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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Hiroshima on My Mind

Friday, November 16th, 2012

The Spokesman for the IDF is constantly announcing that the Israeli Air Force is doing pinpoint bombing in order to protect innocent civilians. Prime Minister Netanyahu also says that Israel deserves praise for the care it is taking not to injure innocent civilians.

Apparently to them, these “civilians” are “innocent” even though they house grad rocket launchers in their homes, and it’s their fathers and brothers who are doing the firing. In the meantime, we are bombing evacuated warehouses and underground tunnels, and the Gazans keep firing away, not at all worried about being hit. In the 200 plus forays our fighter bombers have made over Gaza, maybe 20 people have been killed and a couple dozen wounded. Peanuts. So the innocent civilians keep shooting away.

Whose approval are we trying to win? Has America or the United Nations applauded us on our great sense of morality and fair play? Has France or Russia? You’ve got to be kidding. In their heart of hearts, they think that we’re jerks. No one fights a war this way.

Calculations of the death-toll from the Anglo-American bombing of Dresden in February 1945 have varied widely. Figures have ranged from 35,000 through 100,000 and more. The German city of Dresden had a population of three quarters of a million people, plus hordes of anonymous refugees from the Eastern Front. It was destroyed in one night by Allied aircraft armed with more than 4,500 tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs. The devastated area amounted to around 13 square miles – not much different from the size of Gaza. The victims weren’t Nazi soldiers but innocent civilians. No one said a word.

Toward the end of World War 2, following a firebombing campaign that destroyed many Japanese cities, the Allies prepared for a costly invasion of Japan, knowing that thousands of American soldiers would be killed. To avoid this, American airmen dropped the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, immediately killing 66,000 innocent civilians. Then they dropped the “Fat Man” bomb over Nagasaki on 9 August, killing 40,000. Six days later, the Japanese surrendered without the loss of one American soldier in Japan. Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki. Once again, no one said a word.

If you ask me, it’s time we took a lesson from the goyim. Before even one of our soldiers steps foot in Gaza, instead of bombing vacant warehouses and tunnels, we should level a few eight-story buildings filled with “innocent civilians.” That will stops the rockets, believe me.

Israeli Companies Just Can’t Make It in the Japanese Market

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Israel and Japan are celebrating sixty years of diplomatic relations, and so, a week ago, the Israel-Japan Chamber of Commerce marked the occasion with a festive event. But the current commercial ties between the two countries gives less cause for celebration. Israeli businesses find it difficult to understand the Japanese market and Japanese companies are not in a hurry to reach Israel, The Marker reported.

“I have been exporting diamonds to Japan since the sixties,” said Shmuel Schnitzer, Vice Chairman of the Israel-Japan Chamber of Commerce. “Japan is a nation with whom it is a pleasure to do business. When you play according to their rules, the Japanese client will be more loyal to you than any other client in the world. He will remain loyal to you even when a competitor offers merchandise at a lower price, and he won’t switch suppliers.”

Another exporter, selling water infrastructure, has been experiencing difficulties breaking into the Japanese market. “We joined up with a trading company, which, by and large, is how you do business in Japan,” he said. “We approached our targeted clients – beverage and bottling companies. We also tried to connect with engineering companies in the water business. Procedures in Japan are very lengthy, costly and difficult. The culture gaps are enormous. I’ve been to Japan twenty times. I’ve learned that not only do I not understand the Japanese, but I have no chance of ever understanding them.”

Israeli exports to Japan are still modest, and according to that exporter, the main obstacle is the Japanese perception of technology and marketing. “We haven’t succeeded in explaining to the Japanese concepts that are practiced in other parts of the world. One of the central issues there is the concept of time. Procedures are conducted from the bottom up, and nothing happens without consensus. Reaching a consensus depends on every single employee understanding the product or proposal. There is only a technological approval after this entire process is completed.”

The same exporter added that there are definitely language comprehension difficulties. “In one of the rounds of talks, they said ‘yes,’ but meant ‘no.’ Plus, they prefer locally-produced good. If there is a comparable Japanese product or technology, they will prefer it.”

Another obstacle preventing penetration into the Japanese market, according to the exporter, are the high prices. From his experience working in another company, he said, but “the potential is tremendous and the minute you penetrate the market, it’s a real success.”

