Henry Kissinger, the dominant US diplomat of the Cold War era who helped Washington open up to China, forge arms control deals with the Soviet Union, and end the Vietnam War but who was reviled by critics over human rights, has died at the age of 100.
Kissinger, a German-born Jewish refugee whose career took him from academia to diplomacy and who remained an active voice in foreign policy into his later years, died at his home in Connecticut on Wednesday, his geopolitical consulting firm, Kissinger Associates Inc., said.
Kissinger was at the height of his powers during the 1970s in the midst of the Cold War when he served as national security adviser and secretary of state under Republican President Richard Nixon.
After Nixon’s resignation in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal, he remained a diplomatic force as secretary of state under Nixon’s successor, President Gerald Ford.
He was the architect of the US diplomatic opening with China, landmark US-Soviet arms control talks, expanded ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam.
While many hailed Kissinger for his brilliance and statesmanship, others branded him a war criminal for his support for anti-communist dictatorships, especially in Latin America. In his latter years, his travels were circumscribed by efforts by some nations to arrest or question him about past US foreign policy.
He won the 1973 Peace Prize for ending US involvement in the Vietnam War but it was one of the most controversial ever. Two members of the Nobel committee resigned over the selection as questions arose about the secret US bombing of Cambodia. North Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho, selected to share the award, declined it.
As tributes poured in from around the world, Beijing called him a “good old friend of the Chinese people” who made historic contributions to normalizing relations between the two countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Kissinger as a “wise and farsighted statesman” while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his meetings with Kissinger provided “a masterclass in statesmanship.”
With his distinctive German-accented voice, Kissinger was never shy to offer his opinion. Ford called him a “super secretary of state” but also noted his prickliness and self-assurance, saying “Henry in his mind never made a mistake.”
“He had the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew,” Ford told an interviewer shortly before his death in 2006.
Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born in Fuerth, Germany, on May 27, 1923, and moved to the United States with his family in 1938 before the Nazi campaign to exterminate European Jewry.
Anglicizing his name to Henry, Kissinger became a naturalized US citizen in 1943, served in the Army in Europe in World War Two, and attended Harvard University on a scholarship, where he earned a doctorate in 1954 and stayed on faculty for the next 17 years.
During much of that time, Kissinger served as a consultant to government agencies, including in 1967 when he acted as an intermediary for the State Department in Vietnam. He used his connections with President Lyndon Johnson’s Democratic administration to pass on information about peace negotiations to the Nixon camp.
When Nixon’s pledge to end the Vietnam War helped him win the 1968 presidential election, he brought in Kissinger as national security adviser.
But the process of “Vietnamization” — shifting the burden of the war from US forces to the South Vietnamese — was long and bloody, punctuated by massive US bombing of North Vietnam, the mining of the North’s harbors, and the bombing of Cambodia.
Kissinger declared in 1972 that “peace is at hand” in Vietnam, but the Paris Peace Accords signed in January 1973 were little more than a prelude to the final Communist takeover of the South two years later.
In 1973, in addition to his role as national security adviser, Kissinger was named secretary of state — giving him unchallenged authority in foreign affairs.
An intensifying Arab-Israeli conflict launched Kissinger on his first “shuttle” mission, a brand of highly personal, high-pressure diplomacy for which he became famous.
Thirty-two days of shuttling between Jerusalem and Damascus helped Kissinger forge a long-lasting disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights.
In an effort to diminish Soviet influence, Kissinger reached out to its chief communist rival, China, and made two trips there, including a secret one to meet with Premier Zhou Enlai. The result was Nixon’s historic summit in Beijing with Chairman Mao Zedong and the eventual formalization of relations between the two countries.
Former US Ambassador to China Winston Lord, who served as Kissinger‘s special assistant, called his former boss a “tireless advocate for peace,” telling Reuters, “America has lost a towering champion for the national interest.”
STRATEGIC ARMS ACCORD
As secretary of state, Kissinger went with Ford in 1974 to Vladivostok in the Soviet Union, where the president met Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and agreed to a basic framework for a strategic arms pact. The agreement capped Kissinger‘s pioneering efforts at detente that led to an easing of US-Soviet tensions.
But Kissinger‘s diplomatic skills had their limits. In 1975, he was blamed for failing to persuade Israel and Egypt to agree to a second-stage disengagement in the Sinai.
And in the India-Pakistan War of 1971, Nixon and Kissinger drew heavy criticism for tilting toward Pakistan. Kissinger was heard calling the Indians “bastards” — a remark he later said he regretted.
