Lecture on the Nakba Held in Tokyo

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tokyo -- Pictures of Palestine -- dead children lying on the street, an old woman crying, young protesters being arrested by Israeli solders -- with a gloomy song as the background music, opened an event called "The Origin of Jewish People," which was hosted by the well-established, high-quality photojournalism magazine Days Japan last night at a public building in central Tokyo.

Retired Tokyo University professor Yuzo Itagaki and chief editor of Days Japan Ryuichi Hirokawa, who has been covering West Asian issues since the 1970s, especially the suffering of the Palestinian people, spoke at the event to introduce a best-selling book, The Invention of the Jewish People.

The author, Shlomo Sand, was involved in Matzpen's anti-Zionism-and-occupation movement in the late 1960s and escaped to Paris in order to refuse service in the Israeli Army. After studying and teaching history in Paris for many years, Sand returned to Israel and currently teaches at Tel Aviv University.

In his best-selling book, Sand contends—based on his studies of history, archaeology, scriptures, and genetics—that the descendants of the Jewish people in Israeli society today do not originally come from Canaan (current Palestine)—despite their strong belief in the scriptures, which mention the enforced migration of Jewish followers.

The author's theory, if true, would indicate that most founders of Israel, who migrated from Europe after facing the Nazi Germany's oppression during World War II, are not a racially integrated people, but rather a group of people with different geographical backgrounds who commonly believe in Judaism. Therefore, Sand claims, Israeli people do not have the right to establish their own nation on the Palestinians' land.

Professor Itagaki declared in his lecture on Sand's book: "Although some people say that Israel is a 'democratic society,' unusually among West Asian countries, that democracy is oppressing and killing Palestinian people. Israel is a military power. Let's face it... Besides, if Israeli people really want to face the history of Holocaust in all seriousness, they have to look at another tragedy, the Nakba. If they can't do it, they are lying to themselves," said Itagaki.

Itagaki also said: "Sometimes the Japanese media reports on the conflict between Palestine and Israel as if it were like an evenly-matched war, meaning that both are responsible for the tragedies happening on both sides. But that's not true. What Israel is doing is colonization: We must not dismiss that point."

One of the participants from Waseda University said, "This event was valuable for me because I found out things that I could not learn from newspaper reports. I hope they organize a panel discussion on this issue in the future."

His friend, also from Waseda University, said, "I realized that I need to change my bias on Middle Eastern issues. My understanding of the Palestine-Israel conflict wasn't right." 

Staffers said that about 360 people participated in the event.

Sand will be visiting Japan in June and is expected to give lectures on his Invention of the Jewish People in Tokyo.

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