Japanese American Civil Rights Group Pushes for Gaza Cease-Fire

The Japanese American Citizens League, one of the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organizations, called on Thursday for a negotiated cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, following months of pressure from younger members who believed the group had a duty to advocate for Palestinians.

The organization’s leaders and some older members were reluctant to take a position on the war, in part because of the league’s longstanding ties with prominent Jewish civil rights groups in the United States. In the 1970s, the American Jewish Committee was the first national organization to endorse the push by Japanese Americans for reparations for their incarceration during World War II.

But younger members of the Japanese American group said that Palestinians were suffering from human rights violations and that their organization had long stood up for such victims.

The league, in a statement on Thursday, pointed to the conflict’s “staggering” death toll of Palestinians and Israelis and the immense and continuous humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

As a group “dedicated to safeguarding the civil liberties of not only Japanese Americans but all individuals subjected to injustice and bigotry,” the group said, “we must denounce these egregious human rights violations.”

The organization did not call for an unconditional cease-fire, but instead said it wanted Israel and Hamas to reach an agreement and urged President Biden to advance such negotiations.

The rift within the league was another example of how the Israel-Hamas war has cleaved cultural, academic and political institutions far beyond the Middle East, and not just among groups with direct ties to the region. As in many organizations, the divide within the league has mostly been along generational lines.

In its cease-fire statement, the group did not address one of the young activists’ primary demands: cutting ties with Jewish organizations they labeled “Zionist.” David Inoue, the league’s executive director, said in an interview on Thursday that the group was not considering that option.

“That’s not how we work in coalition,” Mr. Inoue said. “I think it’s inherently unfair for anyone to make demands like that.”

Back to top button