Posted by Dr. Michael Berenbaum
The recently released new batch of Richard Nixon’s recordings of Oval Office conversations were chilling. Nixon is revealed for what he was an antisemite and Henry Kissinger a craven Jew.
I suspect that the damage to Kissinger’s reputation will outlast the damage done to Nixon’s. Anyone who followed the former President’s career knew of his antisemitism. He was acting in character, perhaps more candidly than he would want known, but Kissinger’s weakness stunned his admirers and even his detractors.
The former Secretary of State has asked that his statements be examined in context; fair enough. Yet once examined in context they seem even worse than initial appraisal given to them by the press, most particularly The New York Times.
What is the context? We have long known that Nixon and Kissinger opposed the Jackson-Vanik amendment that linked favored nation status for the Soviet Union with progress on Jewish emigration. Jackson, an arch foe of the Soviet Union and Vanik, deeply proud of his Czechoslovakian roots and equally antagonistic to Soviet invasion of Prague the summer of 1968, were teamed up by two Jewish staff members, Richard Pearl and Mark Talisman who were anxious to advance American interests and Jewish interests, American values and Jewish values, to attack the Soviet Human Rights policy. For a realist such as Kissinger, this was needless moralizing in the balance of power between the two giants, an encumbrance to the progress that he and his President could make with their Soviet counterparts without such domestic interference.
Clearly, his realism was revealed as timidity and short sightedness. The Soviet Jewry movement was one element that helped bring down the Soviet Union by demonstrating the flaws in its policy, by denying it as a model society and showing that elite members of that society were willing to pay a heavy price in order to leave.
The process of the Soviet Union’s demise took more than 15 years; it included Pope John Paul II’s visit to his native Poland in 1979, President Jimmy Carter emphasis on Human Rights as and essential part of American Foreign Policy, President Ronald Reagan’s military expansion and his dressing down of the Soviet Union, internal economic failures, an inability to compete militarily and economically, and the Human Rights movement within the Soviet Union itself, but the emigration of Soviet Jewry was a defeat for the Soviet Union. Kissinger lacked foresight.
On a personal level, let us examine the context.
Dayenu, it would have been sufficient, had Kissinger merely said that the emigration of Soviet Jews was an internal Soviet matter and not a matter of American Foreign Policy. Sad, wrong and tragic as that remark was, it would not have been craven. Many have argued that domestic policies that violate Human Rights are not a central American Foreign Policy concern. Those voices can still be heard among the Foreign Policy elites that see no linkage between Saudi policy toward non-Islamic religion or Egyptian violations of democratic principle and American support for the regimes. After all, we need a reliable supply of oil and a coherent energy policy would be bad for business.
But the first Secretary of State of “Jewish origin” to use Kissinger’s self description went one step further. He upped the ante and said: if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern, but a humanitarian concern, maybe?.”
He knew full well that the President was aware that he was from a German-Jewish family that had escaped Hitler’s Germany just in time and that relatives of his were killed in those very concentration camps. He was crawling on his hands and knees, betraying his family, his people. He lacked elemental dignity and decency.
Those who have called him a “court Jew” are giving Court Jews a bad name.
Nixon was an antisemite but supported Israel in its hour of need during the 1973 War when military resupply was a matter of life and death. Let us recall that that decision was made by an antisemite – Richard Nixon – a man, who had had a Bar Mitzvah and converted to Lutheranism while at Harvard – Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger – and a craven Jew – Henry Kissinger.
Israel was fortunate that the battle between Israel and its neighbors was seen as a surrogate battle between the client state of the United States and the client states of the Soviet Union. Otherwise? One shudders to think of otherwise.
But Israel was also stunned: committed to its own independence and ability to act on its own, it faced the historic circumstances exilic Jews dependent on the good will of mighty rulers for its very survival.
Recall as well that throughout the 1972 campaign, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Yitzhak Rabin had urged the American Jewish community to support Richard Nixon because he was good for Israel. True to their instincts the American Jewish community supported McGovern far beyond any other white Americans.
This is a vivid demonstration that Israel’s interests and Jewish interests – in this case the interests of the American Jewish community and Soviet Jews – do not always coincide. We would be wise to remember that as other Israeli officials tell us how to vote.
