Against Japanism
Against Japanism
Sep 2, 2021
Solidarity with the Palestinian Resistance w/ May Shigenobu
Play • 2 hr 29 min

Kota sits down with a Palestinian-Japanese journalist Shigenobu May to talk about Palestine.

May is the daughter of Shigenobu Fusako, a former member of the Japanese Red Army and a political prisoner in Japan. She is currently based in Lebanon, and since Lebanon is a country underdeveloped by imperialism, the availability of electricity and internet connectivity are very limited. As a result, I interviewed her on two separate occasions and combined them into one episode. 

In the first segment of this interview recorded in June 24, we begin our conversation by discussing how her experience growing up in the Palestinian refugee camps shaped her views of Israel, US imperialism, and Palestinian human rights, including the right to resist. We critically examine the myths that Israel is a peace-loving country and that it is the “only democracy in the Middle East” despite the increasing international recognition to the contrary that it is a highly militarized settler colonial apartheid state that has violently murdered, displaced, and segregated the indigenous Palestinian people since its creation in 1948 remembered by Palestinians as al-Nakba (the Catastrophe). 

In the second segment of this interview recorded in July 21, we focus on the history of Japan-Israel relations, beginning in the 1930s when some officials within the Japanese state influenced by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (an anti-Semitic text that associates Jewish people with money and other conspiracy theories) sought to settle Jewish refugees fleeing Europe in the territories occupied by Japan in a belief that they will bring financial support to Japanese imperialism. After World War II, Japan was one of the first countries to recognize Israel and maintain friendly relations with it until the Arab-Israeli War of 1973 and the Arab states’ oil embargo led to an economic crisis in Japan. This led Japan to take a more cautious approach as a “neutral” party and maintain diplomatic relations with both Israel and the Arab states, as well as Iran. However, Japan moved toward rapprochement with Israel in 2014 and this led to increased economic, technological, and military cooperation between the two states, making Japan’s claim to neutrality in the so called “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” increasingly dubious. 

We then discuss the history of solidarity between the Japanese left and the Palestinian struggle starting in the 1970s when Fusako traveled to Lebanon to cooperate with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.  However, after the Lod Airport Massacre in which three members of the Japanese Red Army allegedly opened fire and killed twenty six civilians, the subsequent repression forced the Shigenobu family and other members of the JRA underground.  We discuss the misconceptions surrounding this incident and the change in the orientation of Japanese solidarity with Palestine towards a more legal and humanitarian direction led by NGOs, as well as the present day social movements such as the BDS movement. We also discuss the international dimension of the Palestinian struggle, the accusation of antisemitism against pro-Palestinian activists, the media representation of Palestine, and the role of social media in pro-Palestinian activism.

Intro song:  Cielo by Huma-Huma

Interlude song: Palestine [Freestyle] by MC Abdul

Outro song: Fus

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