December 27, 2010
Until the most recent release of the Nixon/Kissinger tapes, what were the permitted justifications for saying in advance that the slaughter of Jews in gas chambers by a hostile foreign dictatorship would not be “an American concern”? Let’s agree that we do not know. It didn’t seem all that probable that the question would come up. Or, at least, not all that likely that the statement would turn out to have been made, and calmly received, in the Oval Office. I was present at Madison Square Garden in 1985 when Louis Farrakhan warned the Jews to remember that “when [God] puts you in the ovens, you’re there forever,” but condemnation was swift and universal, and, in any case, Farrakhan’s tenure in the demented fringe was already a given.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Now, however, it seems we do know the excuses and the rationalizations. Here’s one, from David Harris of the American Jewish Committee: “Perhaps Kissinger felt that, as a Jew, he had to go the extra mile to prove to the president that there was no question of where his loyalties lay.” And here’s another, from Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League: “The anti-Jewish prejudice which permeated the Nixon presidency and White House undoubtedly created an environment of intimidation for those who did not share the president’s bigotry. Dr. Kissinger was clearly not immune to that intimidation.” Want more? Under the heading, “A Defense of Kissinger, From Prominent Jews,” Mortimer Zuckerman, Kenneth Bialkin, and James Tisch wrote to the New York Times to say that “Mr. Kissinger consistently played a constructive role vis-à-vis Israel both as national security adviser and secretary of state, especially when the United States extended dramatic assistance to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.” They asked that “the fuller Kissinger record should be remembered” and, for good measure, that “the critics of Mr. Kissinger should remember the context of his entire life.” Finally, Kissinger himself has favored us with the following: At that time in 1973, he reminds us, the Nixon administration was being pressed by Sens. Jacob Javits and Henry Jackson to link Soviet trade privileges to emigration rights for Russian Jews. “The conversation at issue arose not as a policy statement by me but in response to a request by the president that I should appeal to Sens. Javits and Jackson and explain why we thought their approach unwise.”
But Kissinger didn’t say something cold and Metternichian to the effect that Jewish interest should come second to détente. He deliberately said gas chambers! If we are going to lower our whole standard of condemnation for such talk (and it seems that we have somehow agreed to do so), then it cannot and must not be in response to contemptible pseudo-reasonings like these.