Trade between Israel and Japan is volatile and varies between $2.5 – $3 billion annually. About 25% of this is Israeli export and the rest import. Cars (mainly Toyota and Subaru) make up a significant part of the imports. Last year, this included machinery and equipment. According to informed sources, the increase in car imports is a result of car imports by Intel as part of their investment in their Kiryat Gat, Israel, plant.

There was a marked decrease of 13% in trade with Japan (down to $1.4 billion) in the first half of 2012 in comparison with the first half of 2011. Exports dropped 8% to $341 million; imports dropped 15% to $1.1 billion. A 38% drop in automobile imports is predicted.

“We haven’t managed to crack Japan,” said Shauli Katzenelson, chief economist for the Export Institute. “Our rate of penetration into Japan stands out negatively compared to the rest of the world. Our share there is a mere 0.11% of their import, compared with our overall percentage of the world imports, which stands at 0.27%. Even when allowing for Japan’s huge oil imports, our situation there is not good.”

Roni Burstein, chairman of the Israel-Japan chamber of commerce and a Kikoman importer for more than 20 years, said “the problem at the moment is not with the Japanese but with us. If Israeli companies give Japan a high priority, which means investing in entering the market, in the end it will pay off, even if it takes a long time. It’s a market of 130 million homogeneous consumers. Once we get in, we won’t be easily kicked out.”

J.E. Dyer: Tumultus Post-Americanus

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

You’d think they could wait until America has decided if we really intend to be post-American.  I mean, what’s President Obama going to do about Iran and Syria – get Qatar to bomb them?  Does that really require a regional-war-scale response from Russia?  And what about the South China Sea?  It’s not like our new Marine contingent in Australia can do anything about China’s strong-arming of the other nations there.  Nor does there seem to be much likelihood that we will react to Russia’s chest-thumping in the disputed Kuril Islands north of Japan.  And when I say “react,” I mean “react at all.”  For all the president’s new focus on the Pacific, we don’t seem to have any positions we intend to actually enunciate there, much less defend.

The Tumultus Post-Americanus is now well underway.  The US and NATO, and our Pacific allies Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines, have tremendous latent power, but the American leadership to focus this power for strategic purposes has gone missing.  There is no initiative on our collective part – we have done nothing but react in the last three years – and possibly even less appreciation of how the world is changing.  The forms of international discourse – the processes of the UN, the G-8 and G-20, the IMF – are being adhered to now because they are a convenience, not because they produce anything useful.  They are brittle relics of a peace that no longer has a core and is waiting to be breached by regional initiative.

Hiatus, for now

My sense today is that nothing is about to “break.”  I believe those who sense otherwise misread the dynamics of the current situation.  There is no unified actor – either a nation or a movement; e.g., Islamism – in a position today to prosecute an abruptly transformative, offensive campaign on the model of predatory Marxist-Leninism or the outright-conquest methods of Adolf Hitler.  The nations of today all know this – even Iran’s mullahs.

Russia and China are both acting under the compulsions of their traditional geopolitical motives; as important as American power is in their calculations, they are at least as concerned about each other.  They cannot escape their neighborhood.  Right now, Russia’s actions are, to the Russian mind, wholly defensive.  China hopes to enlarge her base of invulnerable power by controlling the sea- and tradeways around her perimeter, and staking out power outposts in Central and South Asia and Africa.  China sees a watershed opportunity; Russia sees a loss of stasis and a rise of Islamism, and seeks to prepare for whatever that’s going to do to her, in part by reclaiming territory she feels vulnerable and disrespected without (e.g., Georgia).

The decisive factor for political Islam – Islam focused through the lens of ideology on politics and the nation-state – is still its internal competition.  Saudi Arabia and Iran have led separate factions for decades.  But now an economically and militarily resurgent Turkey is seeking to put her own stamp on Islamist geopolitical leadership.  And Egypt – a very large, populous, and educated nation, long held in a neutral stance by Mubarak’s effectively secular regime – appears to have entered the sweepstakes with the election of Mohammed Morsi.  Some Western pundits are waiting for the Egyptian military to drop the hammer on Morsi, but I am not sanguine about that possibility.  Erdogan’s Turkey, where the traditionally moderating political power of the military has been broken in the last 3-4 years, looms as an example to the region.  It will take some time, as it has in Turkey, but Egypt will probably emerge as a nation-state competitor to Turkey, and she is likely to do it by emulating Erdogan’s methods.

