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JAVA Opposes JACL Apology to Tule Lake Resisters

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Rafu Staff Report

The executive council of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) voted at its quarterly meeting, held on Sept. 14, to inform the National Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) of JAVA’s objections to the National JACL’s resolution of apology to Tule Lake resisters, adopted in August.

At the JACL National Convention, delegates adopted amended Resolution R-3, which states: “In the spirit of reconciliation and community unity, a sincere apology is offered to those imprisoned in the Tule Lake Segregation Center for non-violent acts of resistance and dissent, who suffered shame and stigma during and after the war due to the JACL’s attitudes and treatment towards individuals unfairly labeled ‘disloyal.’”

The resolution had been controversial because it addressed old divisions in the Japanese American community caused by the loyalty questionnaire administered by the U.S. government, particularly Questions 27 and 28.

Question 27 asked if Nisei men were willing to serve on combat duty wherever ordered and asked everyone else if they would be willing to serve in other ways. Question 28 asked if individuals would swear unqualified allegiance to the U.S. and forswear any form of allegiance to Japan’s emperor.

Gerald Yamada, JAVA president, in a letter to National JACL President Jeffrey Moy, said that the apology resolution is “vague and overly broad, without any justifiable basis for its apology.”

Yamada said that the JAVA Executive Council felt a sense of duty as a veterans service organization to oppose R-3.

Speaking to The Rafu Shimpo, Yamada said, “They’re trying to rewrite history. They’re saying JACL was wrong in 1942-43 in trying to promote patriotism by encouraging young men to join the service. What the resolution does is undercuts or disavows that approach.”

The JAVA Executive Council stated that the “resolution of apology is a betrayal of the American values embraced by the Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during World War II and by the 95 percent of Japanese American adults who answered ‘yes’ to Question 28 and is knowingly divisive.”

The Maryland-based veterans organization characterized the resolution as “a shameful and unwarranted demeaning of the legacy forged by the valor and loyalty of the Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during World War II, while at the same time, National JACL, its chapters and members, and the Japanese American community at large, including the Tule Lake resisters, have benefited and will continue to benefit from that legacy.”

Moy, speaking to The Rafu Shimpo, said R-3 was passed following many hours of debate and discussion and that all sides of the issue were represented.

“Folks who know JACL know we have a very diverse constituency. We felt the debate that took place was very respectful and nuanced and reflected a wide range of views,” Moy said. “We certainly don’t believe we were being disrespectful to veterans. It’s a bit disappointing to see that in their statement and we invite JAVA to be part of discussions going forward.”

Moy added, “I think there really was a spirit of coming together and trying to find a way to move forward, especially in this difficult political atmosphere, it’s important to come together and resolve differences in the past.”

In addition to the apology itself, it was resolved that the JACL National Council:

“Commits itself to encouraging all chapters to gain a greater understanding of the issues surrounding the imprisonment, mistreatment, and resistance of Japanese Americans sent to Tule Lake Segregation Center …

“Authorizes the National Education Committee to include the narrative of the Tule Lake Segregation Center in an updated edition of the JACL Curriculum Guide in both printed and online formats and to include this narrative as one element of the syllabus for future JACL Teacher Training Workshops …

“Will recognize Tule Lake resisters at an appropriate public ceremony during the 2020-2021 biennium.”

Moy said that the resolution was only one step in a long process and discussion on Tule Lake within the organization.

“We’ve heard from all sides: folks who felt it didn’t go far enough, others felt it was inappropriate. I would say the general feeling is that people are happy about this. I had friends who talked to me that they have family in Tule Lake and they really feel they can acknowledge them in a way that may have been uncomfortable before, so when I heard things like that I feel it’s the right thing to do,” Moy said.

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