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Kissinger’s attempt to weasel out of the appalling comments he is now
revealed to have made regarding U.S. policy on Soviet Jewry is not,
shall we say, convincing. Here, courtesy of Jim Besser’s good post on the subject, is what Kissinger said to Richard Nixon in the White House in 1973:
The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of
American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the
Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian
And here is his post-facto “contextualization”:
The quotations ascribed to me in the transcript of the conversation
with President Nixon must be viewed in the context of the time.
President Nixon and I had raised the issue of Jewish emigration from the
Soviet Union early in his Administration. In order to avoid questions
of sovereignty, we dealt with it as a humanitarian matter separate from
the foreign policy issues since, in the aftermath of the invasion of
Czechoslovakia, normal diplomatic channels were substantially closed.
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. 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.
What Kissinger is trying to claim in his apologia is that
the emigration of Jews from the USSR was in fact an objective of
American foreign policy–i.e. that the reason the Nixon Administration
opposed the Jackson Amendment was that it would be counterproductive, reducing the number of Jewish emigrants by making Jewish emigration a (public) foreign policy goal.
But that’s not the point he was making to Nixon. To his anti-Semitic
boss he was simply declaring that that it was not an American
policy goal to facilitate Jewish emigration (or to prevent Jewish
genocide)–irrespective of how such a goal might or might not be
conveyed to anyone.