Kissinger’s support for Is­rael runs deep

The Covington News - - OPINION - RICHARD CO­HEN COLUM­NIST Richard Co­hen is a writer with the Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group. He can be reached at co­henr@wash­post.com.

At the age of 91, Henry Kissinger has pub­lished yet another book — his 17th in 60 years, ac­cord­ing to his bi­og­ra­pher Wal­ter Isaac­son. In that sense, “World Or­der” is some­thing of a mir­a­cle, but it is also a swell read. So, I ini­tially thought, was a re­view of it in The New York Times by John Mick­leth­wait, the ed­i­tor-in-chief of the ad­mirable Economist mag­a­zine — and I praised it to him in an email. A bit later, I did a dou­ble-take. I still like the book, but Mick­leth­wait’s re­view is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter.

What caused me to change my mind? Not Mick­leth­wait’s ba­sic ad­mi­ra­tion of Kissinger (I feel the same) or his awe at Kissinger’s dura­bil­ity as a for­eign pol­icy wise man or his find­ing that Kissinger can be a bit of a toady, scat­ter­ing praise as a cer­tain Johnny once did ap­ple seeds. He cites, in this re­gard, Kissinger’s air kiss to George W. Bush “in the midst of a sec­tion on the clue­less­ness of his for­eign pol­icy.” Kissinger is for­ever in the an­te­room, wait­ing to be sum­moned.

It is when Mick­leth­wait dis­cerns Kissinger’s real rea­sons for char­ac­ter­iz­ing Is­rael as a vic­tim — a Euro­pean-style na­tion with some dan­ger­ous, if not de­ranged, neigh­bors — that I take um­brage. For Mick­leth­wait, this some­how can­not be. To him, the case against Is­rael — and Kissinger’s fail­ure to con­demn West Bank set- tle­ments — is ap­par­ently so ob­vi­ous, not to men­tion re­pul­sive, that support for it can only be another ex­am­ple of Kissinger craven­ness. “It all feels like a rather be­lated olive branch to the Is­raeli right and its sup­port­ers in Amer­ica’s Congress,” Mick­leth­wait writes. To me, it feels like noth­ing of the sort.

Henry Kissinger’s fam­ily came to the United States as Ger­man-Jewish refugees. Mem­bers of his im­me­di­ate and ex­tended fam­ily died in the Holo­caust. The Ger­man-Jewish com­mu­nity was ex­ter­mi­nated. To gauge the full ex­tent of that tragedy, I can only rec­om­mend Amos Elon’s mas­ter­ful book “The Pity of It All.” It be­gins with the im­pov­er­ished Moses Men­delssohn en­ter­ing Berlin in 1743 and ends with the oblit­er­a­tion of one of the most ac­com­plished eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties in all of Europe — but not be­fore some Jews had fled, pen­ni­less and dis­ori­ented, to what is now Is­rael. The story, both en­thralling and com­pelling, will break your heart.

Kissinger has re­ferred to his her­itage nu­mer­ous times and has ac­knowl­edged its im­pact on him. He has al­ways been cagey about his Jewish back­ground — hardly an as­set when deal­ing with Arab gov­ern­ments — and he has ex­pressed some vex­a­tion at what in the book he calls Is­rael’s “oc­ca­sion­ally grat­ing” ap­proach to peace ne­go­ti­a­tions. He fa­vors the con­ven­tional two-state so­lu­tion, and while Is­rael has cer­tainly been re­cal­ci­trant at times, it has been the soul of rea­son com­pared to the out­right hos­til­ity of many Arab gov­ern­ments — not to men­tion a whiff of nox­ious anti-Semitism em­a­nat­ing from their (of­fi­cially ap­proved) me­dia.

It trou­bles me that Mick­leth­wait breezed by the most ob­vi­ous ex­pla­na­tions for Kissinger’s po­si­tion on Is­rael — or mine, for that mat­ter. (It is -- it re­mains — the Mid­dle East’s sole democ­racy.) He ap­par­ently can­not see over his shoul­der to an end­less yes­ter­day when Jews were mur­dered with both im­punity and glee — or to to­mor­row when, his­tory chides, the process could be­gin again. For Mick­leth­wait the case against Is­rael is ap­par­ently so strong that only an un­ap­peal­ing de­sire to ap­pease its most ex­treme sup­port­ers — both re­li­gious and sec­u­lar — can ex­plain Kissinger’s po­si­tion.

The churl­ish view of Is- rael, so common in Europe and, sadly, on the Amer­i­can left, is to see it as just the lat­est man­i­fes­ta­tion of Euro­pean colo­nial­ism — never mind that the pur­ported colo­nial­ists rep­re­sented no mother coun­try. Never mind, ei­ther, that its cre­ation was im­me­di­ately greeted by an avowed war of an­ni­hi­la­tion, fol­lowed by cease­less vi­o­lence — wars, mini-wars, ter­ror­ism and an ab­hor­rent dis­re­gard for the ba­sic rules of civ­i­liza­tion. Just last month a se­nior Ha­mas leader boasted that his group had in­deed kid­napped and mur­dered the three teenage Is­raelis whose deaths pre­cip­i­tated the lat­est Gaza war. He called it a “heroic op­er­a­tion.” Ask your­self the ques­tion posed by The At­lantic’s Jef­frey Gold­berg: If Ha­mas had Is­rael’s mus­cle, would Is­rael now ex­ist?

It is per­mis­si­ble to be crit­i­cal of Is­rael — God knows, I have been. But to think that over­all support for it can­not be ex­plained by its virtues, as op­posed to knuck­ling un­der to some fear­some spe­cial in­ter­est, de­taches the events of to­day from all that went be­fore. It is his­tory by Twit­ter, un­wor­thy of the ed­i­tor of a splen­did and an im­mensely in­flu­en­tial mag­a­zine.

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