Arab News Japan
On Sunday May 15, an event was held in Japan commemorating the 74th anniversary of the “Nakba,” or catastrophe – the term used by Palestinians to describe their mass displacement when hundreds of thousands of them fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment.
The event was hosted by Japanese human rights activist Nikki Matsumoto and held in the Iidabashi area of Tokyo at Matsumoto’s event space, where it was attended by numerous people, many of whom were Japanese citizens that had visited Palestine prior to COVID.
Matsumoto began the event with a short speech, and then contacted a Palestinian citizen named Musa on a large screen to discuss the current situation in Palestine. In explaining the situation in Palestine, Musa said that “Our continuous attempts to stop the conflict never seem to reach the desired point.”
One of the Japanese participants skeptically asked Musa a question about Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian journalist for the Al Jazeera satellite channel that was killed while covering an Israeli military operation in the Jenin refugee camp, asking “What makes you so certain that Shireen’s killing wasn’t a reaction to an attempted assault of the Israelis?”
In response to the question, Musa said that Abu Akleh was a popular journalist that was simply doing her common duty of reporting for the news. He stressed on the point that she was wearing a press helmet and bullet-proof vest that were clearly identifiable.
Abu Akleh was widely known across the MENA region and was a window into the Palestinian cause as well as the events occurring in the area for 25 years.
A short video of the ambassador, Waleed Siam, was displayed. Following that, Maki Sato, a previous resident of Palestine, gave a one-hour presentation in Japanese that stressed the notion of double standard behavior, amongst other issues, while wearing a chequered Palestinian Keffiyeh. The Keffiyeh remains to be a symbol of independence, identity, and a unifier in the representation of the Palestinian culture.
Sato lived in Palestine for five years as an NGO employee supporting peace education. During his time there, he was denied entry to Israel because of a block on humanitarian assistance in Jenin in 2002. After getting rejected to enter Israel, he went to Iraq to seek more humanitarian activities. Recently, he has been involved as an advisor in the dialogue program for young people in both Israel and Palestine.
Another participant, who identified as an American named Gregory, had a tattoo of the word Palestine in Arabic on his forearm. He came into the event space with a flag, and distributed self-made flyers that highlighted the Palestinian cause using the colors of the Ukrainian flag, stressing the notion that the world generally has double standards in certain cases and has several biases in their perception of human rights.
“Although I am personally not the one to blame, I continuously feel the need to apologize on behalf of Americans for the support that they have always been giving to Israel,” said Gregory.
A Middle Eastern participant, who preferred to stay anonymous, concluded the event by saying that “Some people are simply born into a storm at the center of the ocean. But perhaps, those are the ones closest to the truth, and what is better than to witness the truth. Whether fighting against Zionists in Israel, earthquakes in Japan, destruction of Syria, or the soft war in Lebanon and elsewhere, we ought to remember that some people are simply trying to find a meaning to fight for. Perhaps we are blessed if we are fighting for something.”