Commentary: Bash Evil in Every Generation, But Don't Bash Innocent Children and Grandchildren

- Frank J. Leavitt, Ph.D.
Chairman, The Centre for International Bioethics
Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel


Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 13 (2003), 168.

In the days when many Jewish people lived in Eastern Europe, an elderly Jew was returning home from morning prayer. A goy (the Hebrew and Yiddish word for the natives of the countries of our exile) accosted him and started to beat him up. The frail old man could barely manage to cover his face against the blows. But he managed to ask: "I never did anything to you. Why are you beating me?"

"Because you killed Jesus", the goy replied.

"But that was hundreds of years ago," explained the old man.

The goy thought for a moment and then responded: "But I just heard about it this morning."

I heard this story from my father when I was a child.

I am not an expert on the history of World War II. So I am not in a position to debate the tales of Japanese atrocities that I read about. But even if these tales are unexaggerated, I do not understand why today's Japanese should have to suffer for it. The war ended almost sixty years ago.  How many of the war generation are still alive anyway? Didn't they suffer enough from the American bombings?  Much of the bombing - especially Nagasaki - was intended only to punish and not for any professional military purpose. 

Don't think that racism against the Japanese does not exist.  I have heard such racist remarks even from people who practice Japanese martial arts. Nobuko Macer told me that when she was a student in Germany people threw stones at her for being Japanese.

I have also learnt from several persons that there are many continuing contributions from Japan to China. For example, in  2001 the Japanese government agreed to give the Chinese two untied loans for the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport Project and the Hubei Duojia Chemical Fiber Project totaling 43,800 million yen and 7,260 million yen, respectively (1). An "untied loan" does not require the purchase of goods or services in Japan (2). The untied loans are part of a Japanese programme to help developing countries, including China (3). The Japanese are quite quiet about their aid to China. Recently there was a story about Japan's agreement to pay 100 million yen to victims of last month's leak of mustard gas from barrels abandoned in China by the Imperial Japanese Army. (4) One gets the impression that most of the information about Japanese restitution to China is scattered around without having been collected in a prominent manner. This is typical of Japanese modesty. Rather than this endless discussion on something which happened sixty years ago, maybe somebody should write a book about what the Japanese are doing to help people, and what the Japanese role is in China's economic miracle.

I do not deny the existence of evil. There is evil in every generation. Much has been forgotten. I once read material about the Spanish Inquisition that made the Nazi holocaust look like a kindergarten. When I planned my first trip to Europe, my mother made me promise not to visit Spain. This was because of a Jewish prohibition against returning there, after what the Spanish did to us. But nobody encourages hatred of the Spanish any more. A few years ago, Israeli rabbis met with Spanish leaders in a formal ceremony canceling the prohibition. In this spirit, it is time to put the criticism of the Japanese within limits.

The major problem with harping on past evils is that it takes up energy which ought to be devoted to fighting the global evils which exist in our own generation. This should be clear and should need no explanation. 



1)   Accessed 9 September 2003.

2) Kato M. Personal communication.3 September 2003.


Accessed 9 September 2003.

4) Japan Times 3 September 2003.
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