The Muslim Brotherhood itself is boresighted on Jerusalem, but the path to that “victory” remains uncertain.  Egypt, for all her geographic advantages, may not be the most obvious launching pad.  Syria, which has been in Iran’s orbit for a long time, is a great strategic prize in the race to Jerusalem, both geographically and politically.  Most political happenings in the Middle East right now are centered on the jockeying process for leadership of the Islamist geopolitical movement.

No one in this mix is ready right now for the fading global stasis to entirely fall apart.  It serves their interests for the stasis to continue and hold their competitors in check.  But within the constraints of the old stasis, they – especially Russia and China, but also India, Iran, and other affected nations – are making military preparations.

J.E. Dyer: Russia, Iran Standing Off from Obama Showcase Events

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Vladimir Putin decided not to attend the recent NATO summit in Chicago – although probably not out of petty pique at our president.  Regardless of his sentiments about Obama, he would have attended if he had thought it was in his interest to do so.   Now Iran has abruptly ended the scheduled talks on her nuclear program in Baghdad, affirming no interest in continuing this round without some lightening of sanctions up front.  The next round of talks is to be held in Moscow.

If they occur, as promised, in June – before the US election – the most likely outcome is more stalling and no progress.  But that is not because there has been no prior interest on the Western side in making big concessions in order to get an agreement.  What Iran is doing actually amounts to avoiding being presented with a favorable agreement.  The abruptness of the talks’ end indicates mostly that Iran doesn’t see it as advantageous to stick around and talk anymore, in spite of – or perhaps because of – the P5+1’s anxiety to negotiate a good deal for Iran.

As for Putin, his proximate reason for not attending the summit is obvious.  Missile defense was – as always, over the last decade – to be one of the two main topics in Chicago, the other being Afghanistan.  The collective NATO missile defense system for Europe was to be declared operational at the summit.  It was.  Russia’s main bone of contention with NATO is missile defense.  Although Russia has been invited to be a missile defense partner with NATO, and has participated in extensive talks on the matter, there remain fundamental disagreements between the parties over how to operate and orient a collective missile defense.

Putin had no intention of being present for photo ops under a “NATO missile defense” banner – in spite of President Obama’s assurance to Dmitry Medvedev that the US would be more “flexible” about the whole thing after our November election.  Putin’s reluctance is partly because Obama’s NATO allies have a different view.  They aren’t interested at all in more “flexibility”:  the Europeans, in their own special way, have actually been quite stringent on the need for missile defense, determined to go ahead with it for political purposes if not for the capabilities of the inaugural system.  The initial capability relies entirely on US Aegis warships being stationed in the Black Sea or Eastern Mediterranean, along with an early warning radar in Turkey whose data the Turks – against NATO policy – don’t want shared with Israel.  The vulnerabilities of this initial set-up are obvious, but for the Europeans, the point is the show of commitment.

Writing at NRO earlier this month, Daniel Vajdic assessed Putin as increasingly detached from reality.  I’m not so sure it’s Putin who’s in that condition.

If Greece leaves the Eurozone rather than staying in and swallowing some very nasty-tasting medicine, who will come to Greece’s aid?  The door will be open to Russia, in a way it wasn’t in 2010 when reports abounded that Russia offered Greece a 25-billion-Euro loan, but was rejected by the Greek leadership due to opposition from the EU and US.  Russia is already keeping Cyprus afloat, and has for centuries had a national interest in maintaining the principal geopolitical influence over Southeastern Europe.  Russia and Greece have begun a significant naval rapprochement – but that’s not the only rapprochement going on between the two Orthodox Christian nations.  Russian businessmen promised in September 2011 that Russian investment in Greece would be increasing dramatically, a credible promise given the level of investment Russia (and China) already had in Greek infrastructure.  As the Eurozone crisis rages – literally, at this exact moment – the second Greece-Russia Investment Conference is unfolding on the island of Evia.

The leaders of Europe have a problem.  If they effectively force Greece out – a move that would be understandable from a fiscal and monetary perspective – they will have to outbid Russia if they want to turn around and buy Greece back.  The implications for NATO are as uncertain as anything else.  A NATO missile defense, opposed by Russia and relying on the nations and waterways around Greece?  America has to be acting like the alpha dog to make that one work.

