[OUTLOOK]Lessons from a persecuted peopleThough the U.S. envoy to Japan said this week that Washington supports Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, it is also true that Washington has objected to a proposal to expand the council’s membership by September ―which, regardless of what diplomatic words may be spoken, is a de facto obstacle to Japan’s ambitions. In speculating on Washington’s reasons for doing this, one might do well to consider the Jewish factor.
Jewish Americans are almost always involved in core U.S. policy decisions. Jews made up a substantial minority of the Clinton White House staff, and most of the influential figures in the neoconservative movement ―essentially, the Bush administration’s think tank ―are Jewish. So to clearly understand U.S. foreign policy, it helps to understand Jewish American thinking.
As an education specialist, I meet frequently with Jewish Americans in high positions in society. I have often been surprised to find that they were well informed about issues like the Korean “comfort women” forced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese army, and that they had detailed knowledge of the distortions in Japanese history textbooks.
The American head of an internationally renowned human rights organization told me, “Most German Nazi war criminals that inflicted suffering on Jews disappeared, or led shameful lives in hiding. But the war criminals of Japan were held up by their people as heroes. How can one say that justice exist in such a society?”
For years, Jewish human rights organizations have been making efforts to correct the distortions in the Japanese textbooks, by sending representatives to Japan and by raising the issue internationally. There seems little doubt that Jewish people have played a big part in hindering Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Six million Jews died in the Holocaust launched by Nazi Germany, but according to many estimates, even more non-Jewish people were killed. So why is it that Jews have been the most effective in making sure that the whole world knows what horrific things the Nazis did?
It is because they educate people, so that their history of pain is remembered. Their intention is to establish an unbiased view of that tragedy, and to make sure that it is never repeated.
The Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was pursued for 15 years before being arrested in 1960 at a farm in Argentina, where he was living under a false name. He was brought to Israel, where he was tried for crimes against the Jewish people and sentenced to death. Nor is that all. Many Jewish lawyers have persistently demanded compensation from Germany, and succeeded in securing huge amounts. Some found hidden accounts in Swiss banks and returned the money to victims’ families.
Jewish activists have also pressed for the preservation of concentration camps around Europe as historical sites; they are now visited by peoople from around the world. There are more than 20 Holocaust museums in the United States. The Jewish people have made sure that what was done to them is never forgotten.
Why is it that Germany has had little choice but to reflect on its past and offer apologies, while another country guilty of war crimes, Japan, soft-pedals its atrocities? There are differences in the national characters of Japan and Germany, but the insistent voices of the Jews have played a major role.
So is protesting all that’s needed? No ―one also needs power. And to a large extent ― certainly where Israel is concerned ―the Jewish people can say that they have the United States, the superpower of the world, on their side.
If you visit a Holocaust museum, you may find that a guide poses this question: “How does one obtain freedom?” The answer is that freedom, and peace, have to be fought for. They are not free. Another question often posed in the museums is how the Nazis were able to do such horrible things for so long. The answer to that question is that people remained silent about it.
How should Korea counteract Japan’s distortions of history? The answer is the same. People in the world who love justice and peace must stand together to oppose Japan’s unreasonable behavior. To stop it, Korea will have to be more powerful than Japan. If that is not possible, then we must be wise enough to make powerful friends.
We also should not forget our past. We should keep bringing up Japan’s war crimes, so that they can be judged by the world. We have to make the world aware. Koreans should establish museums in the United States that expose Japan’s wartime atrocities, and see to it that they are visited by people from all over the world ―not to take revenge, but to protect the universal values of justice and freedom.
* The writer is a Korean American education scholar and a guest professor at Myongji University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Hyun Yong-soo