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Global Israel: Japan

Updated: Jan 29, 2019

Event Overview by José  Eriel Muniz Gomez

On the 14th of November 2018, the beauty of the reception room at the Japanese Embassy, the former residence of the Japanese Ambassador in Washington, DC was a sign that this event would be magical. The incorporation of different colors, paintings and classic Japanese decoration combined with the “avant-garde” style made the reception room unique. Therefore, the guests of the Global Israel event at the former residence of the Japanese Ambassador in Washington, DC had a fantastic night, and thanks to the participation of the amazing panelists, exclusive wisdom emanated throughout the room.

To kick off the event, Deputy Ambassador of Japan to the United States and Dr. Michael Brenner reminded us of the beginning of the ties between Israel and Japan based on common events that took place in both countries before, during and after the Second World War. In this same line, Japan’s plenipotentiary ambassador explained that the economic cooperation between Japan and Israel has been greatly strengthened, exemplified by the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO), a governmental agency that opened a business center and accelerator program for Israeli startups in Israel. Also, he reminded us that the economic investment of Japan in the Jewish State surpasses the incredible amount of $3 billion dollars. In addition, Ambassador Sugiyama stressed that relations between Israel and Japan are very good to the point that the current Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, visited the Jewish state last May after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a visit to Japan in 2014. Posteriorly, Ambassador Sugiyama emphasized that Japan believes in a two-state solution - one Israeli and one Palestinian - living together in peace and security.

Tammy Ben-Haim, the Minister of Public Diplomacy at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC, reminded us that the first Israeli embassy in East Asia was opened in Japan in 1952. She talked about her experience as a diplomat in Japan, confirming that in spite of occasional differences between Israel and Japan regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli links with Japan are unbreakable.

Finally, AU Professor and Israel's Former Deputy-Ambassador to Japan and the United States Dan Arbell told us what the great differences between Israel and Japan are -- according to his criteria. In a satirical tone, he implied that the Japanese "are neater" and "more sympathetic and diplomatic" than the Israelis (since Israelis are very frank). He reflected on the time he spent living in Japan, describing how when he spoke with Japanese people in Tokyo, they only asked him about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while in the rest of the country, whenever he told anyone he was an Israeli diplomat, they asked about the Israeli start-ups and the Israeli economy. Furthermore, as a former Israeli diplomat and former member of Israel's negotiating team with Syria between 1993 and 1996, Dr. Arbell commented that during his nearly 4-year stay at the Israeli embassy in Japan, a fantastic idea arose to take sumo wrestlers to the Dead Sea to promote Japan-Israel relations. This was a great success, as was Dr. Arbell’s role at the Israeli Embassy in Japan.

To conclude the event, the guests and speakers came together to enjoy an exquisite dinner organized by the Japanese Embassy, featuring an array of sushi and other Japanese specialties. The event was certainly a success and was a memorable experience for everyone involved.

José Eriel Muniz Gomez is a student in Neuroscience and Israel Studies at the American University in Washington, DC. Among his achievements, he had completed professional internships in the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, the National Committee of the "College Republicans" and The David Project in Washington, DC. 

In addition to his interest in Spanish politics, Middle East conflicts and diplomacy, José currently works as an Israel Programming intern for AU Hillel and as an events assistant for the Center for Israel Studies at the American University. In addition, José has a blog in the Times of Israel, and has written for several newspapers such as El Nuevo Día (Puerto Rico), El Vocero de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico), Latino Rebels (United States) and Red Alert Politics (United States). José is the author of two books: "Panorama Internacional: Una mirada a la geopolítica e historia mundial (2016-2017)" and "Puerto Rico: El nocivismo del insularismo y el colonialismo". He also did his Israel Studies minor final independent research project about "The Relations of Israel with Basque and Catalan Nationalism.

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