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Japanese protester challenges Israel’s ‘Gaza genocide’; confronts Japan public apathy

Yusuke Furusawa has been protesting Israel's actions towards the Gaza Strip for the last three months. (Instagram/@furusawayusuke_)
Yusuke Furusawa has been protesting Israel's actions towards the Gaza Strip for the last three months. (Instagram/@furusawayusuke_)
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06 Feb 2024 05:02:10 GMT9
06 Feb 2024 05:02:10 GMT9
  • Furuwa often films his lone demonstrations and posts them on social media
  • He usually holds up a sign that says: “Stop Gaza genocide”

Diana Farah

DUBAI: Protests against Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip have been taking place all over the world since Oct. 7 last year, and demonstrations in Japan are no exception.

One Japanese protester, Yusuke Furusawa, has created his own movement over the past three months, standing alone in a busy Tokyo street or quiet alleyway, holding up a sign proclaiming, “Stop Gaza genocide.”

He told Arab News Japan: “Acting alone means that I take full responsibility for my actions. There is no escape. That is why I think it is important to act alone.”

Furusawa noted that people in Japan were often unaware of what was happening around the world, let alone in their own political world.

“Many people do not talk about politics in their daily conversations, and many people are completely ignorant about international affairs. There is an atmosphere in Japanese society that prevents people from discussing politics on a daily basis,” he said.

In November, a large protest took place in Tokyo, gathering more than 4,000 people showing solidarity with the people of Gaza, but the demonstration fell on “deaf ears, blank stares, and occasional ridicule,” Furusawa added.

He pointed out that Japanese people generally thought of those that protested as “infidels or lazy people.”

“I continue to stand alone. I continue to hold up placards alone. I want to inject noise into the peaceful and indifferent Tokyo, and infiltrate people’s consciousness with a sense of discomfort,” he said.

He often films his lone demonstrations and posts them on his Instagram account, which currently has more than 26,000 followers, and he occasionally stands in front of a McDonald’s or Starbucks branch in Japan, to amplify the boycott movement against the companies.

“By making videos of this movement on social networking sites, I am visualizing the passer-by who is reacting in rejection to my body as a foreign object. I would like to continue to give that sense of discomfort in Japan,” he added.

Despite the lack of positive reaction from his Japanese peers, Furusawa said that foreign visitors, especially those of Arab descent, often thanked him for raising his voice from a country as far away as Japan.

“I could not handle the anger, sadness, frustration, and bitterness that welled up inside me every time I heard the news about what was happening in Gaza.

“So, I stand in the streets with placards. This action is self-satisfying. I am calling for a permanent ceasefire as soon as possible,” he said.

The public’s lack of reaction to what the International Court of Justice may call a genocide could possibly fall in line with the Japanese government’s stance on the conflict.

Japan has followed in the footsteps of the US and Western countries in refusing to call for a ceasefire, and instead called for “humanitarian pauses.” Japan has also continuously stood with Israel in its right to “self-defense.”

The Asian nation also decided to cut off funding to UNRWA along with the US, Canada, Italy, Germany, and other countries based on Israel’s allegations of the organization’s involvement in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks.

Furusawa noted that Japan appeared to be simply “parroting the US’ response to the war.”

He added: “Is it necessary to kill children and women, destroy hospitals, schools, and museums for the sake of self-defense? This is a clear act of arrogance and barbarism that violates international humanitarian law. I firmly protest the Japanese government’s statements in defense of Israel.”

He claimed that the two sides in the war were “clearly unbalanced and unequal,” and that Israel, along with Western nations, had destroyed Palestinians’ human rights.

The defunding of UNRWA would only make matters worse, he said. “This is a genocide that will go down in world history. I protest this without question.”

The UN on Feb. 5 stated that more than 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed, injured, or were missing as Israel continued its bombardment of the Strip.

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