U.S. historians issue joint statement against Japan’s historical revisionism


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Sep 30, 2011
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“When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a visit to America this year, letting him address the Congress saying anything at his will would be dangerous. President Barack Obama will have to make a serious conversation with him over historical facts.”

Alexis Dudden (see photo), a professor at the University of Connecticut who led a group of 19 American historians to issue a joint statement criticizing the Abe administration’s attempt to bias the historical description on U.S. textbooks, talked over the telephone interview on Thursday. The followings are interview excerpts.

- What has motivated such a joint statement?

“We were informed in November 2014 that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan was planning to send some of its diplomats to the U.S. publisher McGraw-Hill and make a request to alter the description of sexual slavery issues in some textbooks. To deliberate the issue, several history scholars organized a discussion panel at an annual meeting of American Historical Association (AHA). We believed that Japan was threatening academic freedom and wished to clearly express our protest against Japan’s wrongdoing.”

- What kind of resolution was made back then?

“It is understandable when a government tries to influence on the historical description of its country, but it goes against historical practice if the nation censor the historical contents of textbooks. It was particularly unusual when the government of Japan demanded to get rid of several paragraphs from textbooks. For that reason, we have made a joint statement to express our special interest and solidarity on this issue.”

- How do you expect Japan to respond?

“Japanese leadership and advisors would not be happy about the statement. They would pretend not to know this if they are smart enough. I expect, however, that they would stand against the statement to push forward with their goal.”

- What if Japan doesn’t accept the statement?

“The statement co-signed by 19 historians is not the voice of just 19 historians. Since it is the voice of the entire history scholars, numerous victims of Japan’s horrible act (so-called comfort women forced by Japan to work at brothels during World War II) would step forward to have their voice heard. If the Abe administration argues that the statement is not based on accurate historical facts, it will only prove that Japan is still ignorant of historical values. Japan’s openness would fall under suspicion and its government would face harsh criticism. Historians around the world will continue communicating through the Internet and maintain their strong support for Herbert Ziegler, professor at University of Hawaii who wrote the textbook.”
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I doubt many comfort women are still alive. They have already stepped forward. Even so, it is necessary to address those facts and move on.

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