Like Nixon, he feared the spread of left-wing ideas in the Western hemisphere, and his actions in response led to deep distrust of Washington by many Latin Americans for years to come.
In 1970, he plotted with the CIA on how best to topple the Marxist, democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende, and in a memo after Argentina’s bloody coup in 1976 he said that the military dictators should be encouraged.
When Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, in 1976, Kissinger‘s days in government power were largely over. The next Republican in the White House, Ronald Reagan, distanced himself from Kissinger, viewing him as out of step with his conservative constituency.
After leaving government, Kissinger set up a high-priced, high-powered consulting firm in New York, which offered advice to the world’s corporate elite. He served on company boards and various foreign policy and security forums, wrote books, and became a regular media commentator on international affairs.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President George W. Bush picked Kissinger to head an investigative committee. But outcry from Democrats who saw a conflict of interest with many of his consulting firm’s clients forced Kissinger to step down.
He remained active late in life, attending meetings in the White House, publishing a book on leadership, and testifying before a Senate committee about North Korea’s nuclear threat. In July 2023, he made a surprise visit to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Divorced from his first wife, Ann Fleischer, in 1964, he married Nancy Maginnes, an aide to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, in 1974. He had two children by his first wife.
Kissinger Associates Inc. said in the statement announcing his death that Kissinger would be interred at a private family service, to be followed at a later date by a public memorial service in New York City.
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French Government Will Hold Commemoration for Victims of Hamas Pogrom Amid Disquiet Over Far Left Party’s Participation
French President Emmanuel Macron will preside over a special ceremony on Wednesday to commemorate the French victims of the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas pogrom in Israel as a row over the potential presence of far left parliamentarians continues to fester.
A statement from the Elysée Palace on Monday confirmed Macron’s presence at Wednesday’s event, which will take place at Les Invalides in Paris, where the French National Assembly and other leading national institutions are based.
A spokeswoman for Macron’s office pointed out that 42 French citizens were among the more than 1,200 people murdered during the Hamas assault, with a further three still being held hostage in Gaza.
Answering a question from a reporter about whether a similar event would be held for French citizens killed during the IDF bombing of Gaza that followed the assault, she added that a separate memorial ceremony would be held at a date yet to be determined. “It is obvious that we owe the same emotion and the same dignity to the French victims of the bombings in Gaza, and this tribute will be paid to them at another time,” she said. It is not clear how many French passport holders have actually been killed since the French government announced the deaths of two Palestinian children who were French citizens on Oct. 31.
Wednesday’s ceremony will unfold “under the universal sign of the fight against anti-Semitism and through it, all forms of hatred, racism and oppression against minorities,” the official statement from the presidency declared. Each of the murdered victims will be commemorated through the display of a photograph with their name attached. Families of the victims will be present, many of them being flown in from Israel on a special flight chartered by the French government.
The event is already mired in controversy due the announcement of parliamentarians from the far left La France Insoumise (LFI -“France Rising”) that they plan to attend. LFI has been vocal in its support of Palestinians in Gaza, frequently drawing accusations of antisemitism because of its harsh rhetoric. Earlier this month, the daughter of two LFI MPs was arrested for allegedly antisemitic social media posts in the weeks following the Hamas attack, while another LFI MP faced condemnation over a posting on social media that invoked a popular Japanese manga meme appropriated by antisemites.
In a letter to Macron, members of five of the victims families demanded a ban on the participation of LFI MPs.
“We, families of victims of Hamas terrorists, solemnly demand that any presence of LFI at the national tribute that will be paid to the 42 Franco-Israeli victims of 7/10 be prohibited,” the letter stated.
However, that request is unlikely to be granted. Pointing out that parliamentarians are automatically invited to state-organized ceremonies, Macron’s office stated that “It is up to everyone to assess the appropriateness or not of their presence since the families spoke out and expressed strong emotion,” but notably did not accede to the ban request.
Mathilde Panot, the head of the LFI deputies in the National Assembly, said last week that she planned to attend the ceremony.
“I will be present and I have asked that a tribute be paid to all the French victims of this war in the Middle East, including the Franco-Palestinians killed in Gaza by the Israeli army,” she said.
Montana Tucker “Bring Them Home” Grammy Tribute for Israeli Hostages Turns Heads
Jewish singer and songwriter Montana Tucker showed her support for Israelis still being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza at Sunday night’s 66th Annual Grammy Awards, an annual ceremony held to honor the record industry’s most critically acclaimed artists.
