In 2009, when writer Haruki Murakami was chosen for the year’s Jerusalem Prize, “a fair number of people” advised him not to travel to Jerusalem to accept Israel’s prestigious literary award.

At that time, Israel’s military was mounting fierce attacks along the Gaza Strip, inflicting heavy civilian casualties among Palestinians.

There were legitimate concerns that as a novelist of international stature, Murakami would be seen as supporting Israel’s military actions if he accepted the award.

But Murakami nevertheless went to Jerusalem and implicitly criticized Israel’s behavior in his acceptance speech.

"Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg," he said.

It is clear that the egg here was a metaphor for the Palestinians who were being crushed by military force while the wall symbolized Israel’s military.

When Israel was founded as an independent state in 1948, some 700,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes and became refugees.

U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to stand on the side of the huge and powerful wall, rather than on the side of the victims of this tragedy.

Trump recently recognized Jerusalem, the holy land for Muslims as well as Jews, as the capital of Israel. He even threatened to cut U.S. economic aid to countries which backed a U.N. resolution denouncing his decision.

Such mean and nasty behavior cannot be condoned, even from a business point of view.

Trump is creating tensions in the Middle East instead of promoting peace in the region.

It has been said that the source of America’s strength lies not just in its overwhelming military and economic might but also in its great “soft power,” which exerts global influence through such elements as culture and shared values.

Joseph Nye, the American political scientist who developed the concept, has defined “soft power” as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than through coercion,” which involves using force or money to achieve the goal.

I feel nostalgia for the era when the argument about America’s soft power could be convincing.

Already 10 Palestinians have died in protests against Trump’s move. These are lives that would not have been lost had it not been for Trump’s thoughtless actions and words.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 24

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.