Henry Kissinger is a foul human being, plain and simple. Let’s concede that he was a Jew seeking to ingratiate himself with the Republican powers that be beginning with Nelson Rockefeller, who was his mentor, and then with Richard Nixon. So in a sense he had to pretend to ignore any element of allegiance to his co-religionists. He didn’t want to be labelled an Uncle Tomashefsky.
But is there any possible justification for the horrible immorality of this statement reported in the NY Times?
An indication of Nixon’s complex relationship with Jews came the afternoon Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister, came to visit on March 1, 1973. The tapes capture Meir offering warm and effusive thanks to Nixon for the way he had treated her and Israel.
But moments after she left, Nixon and Mr. Kissinger were brutally dismissive in response to requests that the United States press the Soviet Union to permit Jews to emigrate and escape persecution there.
“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”
“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.”
This was precisely the attitude of the FDR administration toward Jewish victims during the Holocaust. It was no a strategic or military concern of the Allies in prosecuting the war. It was merely a humanitarian concern, with “humanitarian” falling very far down in the list of priorities. To a certain extent this approach still afflicts policymakers as reflected in western paralysis in the face of genocide in places like Rwanda, Bosnia, Congo and Sudan.
The plight of Soviet Jewry ended up becoming a political football and in a sense served as the genesis of the nascent neocon movement when Sen. Henry Jackson (the progenitor of neoconservatism) shepherded the Jackson-Vanik Amendment into law. That allowed Soviet Jews to become the cudgel with which U.S. anti-Russian hawks could beat the Soviet Union about the head. It became an example of humanitarianism exploited for political gain. Many of these same Russian Jews upon emigration to Israel served as the backbone of the Likud and Israeli far-right nationalism (Natan Sharanky, Avigdor Lieberman, etc).
The incredible irony of the Watergate tapes released yesterday is that they reveal a Nixon full of petty racist notions: among them that Jews, being the arrivistes that they are–are beset by tremendous insecurity. Now, we can argue about whether that’s true or not. But the notion reveals a Nixon utterly bereft of self-knowledge since of course, he was one of the most insecure personalities ever to inhabit the presidency. In a sense, you could argue that Nixon, seeing himself as an unappreciated, disrespected outsider, gravitated to Jewish advisors like Kissinger, who saw themselves similarly. They both had something to prove and hence were extremely ambitious. This ambition both fueled their legitimate achievements and defined their greatest weakness.