive with the western merchants, thus stirring up reactions against the Jews among the Japanese people, for they considered them part of the western Christian penetration of their country. As the Christian missionaries spread in Japan, and the Japanese made acute reactions, especially among the Buddhist, Taoist and Shinto clerics, the massacres began against the Christians. Moreover, the Japanese viewed the Jewish religion as the root of Christianity, and that they complement each other, hence, there is no difference between the usurping Christian and the merchant Jew, and this was the case until 1873. [8]

2. In 1868, what is known in Japanese history as the reforms of Emperor Mutsuhito (aka Emperor Meiji) began. Their concept is based on the notion of being open to western political, economic, military and cultural experiences. On the cultural level, the translation into Japanese of Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice” (which portrays the character of the Jewish moneylender Shylock) was an important cultural event, especially since the play spread tremendously, and was presented at Japanese theaters, then was converted into a series. It was also important since the concept of Shylock’s character was explained by the Japanese translations by using the word eta, where eta or burakumin is the lowest social class, dealing with the implementation of the most “unclean” or ritually dirty professions.[9]

3. In early 1920s, after the emergence of the Soviet Union and the conflict with Japan over Siberia, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was translated (Attributed without proof to the Jewish leaders) and millions of copies were distributed. A notion was promoted that the Communist Revolution is part of the Jewish plan to take over the world, and that the Jews will move to Japan next, to control it after Russia.[10]

While cooperating with the Japanese Imperial Army, the Communists’ opponents (The White Army) distributed significant number of copies of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the imperial army. Consequently, the idea that there is a “Jewish conspiracy to rule the world” spread among the soldiers and officers, which was bolstered when a large number of Jews were discovered among the communist ranks.

4. The Japanese alliance with the Nazis during WW2, the translation of Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, and Alfred Rosenberg’s book The Myth of the Twentieth Century—which focuses on the negative influence of Jews in history, and the inferiority of the Semitic race in general—had all promoted the hatred of Jews, considering them agents of the opponents of the Japanese-German alliance. As the battle intensified, the Japanese press began launching ferocious media campaigns demanding to “purge the world of the Jews.” [11]

In 1925, the Japanese Colonel Norihiro Yasue published the translation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and under the pen-name Hō Kōshi he published Studies in the International Conspiracy, where he cited the protocols as a model of this conspiracy. In the 1930s, children’s stories portraying the Jews who spread in the world and how they collected huge sums of money to “take over the world” including the Japanese Empire, were widely circulated. In this context, the stories of Minetarō Yamanaka became very popular until around 1970. [12]

In 1936, General Nobutaka Shiōden published a new translation of the protocols, and his commentaries focused on the idea of a “Jewish conspiracy” to control the world’s wealth. As for the Jews who fled Nazism and went to Japan before the war began, they were settled in Manchukuo or the 1934 Japan-occupied Shanghai, as part of the Fugu Plan. [13]

The publishing of Japanese books that view Jews as a conspiratorial and subversive element in the world continued, and the Japanese magazines followed suit. There were even books that caution the Japanese against the danger of what they called the Jewish pursuit of control of some major banks in Japan. [14]
Therefore, the historical events of Japanese-Jewish relations have portrayed a negative image, which entrenched the ideas of “taking over the world,” “the global conspiracy woven by the Jews,” their hostile position towards the Japanese-German alliance, their accompaniment of Christian missionaries to Japan, and considering Christianity a product of the Jewish intellect.

Second: Economic Reasons: including:

1. In mid 1960s, the Japanese economic recovery began. However, after Israel had attacked the Arab countries in 1967, the oil prices rose and strained the Japanese economy, which was still in its early growth. Then due to the instability caused by Israeli policies, the oil shock waves and its high prices followed. In mid 1980s (when the economic crisis in Japan occurred), studies based on the notion of the “Jewish threat to the world” spread. Among those is a book by Masami Uno, who saw that Japan is “the last obstacle before the Jews control the world.” He sold 1.1 million copies of this book. The book linked the role of the Jews to the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, the attack on Pearl Harbor, dropping nuclear bombs on Japan, etc, and that “the Jews are behind the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus, the reason for the lag of the Japanese economic growth due to their policies that raise oil prices, and the reason behind the tense relations with the United States.” In 1984, some studies conducted by members of the Japanese parliament held the Jews responsible for the economic crises in Japan, and some authors denied the “holocaust,” considering it part of the Zionist mentality. [15]

On the other hand, the Japanese translations of Arabic books increased, where the novels by the Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani were among the most popular Arabic books among Japanese translations of foreign literature. Perhaps these interpret, “to a certain extent,” why the Japanese RED Army had sympathized with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) when they attacked an Israeli airport in 1972, killing 26 Israelis. [16]

