Kissinger in an e-mail to JTA would brook no request for an apology and did not even directly address his gas chambers remark. Instead he appeared to insist on context: His frustration at the time with the insistence of the Jewish community and U.S. senators such as Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) and Henry "Scoop"Jackson (D-Wash.) on attaching human rights riders to dealings with the Soviets.
“The quotations ascribed to me in the transcript of the conversation with President Nixon must be viewed in the context of the time,” Kissinger wrote to JTA.
He and Nixon pursued the issue of Soviet Jewish emigration as a humanitarian matter separate from foreign policy issues in order to avoid questions of sovereignty and because normal diplomatic channels were closed, Kissinger wrote.
“By this method and the persistent private representation at the highest level we managed to raise emigration from 700 per year to close to 40,000 in 1972,” Kissinger wrote. “We disagreed with the Jackson Amendment, which made Jewish emigration a foreign policy issue. We feared that the Amendment would reduce emigration, which is exactly what happened. Jewish emigration never reached the level of 40,000 again until the Soviet Union collapsed. The conversation between Nixon and me must be seen in the context of that dispute and of our distinction between a foreign policy and a humanitarian approach.”
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