Japan and the Middle East: Part Seven - Palestinian Attitudes towards Japan
The Right Reverent Riah Abu El-Assal (Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem) and J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times)
A full list of articles in this series can be found here.
Riah Abu El-Assal is the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem. He is also a Palestinian Arab living in the holy city with firsthand knowledge and experience of the problems currently facing Palestinians. In his capacity as the Bishop of Jerusalem, he has also visited Japan many times, and is familiar with Japanese efforts to support the Middle East peace process.
Sean Curtin: What is your opinion about Japanese efforts to assist the Middle East peace process?
Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal: The Japanese appear to have been looking for a place in the Middle East and the Palestine issue seems to have presented them with a corridor. They have been extremely supportive of the Palestinian Authority.
Also, within Japan, there appear to be a number of groups that are banded together in what I think is know as "Solidarity with Palestine." Not all the people in these groups are religious, in fact many of them are non-religious, but they all have one driving goal and that is to bring the story of Palestine to the people of Japan, to the parliament of Japan, to the leadership of the churches in Japan, and to the leadership of the other faith groups in Japan. They are speaking up for us. Myself and other colleagues have been invited to Japan on a number of occasions for speaking tours which have give us the opportunity to share our story and the reality of the situation with the Japanese people.
Sean Curtin: What kind of impression have you got of Japan from these visits?
Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal: The Japanese are very supportive people. During the summer months we were lucky enough to welcome three groups of them. They represented a very broad spectrum of people from the highly influential to the ordinary citizen. We hope that such meaning exchanges will have an impact on government policy.
Sean Curtin: During the recent visit of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Japan, he indicated that the existing Palestinian diplomatic mission in Tokyo would probably be upgraded to a full-fledged embassy.
Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal: I would most definitely support such a move. The Palestinians are very appreciative of Japanese assistance.
The interview with Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal took place at Chatham House (Royal Institute for International Affairs) in London on 2 June 2005.