Time to move on
Hopefully, these will be the last words we write about Henry Kissinger for a while. Frankly, he doesn’t deserve this much ink.
The former secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford has apologized for a remark he made to Nixon in 1973 about the situation of Soviet Jewry The remark is on a White House tape.
Specifically, he told Nixon, “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 concern.”
To which, Nixon replied, “I know. We can’t blow up the world because of it.”
Kissinger made the remark after he and Nixon met with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir on March 1, 1973. At that meeting, Meir pleaded for the United States to pressure the Soviet Union to release its Jews.
Being his usual emotionless self, Kissinger at first refused to apologize for the remarks, saying they must be read in the context of the time.
He has since thought better of that position.
“For someone who lost in the Holocaust many members of my immediate family and a large proportion of those with whom I grew up, it is hurtful to see an out-of-context remark being taken so contrary to its intentions and to my convictions, which were profoundly shaped by these events,” Kissinger wrote in a Dec. 26 op-ed in The Washington Post. “References to gas chambers have no place in political discourse, and I am sorry I made that remark 37 years ago.”
As one of many Jewish publications that reported his initial remarks and his initial reaction to their publication, it is only fair that we report his apology as well.
Some, however, say it is not enough.
“What are we to make of this reluctant quasi-apology?” wrote Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, and a regular columnist in this paper. “To be sure, the requisite expression of remorse, albeit palpably grudging, is there, almost like the allocution a defendant has to make in open court before the judge accepts a guilty plea. And yet, terminal damage to Kissinger’s reputation has, I think, been done.”
To be sure, Kissinger still doesn’t quite get what he did. In the same op-ed, he wrote that his comments were not a “policy statement,” but a response to a request by Nixon that he try to encourage several vocal senators to agree to stick with quiet diplomacy in order to get Jews out of the Soviet Union.”
We know it wasn’t a statement of policy. We object to the remark because it’s a morally repugnant thing to say — in any situation.
That includes being alone with the president in the White House, with nothing but a tape recorder to capture your words for posterity.
With Kissinger’s apology this episode has run its course. The Jewish people have far more important things to worry about. Let’s move on.