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Posts Tagged ‘Henry Kissinger’

The President Speaks: Peres Expresses Optimism About the Future, Mideast Peace

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

People flocked to the auditorium for the second plenary of the evening – and with good reason. The line-up was stacked with notable names including President Shimon Peres, Dr. Henry Kissinger and Former Prime Minister of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Tony Blair.

Mr. Philippe Amon, Executive Co-Chairman of SICPA Holding SA was the opening speaker from Switzerland. He was impressed by the diversity and number of people at the conference- more than 4,000 participants from 20 countries and five continents. The session was titled The Compass for Navigating Tomorrow, and aimed to enlighten the audience with messages of peace and optimism.

Kissinger was honored with the Presidential Award of Distinction for his unique contribution to peace in Israel. Peres took the stage to introduce the award and kindly described Kissinger not only as a friend, but a brother. The two have essentially grown up together, as they have known each other since the early 1960s. He called Kissinger an “inspiration to those who see peace between nations and people.”

Kissinger then glided through the bursts of camera flashes to the stage to embrace Peres and pose for photos as he received his medal. He started his acceptance speech by making the crowd laugh. “It is unusual for an 89 year old to say, ‘I wish my parents could be here,’” he said. “They would be more proud of this than any other honors that have come my way.” That’s not something to be taken lightly, as his other honors include winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, being a former Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor. He recently published a book On China, released last year, one that Peres called a “literary masterpiece.”

Kissinger asked, “How does one achieve both justice and equilibrium?” He called Israel an island of stability in a moment of upheaval everywhere else. The recognition of the state is the beginning of peace, not the end. He noted that everyone else knows the sacrifices Israel has and will make for peace, and aimed to fill the audience with hope and to be able to inspire others to have this hope too. “This country was a dream before it became a reality and its reality resided in its vision,” he said.

Tony Blair showed visible excitement as he stepped up to the podium following Kissinger. Smiling, he said how humbled he felt to be seated between Kissinger and Peres. Blair jokingly admitted that he didn’t know much about the world when he became Prime Minister, but he was told that 40 minutes with Henry Kissinger were worth more than four years at Oxford. Blair recounted how he said to Henry, “‘Tell me about the world.’ And he did.

Blair focused the remainder of his speech on the importance of not fearing change, but rather embracing  moving with it. He encouraged people to be open-minded and hopeful about lasting peace. “This is the moment for those that believe in the open-mind to bring that message into the world,” he said, echoing the conference’s theme about looking to the future with optimism.

Peres concluded the evening gala. He addressed the idea of navigating tomorrow, and split the concept into three subsections of moral virtue, pursuing peace, and a love of learning. He sought to imbue his message with Jewish values like loving thy neighbor as yourself, and not rejoicing in the demise of your enemy. He believes in peace, he said, and Israel’s need to be strong in order to achieve it, even if it takes a historic compromise. He mentioned that he had met with President Abbas and was left with the impression that they also need and want peace. The problem with peace lies in Iran, he said, but remained confident that President Obama will step in and prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

In closing his introduction to the conference, Peres expressed optimism about the future of the world, which he said was embodied in Israel’s national anthem of ‘hatikva’, or hope. “I evaluate that the next decade will be the most successful,” he said.

Kissinger Apology Falls Short

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except, of course, Henry Kissinger’s publicists and strategists who decided that the slowest news day of the year was the perfect time for him to apologize, sort of, for telling Richard Nixon in 1973 that “if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

They may finally have realized – an apt epiphany given the season – that by not issuing such an admission of regret earlier, Kissinger had violated his own maxim that “whatever must happen ultimately should happen immediately.” They probably also hoped that no one would pay attention over a holiday weekend and that what has become the most embarrassing contretemps (that’s French for public relations train wreck) in the former secretary of state and Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s illustrious career would fade into oblivion.

Not so fast.

For almost two weeks since the now infamous Oval Office remarks first appeared in The New York Times, Kissinger had refused to acknowledge that he had said anything inappropriate. He at first tried to get out from under his predicament with a disingenuous statement that “The quotations ascribed to me in the transcript of the conversation with President Nixon must be viewed in the context of the time.”

Without expressing any contrition whatsoever for what even some of his Jewish defenders deemed to be a “disturbing and even callous insensitivity toward the fate of Soviet Jews,” Kissinger’s statement contended that he and Nixon had, in fact, raised Jewish emigration from the former Soviet Union “from 700 per year to close to 40,000 in 1972.”

He and the president feared, the statement continued, that efforts to make “Jewish emigration a foreign policy issue” through Congressional legislation – to wit, what became the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment – “would reduce emigration, which is exactly what happened. Jewish emigration never reached the level of 40,000 again until the Soviet Union collapsed.”

Unfortunately for Kissinger, he seems to have gotten his facts wrong. As Richard Schifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs in the Reagan administration, pointed out in the Forward, “Kissinger’s analysis is not reflected in the actual emigration data. He was close on the 1970 emigration figure, which was 1,027. His quiet diplomacy during detente did increase that number to an annual average of 20,516 from 1971 to 1974. But after Jackson-Vanik’s passage in 1974, the average for 1975 to 1978 dropped only slightly to 18,271 annually. Then, in 1979, the number of emigrants jumped to 51,320, much more than anything achieved under the Nixon-Kissinger policy.”

According to Schifter, it was only after the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the ensuing “serious deterioration of U.S.-Soviet relations” that Soviet Jewish emigration figures “dropped sharply, reaching a low of 876 in 1984.”

When the furor over the “gas chambers” remarks not only failed to subside but also produced a Clyde Haberman column in The New York Times that considerably raised the temperature, three prominent American Jews wrote a letter to that newspaper chastising Kissinger’s critics. “Never,” they insisted, “have we heard him speak in a disparaging way about the Jewish community.”

The bleeding didn’t stop. During a protest demonstration outside Kissinger’s Manhattan office, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio denounced Kissinger’s remarks as “monstrous,” and the next wave of Anglo-Jewish weeklies across the country brought new excoriations.

It was then and only then that Kissinger bit the bullet and did what he should have done in the first place. In a Washington Post op-ed posted online last Friday, Dec. 24, and published on Sunday, Dec. 26, Kissinger wrote, “References to gas chambers have no place in political discourse and I am sorry I made that remark 37 years ago.” His comments, he went on, were “in a kind of shorthand that, when read 37 years later, is undoubtedly offensive.”

What are we to make of this reluctant quasi-apology? 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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/kissinger-apology-falls-short/2010/12/30/

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