Israel and Japan Celebrate 60 Years of Diplomatic Relations

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Israel and Japan celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations on Tuesday, kicking off a series of special events commemorating the occasion.  On May 21, the Israeli embassy in Tokyo will stage a special gala concert marking the occasion, joining the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra with leading Israeli musicians.

In 2011, bilateral trade between the countries totaled $3.3 billion.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted the “Japanese contribution to stability in our region,” including Japanese military forces deployed with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan, Japanese financial support for the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) deployed in Sinai, and Japanese investment in a Peace Corridor agro-industrial park being developed near Jericho with the partnership of Jordan, and in coordination with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Japan FM: Japan Ready to Cut Iran Oil Imports

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Japan pledged to take “concrete” action to reduce the amount of Iranian oil imports, Finance Minister Jun Azumi said  in a press conference Thursday with his counterpart,  US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

“What I told the secretary is that we have already reduced Iranian oil imports by 40% in the past five years,” Azumi said. “The nuclear development issue is an issue that the international community cannot overlook, so we very much understand the U.S. action.”

Azumi gave no details regarding the timeline of the planned cuts.

Geithner welcomed the  increased cooperation, especially in light of China’s rebuff of a similar appeal by the US earlier in the week.

 

The Sirota Family and the 20th Century at the Japan Society

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

I am blessed to live in a tradition filled with many incredible people, but it is rare I actually have the chance to meet a hero.  I give sincere thanks to the Japan Society for honoring a great Jewish woman, Beate Sirota Gordon.  A distinguished lady who wrote the equality clause of the new Japanese constitution, Ms. Gordon is also the scion of an illustrious musical family whose tree is traced in the movie, The Sirota Family and the 20th Century.  As Ms. Gordon herself said, although her father has been a half-century in the grave, the director of the film fell in love with him. While Leo Sirota, her father, could obviously not be interviewed; his music is played throughout, giving him a voice in the film that shows the depths of his passion of music. It is fair to say the audience fell in love with Sirota as well.

Having a distinct love for the Japanese culture, due to their excellent literature, and being fiercely proud of my Judaism, I could not imagine a more perfect evening.  The Japan Society is a beautiful building, tucked away by Dag Hammarskjold Square, a place I had visited so many times to protest the UN.  I was very pleased to be there for a less stressful reason. From the indoor water garden to the elegant pictures on the wall, the place seems to be a quiet oasis in a very busy city. Given the emotions I knew I would feel watching a Holocaust film, I found myself feeling strangely at peace and calm. It was a perfect place to watch the movie and I hope there will be more joint Jewish-Japanese events in the future.

Both the family and the film begin in Kamianets-Podilskyi during the time period in which Ms. Gordon’s grandparents lived. Each member of the Sirota family has been blessed with an incredible gift for music. Although they endure persecution and pogroms, they continue to attend some of the most prestigious schools of music from Kiev to St. Petersberg to Paris, performing and teaching wherever they went. Leo Sirota tours the world with his music and finds himself being offered a job in the most unlikely (and non-Jewish) place – Japan. Unfortunately, their lives and the lives of the people around them are shattered when the Nazis come to power.

Ms. Gordon talks painfully of her memories of being taught to Seig Heil at the beginning of every class, of being twelve-years-old and ostracized by those around her.  An uncle perished in Auschwitz and a cousin was killed fighting in World War II. Ms. Gordon herself was in America studying at Mills College and spent years having limited conversation with and information about her parents.

     After the war ended, the twenty-two-year old Ms. Sirota joined the Occupation force in Japan as a translator, as she was one of the sixty-five Caucasians who were fluent in Japanese. Her previous experience at Time Magazine had taught her how to gather information and therefore, she was able to do the research required to assist in writing the Japanese constitution. Although the project was top secret, Ms. Gordon sneaked in to gather as much information as possible while sneaking in a few novels in order to make sure no librarians caught on to her ruse. She was instrumental in making the constitution of Japan strive for a more equal and better place for everyone, including women.

Throughout the movie, I was amazed at the strength of the Jewish people, who have given so much to such a terrible world. This is the heritage of a people who have survived and thrived and embraced the title of “chosen” by contributing wonderfully to every society where they have found themselves as refugees.  What an honor to have the Japanese cultural society honoring the contributions of our people.  When talking about fixing the world, this is where it starts.