Posing for photographers, Tucker walked the red carpet clad in a beige, diaphanous corset gown ornamented with a yellow ribbon that said, “Bring Them Home.” She also wore a Star of David necklace.
136 Israeli hostages remain imprisoned by Hamas in Gaza. They have been there since Oct. 7, when the terrorist organization committed a massacre of Jews across the southern region of Israel, the deadliest mass killing of Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas’ fighters brutally murdered and rape hundreds, and according to numerous reports, more are being sexually abused in captivity.
Tucker’s wasn’t the only statement made about the Israel-Hamas war. Ann Lennox, Scottish vocalist of the popular 1980s band Eurythmics — most known for its No. 1 song “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — called for a ceasefire in Gaza in a speech delivered after she performed a tribute to Sinéad O’Connor.
Raising a “Black Power” fist before a much larger audience than Tucker was accorded, Lennox proclaimed, “Artists for a ceasefire. Peace in the world.”
Lennox was alluding to “Artists4Ceasefire,” a small group of entertainers who issued a letter calling on President Joe Biden to “end the bombing of Gaza” that did not mention that Hamas started the war or condemn rising antisemitism. The letter’s signatories include, among other B-list celebrities, Adam Lambert — who in 2009 won second place in the now-discontinued television series American Idol — Jennifer Lopez, Rosie O’Donnell, and Alyssa Milano.
The Algemeiner honored Montana Tucker in 2022 for being one of 100 people recognized for positively influencing Jewish life. A granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Tucker was dogged all her life by assertions that she does not “look Jewish.” Undeterred by the remarks, she committed to proudly representing the Jewish community, and in 2022 produced “How To: Never Forget,” a ten-part docuseries about her grandparents lives in Poland before the Nazi invasion.
“This has been my responsibility to do this, for me and my grandparents and everyone else,” Tucker said at the time, during an interview. “People are used to seeing my very light-hearted, fun dance videos and me collaborating with a lot of different people…It’s rare for me and my content, and rare for the platform in general, to have a docuseries on the Holocaust.”
Other pro-Israel activists wore apparel to the Grammy awards to show. Orthodox Rabbi-Rapper Moshe Reuven, whose song “You Are Not Alone” has amassed over one million streams on Spotify, sported a “Never Is Now” shirt distributed through partnership between civil rights nonprofit StandWithUs and Perspective Fitwear. The shirt’s designer is Karen Margolis.
Taylor Swift’s 2022 record, titled Midnights, won “Album of the Year,” and rapper Jay-Z implied during a speech for accepting the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award that his wife, multi-platinum artists and most-winning Grammy award winner ever Beyoncé, has never won “Album of the Year” because she is a Black woman. The moment was reminiscent of a 2009 incident in which Kanye West stormed the stage of the MTV Awards to denounce Swift’s winning “Best Video by a Female Artist.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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Israeli Bank Shutter Accounts of Settlers Sanctioned By Biden
The Israeli bank accounts of two of the Israelis sanctioned by the United States government last week were closed on Sunday and Monday. Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich spoke out against the action, saying “I will take action as the finance minister and do what I must. If need be, we’ll advance legislation on the matter.” He further called the instance “unthinkable” that it occurred.
The two Israelis, Yinon Levi and David Chai Chasdai, had their personal and business accounts closed by Bank Leumi and Bank Hadoar, respectively. The other two settlers listed bank with Bank Hapoalim, who also said they would close the accounts, saying “Bank Hapoalim respects the international sanctions and will comply with any legal order.”
The Bank of Israel announced their support for the move, saying “Banking corporations, by necessity of their international activities, are required to establish policies and procedures for the use of international sanctions lists and national sanctions lists of foreign countries and for entering into or carrying out operations with parties declared on such lists. Circumvention of sanctions regimes as mentioned, has the effect of exposing the banking corporations to significant risks, among them, compliance risks, money laundering and terrorist financing risks, legal risks and reputational risks.”
Chasdai, who denies any wrongdoing, said “The fact that a government bank decides in the middle of a bright day to seize the bank accounts of settlers solely because of pressure from extreme leftist organizations and a hostile American government is unimaginable, but the fact that this is happening under the tenure of a right-wing government just after the greatest massacre in the country’s history is a national disgrace first class.”
“We have gone through many oppressors who harmed the people of Israel over the generations, we will also go through the persecution of Biden and his aides,” he added.
US President Joe Biden approved the sanctions last week, saying “The situation in the West Bank – in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction – has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability in the region.”
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