2. To Japanese, the political instability in the Arab region in particular, and the Middle East in general, makes the Arab countries buy weapons rather than civilian goods. Since arms sale is not part of Japan’s strategy, hence its ability to compete with the United States, Russia and China seems to be weak. As a result, the Japanese hold Israeli politics responsibe for pushing the Arabs toward arms markets rather than buying civilian goods, in which Japan can compete with other major countries. [17]

3. In 1992, the Shukan Post published an article that charged “Jewish money” for engineering the sharp drop in stock prices as part of an “invisible economic war” meant to weaken Japanese companies for foreign takeover. Then dozens of newspapers and seminars followed suit. [18]

4. There are also strong Japanese anti-American feelings, because of the military bases, the WW2 effects and economic competition, etc. Every hatred towards the Americans is extended towards the Jews, given that Israel is the closest ally of the US.

5. The culture of Ahimsa that calls for peace and stability, and the Buddhist and Toaist trends (that believe a good fighter does not display aggression) collide with the Zionist militarism.

For all the above reasons the Japanese hated Israel…


Our attempt to understand the negative image of Israel among the Japanese indicates that there are various religious, cultural, historical, political and economic backgrounds. When we discuss these reasons, it is because we want to understand the phenomenon, and not because we stand against Judaism as a religion or against Jews as Jews. Our negative stance is against the Zionist project and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The Arab and Muslim countries and the Palestinians, especially the resistance forces, must invest in the position of the Japanese society towards Israel and push towards changing the official Japanese stance to be stronger and more supportive of the Palestinian position, especially in the international arena.

[1] William Buchanan and Hadley Cantril, How nations see each other, a study in public opinion (Urbana (Illinois): University of Illinois Press, 1953).
[2] Urie Bronfenbrenner, The Mirror Image in Soviet-American Relations: A Social Psychologist’s Report (Ithaca (New York): Committee on Soviet Studies, Cornell University, 1964).
[3] For more see bbc survey on world public opinion toward Israel, and; and site of ADL GLOBAL 100,
[4] Site of ADL GLOBAL 100,
[5] Ben-Ami Shillony, The Jews & the Japanese: The Successful Outsiders (Charles E. Tuttle, 1992); Yaniv Pohoryles, Jewish World, site of Yedioth Ahronoth, 14/2/2019,,7340,L-5462495,00.html; and Albert Einstein, in Ideas and Opinions (New York: Crown Publishers, 1954), p. 190.
[7] Jennifer Golup, “Japanese Attitudes Toward Jews,” The Pacific Rim Institute of the American Jewish Committee, New York, 1992,
[8] Daniel Ari Kapner and Stephen Levine, “The Jews of Japan,” Jerusalem Letter, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, no. 425, 24 Adar I 5760 – 1 March 2000.
[9] Olga Barbasiewicz, “Jews in Japan until 1945 :A Case Study of Eidelberg and Shillony.s Research on Setsuzô Kotsuji,” Hemispheres Journal, no. 28, 2013, pp-6-12.
[10] Esther Webman, The Global Impact of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion: A Century-Old Myth, Routledge Jewish Studies Series (Routledge, 2012), chap.10.
[11] Benjamin Ivry, Why Did Japan Treat Jews Differently During World War II?, site of Forward, 10/1/2017,
[12] Jacob Kovalio, The Russian Protocols of Zion in Japan: Yudayaka/Jewish Peril Propaganda and Debates in the 1920s, Asian Thought and Culture, vol. 64 (Peter Lang Publishing Inc, 2009).
[13] Tanaka Chigaku, Shishi-ō Zenshū Daisan-shū, (Complete Works of the Lion King, Part Three), vol. 6, 1937; and Marvin Tokayer and Mary Swartz, The Fugu Plan: The Untold Story of the Japanese and the Jews During World War II (Paddington Press, 1979).
[14] Toshikawa Takao, “Jewish Capital Accelerates the Law of the Jungle,” in David Goodman, Jews in the Japanese Mind: The History and Uses of a Cultural Stereotype, Studies of modern Japan Series (Lexington Books, 2000), pp. 276-278.
[15] Clyde Haberman, Japanese Writers Critical of Jews, site of The New York Times, 12/3/1987,
[16] Mas‘ud Daher, Tatawwor al-Dirasat al-‘Arabiyyah fi al-Yaban 1945-2016 (The Development of Arab Studies in Japan 1945-2016) (Beirut: Dar al-Farabi, 2019), pp. 115-118.
[17] Stanley White, Japan shares rise as easing Middle East tension shifts focus to trade deal, Reuters Agency, 10/1/2020,
[18] Japanese Government Rejects Article Blaming Stock Market Trouble on Jews, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 13/7/1992,

Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 6/3/2020

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