Ms. Gordon may be elderly, but she is still taking on the world. She talks about the pride she feels in the Japanese making war illegal in the constitution, “forever renounce(ing) war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” She speaks as a grandmother who hopes to see that amendment ratified in every single country, as another world war would end the world, as we know it.  In the stress I have been feeling with the developments in the Middle East, I very much doubt that such an amendment would work, but it is a dream well worth having.

At the reception after the movie, I felt a bit overwhelmed to be the youngest person in the room and mingled accordingly, trying to sound sophisticated and praying no one would send me back to the children’s table. I was honored to actually speak with Ms. Gordon and tell her how much I shared her dream of seeing war banned. “I am not an expert on the subject,” Ms. Gordon said modestly. “But it’s the only hope we have.”

Fried Banana Chips

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

It was a chilly Shabbos morning in 1984 when my friend, a pearl importer, and I were walking up the long steep road to the hilltop synagogue in Kobe, Japan.

When we finally reached the flat street on top of the hill, I was out of breath. There was a feeling of joy and accomplishment when the shul came into view. Only 50 more feet to go!

The two of us completed the minyan, which was composed of Kobe resident foreign exporters and New York pearl importers. The credit for getting 10 Jews together from all over the Kobe, Osaka and Tokyo areas went to the local Syrian religious leader, Rav Yoseph Gamliel. To accomplish this feat, Rav Gamliel must have had spies in every hotel lobby in Japan!

The shul’s outstanding architectural features included a beautiful green marble floor and brass-laced mechitzah. The Sefer Torah was kept in a decorative metallic encasement. The credit for building the shul went to Jewish Iraqi-Afghani businessmen, which accounted for its Sephardic flavor.

After the morning service, the community invited us to a simple, tasty kiddush. There were three long, linen-covered tables set with large bowls of tuna salad, egg salad, potato salad and small bottles of grape juice. According to the shul’s custom, the participants related their names, where they were from, and their mission in Kobe. We all got to know one another, which resulted in a warm Shabbos tisch.

A very distinguished gray-bearded rabbi sat at the head of the table. He introduced himself as Rabbi Berel Levy. He wished everyone a good Shabbos, and explained that he was a mashgiach for the OK Labs.

He told us, “This trip has turned out to be a very illuminating one for me. Hashem sent me from Brooklyn to Osaka, Japan to check on the kashrus of a Japanese company’s new snack, banana chips fried in coconut oil. The bananas were fine. However, the coconut oil was imported from Singapore/Malaysia, and shipped in vats by boat to Japan. My job was to check the vats from point of origin to finish. This meant that I had to travel to Singapore.

“After getting settled in Singapore, I attended a Shabbos kiddush where I was introduced to a very nice young man. He was also from Brooklyn, and attending medical school. At his side was a lovely young gentile lady. The man introduced her to me, and then took me aside for a private conversation. He explained that he was in love with this young woman, and had just given her a diamond engagement ring. However, he had not had the courage to break the news to his parents. He asked me to visit his parents and told me how beautiful and fine his fianc? was. He then gave me his phone number.

“Two weeks later I was back in Brooklyn, in his parents’ apartment, and called his number.

” ‘Hello, Rabbi Levy. Is that you?’ ” he asked excitedly.

“Yes, it’s me. I just gave your parents your news, and we are dealing with a nightmare scene. Your mother is clutching her chest with one hand, and hanging on to the kitchen table with the other. Your father fell to the floor, and is kneeling on both knees. I have to call Hatzolah. I don’t want to be responsible for what is happening here. The only way to save your parents is for you to break your engagement, and ask your parents’ forgiveness. Should I call the ambulance, or are you going to give me your word that your engagement is over?”

“Yes, it’s over! It’s over! Please tell them I am sorry. I am giving you my word.”

“I thought Hashem had sent me to the Far East to check on fried banana chips. It turned out that my trip had an additional dimension. We never know when Hashem will make us a messenger for a lifesaving mission.”

This story is dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Berel Levy, z”l, and all the rabbis who put their lives at risk by flying overseas to supervise the kashrus of food products.

George H. Gisser has recently completed his exciting new children’s book, to be released soon, entitled, Happy Kappy – The Flying Kangaroo. His creative cartoon, “It’s Kappy Time,” can be seen onwww.kappythekangaroo.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/fried-banana-chips/2010/01/06/

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