Illustration: U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the Phone by David Hume Kennerly (NARA) [Public Domain] via Flickr
The news that a prominent American Jewish organization has invited Henry Kissinger to be a featured speaker at its upcoming conference is deeply troubling. Kissinger’s long record of undermining Israel and Soviet Jewry should disqualify him from the honor of appearing at Jewish communal events.
The Jewish Leadership Conference, a conservative Jewish think tank, has just sent out the announcement for its third annual conference on “Jews and Conservatism,” to be held in New York City in November. The list of speakers includes prominent Jewish public figures such as Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations, as well as leading Jewish intellectuals such as Commentary editor John Podhoretz, Israeli author Yoram Hazony, Prof. Ruth Wisse, and Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik.
But a seat of honor has been reserved for former U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger. Billed as a “featured speaker,” he will be discussing “great figures of the twentieth-century political arena, including Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.” The announcement offers the public the chance to “Go behind the scenes when, in 1973, Israel was attacked on Yom Kippur.”
Actually, it is even more enlightening to go back to the day before Israel was attacked in 1973 – the day Kissinger prevented Israel from launching a preemptive strike.
We know what happened on the eve of the war and the days to follow from three reliable sources: Walter Isaacson’s definitive Kissinger: A Biography; long-time Haaretz chief diplomatic correspondent Matti Golan’s The Secret Conversations of Henry Kissinger; and the words of former Obama administration Middle East Envoy David Makovsky.
On Yom Kippur morning, hours before the 1973 Arab invasion, Golda Meir was informed by her military intelligence officials that Egypt and Syria were massing their troops along Israel’s borders and would attack later that day. The Israelis immediately contacted Kissinger.
Golan describes what happened next: “Till the very outbreak of the fighting, Kissinger remained more concerned with the possibility of an Israeli preemptive strike than an Egyptian-Syrian attack.”
Kissinger instructed the U.S. ambassador in Israel to personally deliver to Meir “a presidential entreaty” — that is, a warning, in the name of President Richard Nixon, “not to start a war.”
Then-Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban confirmed in his autobiography that Army Chief of Staff David Elazar proposed a preemptive strike, but Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan rejected it on the grounds that “the United States would regard this as provocative.”
As soon as the Arabs attacked, the Israelis requested a U,S. airlift of military supplies. Kissinger stalled them — for an entire brutal week.
Kissinger’s strategy was to orchestrate “a limited Egyptian victory,” Makovsky wrote in The Jerusalem Post in 1993. The secretary of state feared an Israeli victory “would cause Israel to strengthen its resolve not to make any territorial concessions in Sinai.”
“Kissinger opposed giving [Israel] major support that could make its victory too one-sided,” Walter Isaacson confirms. He told Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, “The best result would be if Israel came out a little ahead but got bloodied in the process.”
A “little bloodied”? Try 2,656 dead Israeli soldiers.
In the aftermath of the war, Kissinger undertook shuttle diplomacy aimed at getting Israel to give up parts of the Sinai to Egypt. When Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin initially hesitated, Kissinger announced a brutal “reassessment” of U.S. support for Israel. That meant a total cutoff of U.S. arms shipments to Israel during the summer of 1975, until Rabin finally gave in.
During those same years, Kissinger also viciously undermined efforts to save Soviet Jewry. In an attempt to block the Jackson Amendment — which linked U.S.-Soviet trade to emigration of Soviet Jews — Kissinger threatened Jewish leaders that he might cut off American aid to Israel unless they withdrew their support for Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson.
In December 2010, we learned just how low Kissinger stooped in his attempts to harm Soviet Jews. A newly released White House tape recording revealed Kissinger advising President Nixon that the persecution of Soviet Jewry “is not an American concern.”
Kissinger said, “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.”
Blasting American Jews for trying to link trade and human rights, Kissinger told Nixon, “And I think that the Jewish community in this country on that issue is behaving unconscionably. It’s behaving traitorously.”
Kissinger didn’t even have the decency to offer a genuine apology when his remarks were exposed. He insisted he had just been speaking in “shorthand” and that his critics were taking his statements “out of context.”
Henry Kissinger is responsible for causing grave damage to both the State of Israel and to Soviet Jewry. He does not deserve the honor of being a featured speaker at Jewish communal events. The Jewish Leadership Conference should withdraw the invitation before it permanently tars its own good name and reputation.
Moshe Phillips is national director of Herut North America’s U.S. division. Phillips' work was recently profiled here. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education and is dedicated to the ideals of pre-World War II Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky. Click here to read more of this writer's work in The Jerusalem Herald.