"And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern." The most appalling thing about former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's by now familiar comment to President Richard Nixon is how gratuitous it was. A case could perhaps be made for the proposition that Jewish emigration did not justify upsetting Kissinger's grand design for détente with the Soviet Union. But why add the next sentence conjuring up new gas chambers? How could a Jew, who had himself barely escaped Nazi Germany and who lost 12 close family members to the Nazis, have so coldly contemplated a repeat of the Nazi extermination camps? For all his evident anti-Semitism, Nixon never came close to such a cold-blooded statement.
Jewish groups who have honored Kissinger over the years scurried for cover in the wake of the newly released Nixon-Kissinger tape. Had they set themselves a simple rule – no awards to intermarried Jews – they could have saved themselves a lot of embarrassment. Kissinger himself seems to have recognized that. At the funeral of his Orthodox father, he declined to recite Kaddish, on the grounds that he did not wish to embarrass his father.
As it turned out, the Kissinger-Nixon strategy of not pressuring the Soviet Union on internal issues in order to preserve détente and forestall major power confrontation failed on its own terms. Though the 1975 Helsinki Accords recognizing the borders of post-war Europe were the ultimate expression of détente, Article 7, in which signatories committed to human rights and basic freedoms, proved to be the chink in the Soviet armor. Dissidents behind the Iron Curtain exploited the provision to hold their governments to account. Natan Sharansky, who was imprisoned in the Soviet Gulag for his work monitoring compliance with the Accords, records that when he heard in prison that President Reagan had called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" he knew the USSR's days were numbered. Ultimately, confronting the Soviet Union, as Reagan did, proved far more effective than détente in removing the nuclear threat posed by the Soviets.
Nor was failure to press the Soviets for Jewish emigration Kissinger's only sin against the Jewish people. Ambassador Yehuda Avner describes in The Prime Ministers the pressure he exerted on Israel from 1973-1975, as part of his grand strategy of evicting the Soviets from the Middle East by convincing Arab governments that the United States could "deliver" Israel. That included delaying the shipment of vital armaments to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, until overruled by Nixon, in order to bleed Israel and to help restore Egyptian "honor" lost in 1967.
Kissinger, of course, is a complex man, and his relationship with his Jewishness is also complex. Though Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin bore the brunt of his pressure tactics between 1973 and 1975, the relationship, as portrayed by Avner, was not only adversarial but occasionally close. Subsequent Israeli prime ministers, Avner told me in our long interview last summer, often turned to Kissinger for his advice, once he was out of office. The files of Agudath Israel of America contain many instances in which Kissinger responded affirmatively to requests for help from Rabbi Moshe Sherer, including in securing the release for burial in Israel of the body of the father of Yosef Mendelevich.
An incident recorded by Avner in The Prime Ministers casts light on Kissinger's ambivalence. After a press conference at the King David hotel, in the midst of one of his shuttle diplomacy missions, Kissinger was greeted on his way out by his closest childhood friend, who called out to him by his German name, Heinz. Kissinger ignored the man's smile and outstretched hand and brushed past him. That childhood chum, whose family had also emigrated to Washington Heights and the Breuer's shul along with the Kissinger family, had by then become a Washington D.C. psychiatrist, with the Americanized name of Dr. Willie Fort.
Fort had befriended Avner during the latter's years in the Israeli Embassy in D.C. He told Avner, who had also witnessed the incident in question, that Kissinger's reaction to him had been neurotic: "He utterly despised me for hurtling him back into Jewish memories he had spent a lifetime trying to suppress," just moments after he had been glorying in the world's spotlight at his press conference, said Fort.
The experience of fleeing Germany, Dr. Fort speculated, had been deeply traumatic for the 15-year-old boy -- "to lose control of one's life, to be powerless, to see one's beloved heroes suddenly helpless, overtaken by brutal events. . . " – and left Kissinger with permanent insecurities. People like that, Dr. Fort concluded, "invariably over-compensate. They go to great lengths to subdue whatever emotional bias they might feel, and lean over backward in favor of the other side to prove they are being even-handed and objective."
It was that over-compensation that was on display in Kissinger's remarks on hypothetical Soviet gas chambers for Jews and in his Middle East diplomacy as well.
I'll never forget a startling insight that I heard from Rabbi Ben-Zion Kokis at an Agudath Israel of America convention in 1993. Rabbi Kokis pointed out that it was the zealots at the time of destruction of the Second Temple who were the "frum" party. They destroyed the stores in Yerushalayim that would have enabled the inhabitants to withstand a prolonged siege in order to force a military confrontation with the Romans. And they mocked the Sages for their apparent lack of faith in Hashem's power to triumph over overwhelming Roman force.
The recent letter signed by over fifty national religious rabbis proclaiming a halachic ban on the sale or rental of land to Arabs in Eretz Yisrael bears important parallels to the earlier argument between the zealots and Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. The letter was designed to attract maximum attention, and it succeeded. In was an in your face refusal to take into account metzius (reality). And that is why both Rav Aharon Leib Steinman and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv refused to see Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the moving force behind the letter, when the latter sought their signatures. "And when signs go up in Berlin against renting to Jews, what will we have to say?" Rav Steinman asked, by way of explaining his refusal.
WikiLeaks continues to be a big story more than two weeks after the latest batch of State Department documents were released. What has so far been poorly understood, however, are the motivations of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Most people assume that Assange is either a fierce proponent of government transparency, which he is promoting via WikiLeaks or that he is driven by opposition to aspects of American foreign policy, such as the war in Afghanistan.
As it happens, Mr. Assange wrote two essays in 2006 setting forth his philosophy. He is an anarchist, who does not just oppose particular American policies, but American power as such. He told Time Magazine the week of the most recent release that his goal was not the creation of a more transparent society, but a more just society. And more just means, first and foremost, a neutered America.
In his view, the American government is "an authoritarian conspiracy," which he seeks to make less effective by reducing the ability of various "conspirators" to exchange information and talk to one another. Exposing American government communications, from this perspective, is only a means to the end of rendering the American government smaller, slower, and stupider, by making its various branches increasingly reluctant to share information with one another.
Michael Moynihan, writing in Reason Magazine, shines light on another puzzling aspect of WikiLeaks: its association with rabid anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers. Israel Shamir, who once lived in Israel and served in the IDF, serves as the Russian-language aggregator for WikiLeaks. This same Shamir once told an audience at Tel Aviv's Israel-Palestine Friendship Center, "Jews exist only to drip the blood of Palestinian children into their matzas," and proclaims it the duty of every Muslim and Christian to deny the Holocaust.
As the person responsible for distributing the WikiLeaks cables to Russian news media, Shamir has added his own forgeries to the true documents. According to Russian reporter Yulia Layynina, on Echo Moskvy radio, he forged a cable showing collusion among those who walked out of a U.N. speech by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, whom he has described as a "brave and charismatic." Shamir's son, Swedish journalist Johannes Wahlstrom, serves as the Swedish spokesman and "gatekeeper" for the cables. Wahlstrom has his own history of falsification. In a 2005 article for a left-wing Swedish paper, he argued that the Swedish media is manipulated by Jewish interests on behalf of Israel. When three of those quoted complained that he had falsified their words, the magazine withdrew the story and apologized.
When queried about the Shamir/Wahlstrom connection to WikiLeaks, spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, did not deny that WikiLeaks knew of the accusations that Shamir is an anti-Semite, but professed to be perplexed about why the questioner thought that should make any difference.
WikiLeaks, it would seem, is just another example of how filled with anti-Semitism the far Left has become.