While settling into a fresh hotel room, one may be tempted to open drawers and doors, survey the facilities, and thumb through the room service menus or local entertainment guides that are usually provided to help guests plan outings. There’s often a Gideons Bible in a bedside table as well.
But guests in six Coast Hotels in British Columbia recently got more than they expected when they flipped through the pages of Apple Town, a magazine in English and Japanese that they found among the room offerings. Instead of suggestions for day trips or restaurant options, the magazine proffered antisemitism.
“‘International finance capital’ means ‘Jewish capital,’” one article reads. “Jewish people control American information, finance and laws, and they greatly benefit from globalization because they move their massive profits to tax havens so they don’t have to pay any taxes. Many Jewish people support the Democratic party. They are the top 1% as described by Thomas Piketty, and the remaining 99% feel dissatisfaction and anger towards them.”
Shortly after the “literature” was brought to wide public attention last week through social media, individuals and Jewish advocacy agencies, including the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), demanded that the hotel chain remove the offending materials. In short order, Coast Hotels complied and the president of the company declared that the antisemitic opinions “in no way reflect the values of Coast Hotels, its leadership team or its employees” and that the company does not believe “there is any room for commentary that causes offence or concern to any group.”
Yet, how does material like this find its way into B.C. hotel rooms in the first place?
A few months ago, Coast Hotels was purchased by Japan’s APA Group. That corporation’s president, Toshio Motoya, is a prominent figure in right-wing Japanese politics. (APA is an acronym for “Always Pleasant Amenities,” which contradicts the experience of some who thumbed through Apple Town magazine last week.) Motoya supports the militarization of Japan and is an historical revisionist who whitewashes Japan’s actions in the Second World War. He claims that the Nanking massacre and the use by Japanese soldiers of sex slaves, euphemistically called “comfort women,” are fictions perpetrated by China and Korea.
In the fashion of Henry Ford, who in the early part of the 20th century distributed antisemitic and historically dubious propaganda through his car dealerships, Motoya’s political imaginings are featured in Apple Town, which is apparently distributed through his hotels.
Kudos to all those who took action to have the magazines removed from B.C. hotels. But we do wonder about how many other hotel guests in Japan and possibly elsewhere in APA’s chain are getting antisemitic amenities with their complementary toiletries.
This is, of course, one small incident in a world that seems to be experiencing a flurry of hateful expressions. But in such darkness there is always room for light. The actions of a few can have a positive impact, as the outcry against Apple Town indicates.
The hundreds of people who gathered in Vancouver Saturday night to mourn the six people murdered at Muslim prayers in Quebec on Jan. 29 are another example. Nothing can bring back the lives of those murdered, but demonstrations such as this – and others that occurred across the country – can help heal the fears and isolation of the targeted community.
And then there are smaller acts of decency, like those of passengers on a New York subway car on the weekend. The train car had swastikas drawn in felt pen on every window and on every advertisement. Across one ad was written “Jews belong in the oven.” Passengers took it upon themselves to remove the graffiti with hand sanitizer and tissues. It was a small collective act that resonated across social media.
The world today has many situations that can cause us anxiety and sadness. One of the simplest and wisest axioms of our tradition declares it is better to light a candle than to curse at the darkness. Each of us has the potential to shine a little light through our actions and words. That is important to remember in times like these.