WASHINGTON The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy, Kissinger says. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern, Kissinger is heard saying on the latest batch of Nixon-era Oval Office tapes released by the Nixon Library.
Following its publication Saturday, Dec. 11 buried deep in a New York Times story that focused more on Nixon a shock shuddered through the Jewish community.
Kissinger, a German-born Jew who fled Nazi horrors as a child and who has been honored by multiple Jewish organizations as one of Israels saviors during its darkest days, was secretary of state to President Nixon.
Kissinger in an email to JTA would brook no request for an apology, and did not even directly address his gas chambers remark.
Instead he appeared to insist on context: his frustration at the time with the insistence of the Jewish community and US senators such as Jacob Javits (R-NY) and Henry ScoopJackson (D-Wash.) on attaching human rights riders to dealings with the Soviets.
The quotations ascribed to me in the transcript of the conversation with President Nixon must be viewed in the context of the time, Kissinger wrote to JTA.
He and Nixon pursued the issue of Soviet Jewish emigration as a humanitarian matter separate from foreign policy issues in order to avoid questions of sovereignty and because normal diplomatic channels were closed, Kissinger wrote.
By this method and the persistent private representation at the highest level we managed to raise emigration from 700 per year to close to 40,000 in 1972, Kissinger wrote.
We disagreed with the Jackson Amendment, which made Jewish emigration a foreign policy issue.
We feared that the Amendment would reduce emigration, which is exactly what happened. Jewish emigration never reached the level of 40,000 again until the Soviet Union collapsed. Listen to the tapes – on our Facebook page
The conversation between Nixon and me must be seen in the context of that dispute and of our distinction between a foreign policy and a humanitarian approach.
WHAT became known as the Jackson-Vanik Amendment named for Jackson and Rep. Charlie Vanik (D-Ohio) at first inhibited emigration, but it formed the basis for the late-20th century politics of making human rights a sine qua non of statecraft.
That resulted not only in the mass emigration of Soviet Jews 15 years later, but also in contemporary efforts to end internal massacres in countries such as Sudan.
Kissinger was dedicated to realpolitik the art of securing the grand deal, even at the expense of the moral and ethical considerations of the moment and his disdain for human rights activists knew few bounds.
Gal Beckerman, a historian of the Soviet Jewry movement, told Tablet on Tuesday that this even led Kissinger to suppress a letter that might have helped salvage a deal with the Soviets to release Jews under the Jackson-Vanik stipulations.
Similar considerations led Kissinger to press Nixon during the 1973 Yom Kippur War to delay delivering arms to Israel by a few weeks.
Their conversations at the time show Kissinger arguing that Anwar Sadat, Egypts president, needed an unadulterated victory to make peace concessions.
Nixon argued correctly, as it turned out that Sadat was already able to claim a victory, and that it was more important to stanch an allys casualties in a war that would claim 3,000 Israeli lives.
In a 2009 review of the period in the Jewish Press, top Nixon aides Alexander Haig, the chief of staff; Leonard Garment, the White House counsel; and Vernon Walters, the deputy CIA chief, all recall the same dynamic: The time for hanging Israel out to dry had ended.
Both Kissinger and Nixon wanted to do [the airlift], the Press quoted Walters as saying. But Nixon gave it the greater sense of urgency. He said, You get the stuff to Israel. Now. Now.
THE image of Kissinger as cold-blooded has long been a staple of his most virulent critics, and the newly revealed quote was manna to their theories.
In the past, Kissinger has defended his role as enabler to Nixons psychopathic bigotry, saying that he acted as a restraining influence on his boss by playing along and making soothing remarks, said Christopher Hitchens, who has said Kissinger should be tried as a war criminal for his role in ordering the bombing of Cambodia and for enabling Latin American autocrats. This can now go straight into the lavatory pan, along with his other hysterical lies.
Obsessed as he was with the Jews, Nixon never came close to saying that hed be indifferent to a replay of Auschwitz. For this, Kissinger deserves sole recognition.
Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, reached a similar conclusion after reading accounts of the newly released Nixon tapes.
Now that Kissingers true nature has been exposed, the Jewish community and Jewish institutions must draw the appropriate consequences, he wrote in an op-ed in the New York Jewish Week.
We now come to the realization that as far as he was concerned, human rights in general were an irrelevancy, Rosensaft said in an interview with JTA.
He needs to know that when he is in the company of Jews, we will know precisely who he is and we hold him in contempt.
Abraham Foxman, the national director of the ADL, said that approach goes too far.
The ADL issued a statement saying that Kissingers comments show a disturbing and even callous insensitivity toward the fate of Soviet Jews and are a reminder that even great individuals are flawed.
But, it noted, Dr. Kissingers contributions to the safety and security of the US and Israel have solidly established his legacy as a champion of democracy and as a committed advocate for preserving the well-being of the Jewish state of Israel.
Beckerman wrote in a review of a book that examined Kissingers psychology that his upbringing the horrific transition, at age 10, from a world of safety to one of chaos helps explain an ideology that places order above all as the salvation of humanity.
Kissinger, Beckerman wrote in the Forward in 2007, was guided by the sense that the world needs a strong America led by versatile statesmen that will stand as a bulwark against the disorder and disequilibrium that he experienced as a child.
How did Kissingers Jewish identity play out in the White House? It was a complex matter and not always consistent.