Thankfully, and in keeping with this week’s Torah portion, a new generation has arisen confident in themselves as Americans and confidents in themselves as Jews, who are not hesitant to press American and Jewish concerns, American and Jewish values, and that view such cravenness with appropriate disdain.
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December 9, 2010 | 2:37 pm
Posted by Dr. Michael Berenbaum
It’s been a dreary week in the world.
Fires cost the lives of more than two score Israelis, burned more than 4 million trees—each planted as part of the Zionist enterprise of reforestation— exposed the structural vulnerability of the nation and the irresponsibility and massive incompetence of successive governments of the right and the left.
The leadership of the United States government – right and left – demonstrated that it too was unwilling to solve a national problem. No sooner had the bi-partisan debt commission reported on its finding and called for shared national sacrifice, increasing taxes, raising the age of retirement when the President and the Republican Party entered into a grand compromise giving away $900 million of tax giveaways over the next two years. The President capitulated; he gave in to Republican blackmail. If we could not give tax breaks to the rich, to those making over $1 million dollars a year, or to the near rich, those making over $250,000 a year, then unemployment benefits would not be extended for those who have been jobless for years and taxes would rise for the near poor and the middle class. We were told in no uncertain terms that no one is serious about reducing the debt, no national sacrifice is needed and our President is unwilling to lead. I am not alone in feeling that the American century is coming to an end and that my children and theirs will live in a world where the American is less a leader and more a fraying power.
I know that some supporters of Israel are rejoicing that the Obama Administration has abandoned its ill- fated efforts for a settlement freeze on the West Bank as a gesture to foster negotiations. I understand all the reasons it failed, not the least of which was because the Palestinians dallied during the 10 months when it was in effect and only began negotiations in the 9th month. Still, I remain that settlements are not in Israel’s national interest because they make the achievement of two separate states all the more difficult and a two state solution is essential to retaining Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Settlements also use resources that are vitally needed elsewhere. Look at the roads in Israel’s North; look also at the absence of firefighting equipment.
Furthermore, one way of reading the recent Wikkipedia leaks is to note that Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are now part of anti-Iran coalition. If there is a strategic alliance between these states, tacit and hitherto unacknowledged as it may be, a wise Israeli government would want to achieve concrete political goals while this alliance is in effect and would not fritter away the opportunity with peripheral tangent issues. It would also not alienate Jewish support abroad by sidebars of the conversion issue, oaths of allegiance and even the insistence that Palestinian leadership acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state – something that the United Nations General Assembly did by a vote of 33 to 13 on November 29, 1947. Keep Israel a democratic Jewish state and it will be acknowledged as such.
I was proud to see that Yad Vashem condemned the recent so-called Rabbinic ruling that prohibited Jews from selling or renting property to non-Jews. In the insulated world of these Rabbis no one has heard of restrictive covenants, which the US Supreme Court dismissed as unenforceable. These Rabbis, in the name of our religion, want Jews, once in power, the behave in the way that non-Jews had behaved toward us.
In such a dreary atmosphere, I came across an enormously important argument that challenged my perceptions of European antisemitism, a topic that I have researched and written apart extensively. Last Monday, Project Jumpstart reported on its survey of European Jewish startup organizations. The results were impressive. There are more Jewish start ups in Europe per capita than in the United States where cultural creativity flourishes; they are almost always the products of lay leaders and not rabbis and many are the creations of newly avowed Jews who are rediscovering and re-embracing their Jewish roots. European projects are more educational and more cultural than spiritual, less involved in Holocaust remembrance and more engaged in the Jewish past.
Dr. Barbara Lerner Spectre, who heads Paideia, the most successful Jewish effort to train young European Jewish leadership with its year long course of study in Sweden and the commitment of its participants and graduates to engage in a creative and innovative Jewish projects, often start ups, remarked that the presence of these Jews, their re-embracing of Jewish life and their choice of identification or re-identification with the Jewish people merits the use of a new term disassimilation; the deliberate decision to reverse the process of assimilation now more than two centuries old in Europe and to move in a new direction.
“If antisemitism were the dominant experience of European Jews, as is most often portrayed in the United States and in Israel, why would these intelligent and successful Jews, who enjoy every for success and creativity that globalism offers engage their Jewish roots. They have no need to be hated and no desire to be hated? They can be whatever they want to be. They have chosen to be Jews.”
I don’t know the answer to her question, but I intend to find out.