Japan – Middle East Relations | Tokyo on Fire (with Rabbi Abraham Cooper)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a Jewish global human rights organization based in Los Angeles, California (U.S.). Rabbi Abraham Cooper shares with us his insights on Japan’s diplomatic relations in the Middle-East and what needs to be done to protect and promote human rights in the Asia-Pacific region.
Join us in this episode as Timothy Langley and Rabbi Abraham Cooper discuss human rights, anti-semitism and Japan-Middle East relations.
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Tim: The Jewish people in Japan: we have an amazing guest today, don’t forget to hit the subscribe button. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Tokyo on Fire. Today is February 20th, 2019. Today, we’re going to talk about Israel and the relationship between Israel and Japan, once again. During our last episode of Mission Japan, we were honored to have the ambassador to Israel and today I’d like to welcome from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los
Angeles Rabbi Abraham Cooper. Welcome!
Rabbi Cooper: Thanks for having me.
Tim: It’s great to have you here. You’re in Tokyo very frequently, you’re talking to people at all levels of government, you are a champion of the downtrodden, you represent the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Human Rights issues. I’ve seen you in the newspaper and the New York Times, you are a prominent, I mean, you’re one of the top rabbis in the world.
Rabbi Cooper: I wouldn’t go that far but I am a troublemaker. Originally from New York, and you know, I represent an institution that’s based on the Asia Pacific Rim. The Simon Wiesenthal Center is based in Los Angeles and so what goes on in the neighborhood, including and especially our Democratic allies and trading partners here in Japan. It has always been very important for us.
Tim: You got an early start, I mean, you grew up in Brooklyn; when you were 23 you went to Russia. I don’t know why your mother let you go to Russia at that time, but this was a
critical period and it kind of helped launch your career. You’ve been at the forefront of, you know, championing these issues of the Israelis, the Jews, and how they are kind of besmirched by certain pockets in Japan and also all around the world.
Rabbi Cooper: Yeah, it’s been a really amazing experience to visit here since 1985. We’ve come a very very long way but I think for some of the Japanese elite, including people who probably never actually met at Jew, the idea of a Jew, nor the reality. I’ve been here 40 times, you can walk at 2 o’clock in the morning no one’s gonna say “oh there goes a Jew or rabbi, let’s go get him”. It’s the safest place to walk but the idea of another who you don’t really fully understand, and many Jews are quite prominent involved in economics and diplomacy, in business, so I think there’s been a lot of mystery surrounding Jews and especially one particular book “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, written in the end of the 19th century, that accuses Jews of conspiracies to take over the world. That’s embedded itself culturally here for quite a long time.
Tim: No, apparently that caught fire here and a lot of people ascribe to it because it’s a cool conspiracy theory. It seems to make sense, you know, the Jews have all the money, they had all the diamonds, they got all the gold and, of course, they’re ruling the world.
Rabbi Cooper: And of course, Jews and Zionists like the late Tip O’Neill, Al Gore, Rockefeller, I mean for those of us who deal with real problems of anti-semitism where there are significant Jewish populations, this seems almost like a sideshow. But Japan is very important, not only in the region but globally. I’ve always felt that we could be part of a solution here by replacing stereotypes and introducing who we are, what our values are, and I would say that over the course of three decades, I’m not taking all the credit for it, there’s been I think a seismic shift in terms of, first of all, understanding who the Jewish people are. No, we don’t go to synagogue, our temple, to plot the economic downfall of Japan. And also there are, I would say, some fundamental values that we both share so there’s a lot to learn; it’s a huge learning curve but for many reasons, but especially including that today Japan is a strong democracy (we know one thing democracies don’t go to war with each other) and while we need profound help in cultural interpretation, this program being one of them, it is very important for us to make that effort and over the years, we’ve found some really great people here.
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