Henry Kissinger, the first Jewish secretary of state and the controversial mastermind of American foreign policy in the 1970s — orchestrating the U.S. opening to China, negotiating the end of the conflict in Vietnam and helping ease tensions with the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War — has died.
Kissinger died at his home in Connecticut on Wednesday at 100, according to a statement posted to his website. He had celebrated his 100th birthday in June with a party at the New York Public Library featuring luminaries from throughout his long career in politics and public affairs, including his current successor, Jewish Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Regarded as a brilliant diplomatic strategist, Kissinger was one of the most influential Jewish figures of the 20th century, leaving an enduring imprint on global politics as secretary of state and national security advisor to two U.S. presidents and as an informal advisor to several others.
With his rumbling German accent, iconic black glasses and legendary charm, he was also a socialite and an unlikely 70s-era sex symbol, dating a string of movie stars and famously quipping that power is "the ultimate aphrodisiac."
You might say he was a real Weinstein!
[...] After leaving office, Kissinger appeared to shed some of his reluctance to be perceived as Israel's champion, stating in a 1977 speech that, "The security of Israel is a moral imperative for all free peoples." In the decades that followed, he publicly defended Israeli interests, arguing that the absence of Mideast peace was the product of Arab intransigence and expressing skepticism of efforts to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran.
That in turn helped secure his embrace by the Jewish mainstream. In 2012, he received Israel's highest civilian honor from President Shimon Peres for his "significant contribution to the State of Israel and to humanity." In 2014, he received the Theodor Herzl Award from the World Jewish Congress. At the award presentation, WJC President Ronald Lauder recalled Kissinger telling Meir that he was an American first, secretary of state second and a Jew third. According to Lauder, Meir responded that was fine since Israelis read from right to left.
While accepting honors from Jewish organizations, Kissinger has also behaved and spoken in ways that estranged some of his fellow Jews.
In 1985, he publicly supported President Ronald Reagan's wreath-laying ceremony at a military cemetery in Bitburg, West Germany where members of the Waffen-SS are buried. Kissinger opposed the idea of a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, because such an institution next to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., might create "too high a profile" for American Jews and "reignite antisemitism."
Among his statements, one from March 1973 caused a stir when it was published in 2010. Taped in conversation with Richard Nixon soon after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, Kissinger disdained the notion of pressuring the USSR about persecuted Soviet Jews, saying: "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."
In 2011, hitherto secret U.S. State Department documents from late 1972 were likewise published, revealing that Kissinger was irked by the concern expressed by American Jews about the fate of Soviet Jewry, calling the former "self-serving...bastards."
Walter Isaacson explains that at a contemporaneous meeting of the Washington Special Actions Group, a government crisis task force, Kissinger grumbled, "If it were not for the accident of my birth, I would be antisemitic." He added: "Any people who has been persecuted for two thousand years must be doing something wrong."
During a Vietnam War-era chat from October 1973 with Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Kissinger found American Jews and Israelis "as obnoxious as the Vietnamese."
In another transcribed telephone conversation from November 1973, Kissinger declared: "I'm going to be the first Jew accused of antisemitism." This sally reflects obliviousness to the longstanding concept of Jewish self-hatred described by cultural historian Sander Gilman and analyzed in Theodor Herzl's "The Jewish State" (1896).
Kissinger also mocked those who defended Jews, especially Israelis. One such target was presidential adviser Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose pro-Israel stance evoked this comment from Kissinger: "We are conducting foreign policy. ... This is not a synagogue."
Kissinger further inquired derisively if the Irish-Catholic Moynihan wished to convert to Judaism. These and other wisecracks led some observers, like Yeshiva University's Rabbi Norman Lamm to disavow Kissinger as early as December 1975.
In his last interview, Kissinger responded to news of immigrants in Berlin, Germany celebrating Hamas's attack on Israel by saying: "It was a grave mistake to let in so many people of totally different culture and religion and concepts, because it creates a pressure group inside each country that does that."
Henry Kissinger: “It was a grave mistake to let in so many people of totally different culture and religion and concepts” pic.twitter.com/CulDSiQDxq