Photo Credit: Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90
Then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Israel, May 2, 2018.

Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot from behind during a speech and possibly killed on Friday morning local time by a lone assassin at a campaign stop for a political colleague at the city of Nara.

Abe, 67, led the Liberal Democratic Party at that time. He stepped down as prime minister in September 2020 due to health reasons.


The former prime minister was in Nara campaigning for a colleague running in this coming Sunday’s for a seat in the country’s Upper House of Parliament.

Ex-Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe reported in a tweet Abe was in a state of “cardiopulmonary arrest.” The term is often used in Japan before a death is officially confirmed.

Eyewitnesses said they saw a man with what they described as a large gun fire from behind, according to the BBC’s Japan correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes. Two shots were fired.

The assassin did not flee, and just stood there after the attack. Police seized his weapon and have identified him, according to local news broadcaster NHK. Gun violence is rare in Japan, where handguns are banned. Moreover, political violence is almost unheard of.

The former prime minister appeared unconscious and was bleeding from the chest as he was rushed to a nearby hospital. International media reported that Abe showed no vital signs as he was evacuated.

Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and was a firm supporter of Israel.

During his time in office Abe visited Yad Vashem in Israel, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the former home of Sugihara Chiune, “the Japanese Schindler,” in Kaunas, Lithuania. Abe’s administration made a concerted effort to publicize the story of Sugihara, a diplomat who served as an imperial consul for the Empire of Japan in Lithuania during World War II, and helped some 6,000 Jews escape German-occupied Poland and Lithuania.

During his visit to Kaunas, Abe said in his remarks, “The courageous and humanitarian action of Mr. Sugihara provides us with guidance as to how we should survive in this world.”

During his visit to Yad Vashem, Abe said, “Today I find myself [fully] determined. Ha-sho’a le’olam lo od. The Holocaust, never again … I felt great solemnity in the face of your forefathers, who overcame profound grief to found the nation of Israel.”

Abe backed up those words. When Japan’s population re-elected Abe as prime minister in 2012, Japanese investment in Israel totaled about $20 million. By 2019, investments had surged to over $6 billion. The number of Japanese businesses in Israel increased three-fold.

In 2020, despite the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, there were 18 new investment deals by Japanese financiers, adding another $853 million, following two official visits, in 2015 and 2018, during which Abe encouraged senior Japanese industry leaders to do more business in the “Start-Up Nation.”

Abe told his business leaders that he saw “no reason for Japan, which positions ‘innovation’ as the engine of economic growth, not to cooperate with Israel, which produces innovative technologies.”

Dylan Adelman recalled a few years ago that in February 2014, more than 300 copies of Anne Frank’s diary and other books pertaining to the Holocaust were vandalized in Tokyo public libraries. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga described the antisemitic incident – a rarity in Japan – as “extremely regrettable and shameful.”

The following month, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Anne Frank House Museum, making him one of the most prominent world leaders to have ever done so. Abe shared that he had read the diary of Anne Frank as a child and said he he wished to “reiterate lasting and profound friendship between Japan and the Jewish people around the world.”


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.