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Some perceptions from the Far East

Some perceptions from the Far East
In the Far East antisemitism can be found, but it has very little to do with Jews. There was a Jewish community in China which no longer exists. There were, as far as I know, never Japanese or Korean Jews except people who converted for one reason or another. Nonetheless, you can find expressions of antisemitism and indeed admiration, sometimes, for Hitler, which are usually held in total ignorance of what actually happened in history. The admiration for Hitler is usually the admiration for a strong man who supposedly stood up for his people and that kind of thing.
But there is another more interesting strain of antisemitism that you find in Japan in particular, which is expressed in conspiracy theories about a kind of cabal of powerful and wealthy Jews, usually in league with the United States, who behind the scenes pull all the strings of world events. And there are many best-selling books about this particular topic.
And the history of that is interesting, because it goes back to the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, when Japan was at war with Russia and could no longer afford it, there were various financial difficulties, and a banker in New York called Jacob Schiff, who had escaped from the pogroms in Russia, helped the Japanese to drum up enough funds to continue the war and in the end defeat Russia. Now once Russia had been defeated, the Japanese encountered a lot of White Russian officers and POWs, and they introduced the Japanese to this notorious pamphlet - the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,
and this is when the Japanese concluded: Jacob Schiff he helped us - the Elders of Zion - this must be true so the Jews really are very powerful behind the scenes. And the conclusion the Japanese drew from this was an interesting one which was that - that means that we’d better keep the Jews on our side, and that had a consequence in World War Two when there were many Jewish refugees in Shanghai, which was then under Japanese occupation but also in Harbin in the Northeast, in Manchuria, and the Germans wanted the Japanese to hand over the Jews to to the Germans for extermination and the Japanese refused and the refusal was based on this notion that the Jews are too powerful to make into enemies unnecessarily.
“We’d better keep them on our side” was the feeling. And so the books that you still read about Jewish conspiracies and Jews behind the scenes who really run the world and so on are an odd mixture of sort of envy, admiration, and a tinge of hostility too.

Prof. Ian Buruma

The topic of contemporary conspiracy theories involving Jews takes us to a realm which has not been discussed in the course so far – that of the Far East.

How are the attitudes presented in this video similar and different to those discussed so far?


  • Buruma, Ian, “The Jewish Conspiracy in Asia,” Project Syndicate (February 2009).

  • Ehrlich, M. Avrum, ed., The Jewish-Chinese Nexus: A Meeting of Civilizations (London: Routledge, 2010).

  • Gao Bei, Shanghai Sanctuary: Chinese and Japanese Policy toward European Jewish Refugees during World War II (New York: Oxford University Press. 2013).

  • Goodman, David G. and Masanori Miyazawa, Jews in the Japanese Mind: The History and Uses of a Cultural Stereotype (New York: Free Press, 1995).

  • Goodman, David G., The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Japan,” in Richard Landes and Steven T. Katz, eds., The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred-Year Retrospective on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (New York: New York University Press, 2012), pp. 135 – 151.

  • Kowner, Rotem, “The Protocols in a Land Without Jews: A Reconsideration,” International Antisemitism, vols. 3-4 (2006), pp. 68 – 77.

  • Kowner, Rotem, “On Symbolic Antisemitism: Motives for the Success of the Protocols in Japan and Its Consequences,” Posen Papers in Contemporary Antisemitism, no. 3. (Jerusalem: The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, the Hebrew University of Jserusalem).

  • Weiner, Michael, ed., Race, Ethnicity and Migration in Modern Japan: Imagined and Imaginary Minorites (London: Routledge, 2004).

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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