By: Fern Sidman
On March 1, 1973, former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir met with President Richard Nixon and his then Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. At this meeting Meir pleaded with the U.S. president and Kissinger to apply pressure on the Soviet Union to release its Jews. Little did Meir know that her words were not only being summarily dismissed by these two world leaders but that the meeting was being secretly taped by Nixon, who possessed a vitriolic hatred towards Jews and other minorities.
Twenty-seven years later, these never before heard tapes from the Nixon Library have now been released and the New York Times has now reported that Kissinger displayed a callous indifference towards a possible Soviet inspired genocide against the Jews. “The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” says Kissinger, adding that, “If they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.” Nixon then replies: “I know. We can’t blow up the world because of it.”
After congressional investigations revealed that Nixon surreptitiously recorded his White House conversations, the tapes became government property and have been released in intervals over the years.
The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants in a statement called for an apology from Kissinger, who is still consulted by Democratic and Republican administrations and by Congress on matters of state. “Henry Kissinger’s comments are morally grotesque and represent a disgraceful perversion of American values,” said the statement. “He owes an apology to all victims of the Nazi Holocaust.”
Born in 1923 in the Weimar Republic to a family of German Jews, Kissinger and his parents fled the Nazi persecution in 1938 and settled in the Washington Heights section of New York, which was home to a predominantly German-Jewish community. During World War II, Kissinger joined the U.S. Army and was assigned to the military intelligence section of the 84th Infantry Division where he saw combat and even volunteered for hazardous intelligence duties during the Battle of the Bulge. During the American advance into Germany, Kissinger was assigned detail to eradicate the Nazi presence from the city of Krefeld, owing to a lack of German speakers on the division’s intelligence staff. Kissinger relied on his knowledge of German society to remove the obvious Nazis and restore a working civilian administration; a task he accomplished in 8 days. Kissinger was then reassigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps and was given charge of a team in Hanover assigned to tracking down Gestapo officers and other saboteurs, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.
Despite his military record, Kissinger went on to become one of the most controversial and enigmatic political figures of the 20th century. During the Yom Kippur war of 1973, Kissinger advised Nixon to delay a crucial arms airlift to Israel in order to get the Egyptians to the peace table. Nixon cited Israel’s urgent need and on October 12, 1973, proceeded with the largest military airlift in history to aid Israel, thus rejecting Kissinger’s advice. According to notes taken by then White House Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, Nixon “ordered his aides to exclude all Jewish-Americans from policy-making on Israel,” including Kissinger. One note quotes Nixon as saying “get Kissinger out of the play — have Haig handle it.”
After negotiating the end of the Yom Kippur war, Kissinger placed an exorbitant amount of pressure on Israel to cede parts of the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula in order to foster an improved relationship with Egypt. Since that time, Kissinger has been classified as “a self-hating Jew,” a “treacherous traitor to his people” and an “apologist for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish concerns.”
According to a 2007 report by The New York Times citing newly released documents, Israel’s alleged possession of nuclear weapons and its potential to set off an arms race in the Middle East were a source of concern to the Nixon administration in 1969. “The Israelis, who are one of the few peoples whose survival is genuinely threatened, are probably more likely than almost any other country to actually use their nuclear weapons,” warned Kissinger, who then served as President Richard Nixon’s national security adviser, in a July 19, 1969 memorandum.
The memorandum also saw Kissinger excoriating Israel for purportedly stealing U.S. nuclear secrets. “This is one program on which the Israelis have persistently deceived us,” Kissinger wrote, “and may even have stolen from us. There is circumstantial evidence that some fissionable material available for Israel’s weapons development was illegally obtained from the United States about 1965,” Kissinger wrote, dismissing inspections as a possible solution since, “we could never cover all conceivable Israeli hiding places.”
Kissinger even suggested possibly withholding the sale of Phantom fighter jets to Israel as a way of compelling Jerusalem to yield on the nuclear issue, the Times said. “Israel will not take us seriously on the nuclear issue unless they believe we are prepared to withhold something they very much need,” Kissinger wrote. “On the other hand, if we withhold the Phantoms and they make this fact public in the United States, enormous political pressure will be mounted on us,” the former national security adviser wrote. “We will be in an indefensible position if we cannot state why we are withholding the planes. Yet if we explain our position publicly, we will be the ones to make Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons public with all the international consequences this entails.”
The Nixon tapes also reveal the scope and magnitude of Nixon’s own prejudices towards minorities and particularly Jews. “The Jews have certain traits,” Nixon said. “The Irish have certain — for example, the Irish can’t drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.” Nixon continued: “The Italians, of course, those people of course don’t have their heads screwed on tight. They are wonderful people, but,” and his voice trailed off. A moment later, Nixon returned to Jews: “The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality.”
The New York Times reported that in a taped conversation with his personal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, Nixon laid down clear rules about who would be permitted to attend the state dinner that the White House was planning for Golda Meir. Nixon called it “the Jewish dinner,” after learning that the White House was being besieged with requests to attend. “I don’t want any Jew at that dinner who didn’t support us in that campaign,” he said. “Is that clear? No Jew who did not support us.” Nixon listed many of his top Jewish advisers, among them, Mr. Kissinger and William Safire, who went on to become a columnist at The New York Times and argued that they shared a common trait of needing to compensate for an inferiority complex. “What it is, is it’s the insecurity,” Nixon said. “It’s the latent insecurity. Most Jewish people are insecure. And that’s why they have to prove things.”
Nixon also declared his reluctance to even consider amnesty for young Americans who went to Canada to avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War when so many of them were Jewish. “I didn’t notice many Jewish names coming back from Vietnam on any of those lists; I don’t know how the hell they avoid it,” Nixon said, adding: “If you look at the Canadian-Swedish contingent, they were very disproportionately Jewish. The deserters.”
Timothy Naftali, the executive director of the executive director of the Nixon Library said that there were now only 400 hours of tapes left to released, and that those would cover the final months before the tape system was shut down in July 1973 after Alexander Butterfield, who was a deputy assistant to Nixon, confirmed its existence to the Watergate committee. Mr. Naftali said that by 2012, he intended to have those tapes, now being recorded on to CDs available for listening online at the Nixon Library’s web site.