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Thursday, December 16, 2010


Henry Kissinger has an explanation - but no apologies - for his words about sending Russian Jews to the gas chambers.
“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. 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.”
With the benefit of nearly 40 years of hindsight, was Kissinger right?
In fact, emigration from the Soviet Union was about 32,000 in 1972, when what became known as the Jackson-Vanik Amendment -- named for Jackson and Rep. Charlie Vanik (D-Ohio) -- was introduced, and rose to 35,000 in 1973 and then dropped to 20,000 in 1974. Those were all years that the amendment was being debated in Congress, and a sign, veterans of Soviet Jewry activism say, that the mere threat of the amendment helped spur emigration.

It is true that the amendment's passage in 1974 at first inhibited emigration, but it spiked again in 1979 to 51,000 as the Soviets sought to bargain for its repeal. In the dying years of the Soviet Union, from 1989 to 1991, the Gorbachev government released upward of 450,000 Jews.

More broadly, Jackson-Vanik 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 after its passage, but also in contemporary efforts to end internal massacres in countries such as Sudan.

Kissinger, however, 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, Egypt’s 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 ally’s casualties in a war that would claim 3,000 Israeli lives.
Read the whole thing. I'm not persuaded by the defenses of Kissinger. What he said is beyond the pale.

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At 5:04 PM, Blogger rezwan said...

turkey is moving towards a new direction. Israel can only cry now for their foolish works.
islam in turkey

At 3:31 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

It's instructive how much more Jackson and Vanik did for Jews behind the Iron Curtain than Kissinger did! They were living in exactly the same times as he but felt more responsible for these Jews.


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