Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I walked over to the Cinemateque here in Jerusalem this afternoon to buy tickets for one of the movies being shown at the Jerusalem Film Festival.  (For all of spring and now into summer Israel and, in particular, Jerusalem, has had a multitude of music festivals, street parties, food samplings, outdoor concerts and operas, and on and on.) 

On the way back I stopped for a break at a stand and bought a glass of fresh hand-squeezed OJ to help get a little relief from the summer sun.  Then I started up Martin Luther King Street to the new and large MLK Square, which is set in the middle of a traffic circle and features nice flowers and an impressive steel structure. 

It is fitting that a beacon of freedom to the world, and a great supporter of Israel, should be honored in Jerusalem, the capital city of the people who helped give the world the concept of individual liberty and self-determination and who longed for freedom in their own land for 2,000 years.  However, I was struck by a little irony. 

Another street, Yitzhak Elhanan, connects MLK Square to a major street, Jabotinsky.  To bring Yitzhak Elhanan into Jabotinsky the city destroyed a nice little green area dedicated to the memory of the late Washington Senator Henry Jackson, one of the great heroes of the Soviet Jewry Movement.  Jackson's stone marker ended up awkwardly sitting on a traffic triangle in the intersection of Elhanan and Jabotinsky.  It looks lonely and undignified. 

Henry Jackson deserves better.  Except for perhaps Natan Scharansky, he is arguably the person most responsible for the freedom of over a million Jews. In any event, both men were stalwarts of the movement and played much different but equally essential roles. 

Jackson was a Cold War warrior.  His genius was in elevating a human rights issue to a make-or-break obstacle in th Soviet's efforts to achieve vital favored nation status in U.S. trade and other concessions in the context of the Cold War.

Some argue that Jackson simply seized on the issue to push his Cold War objectives against the Soviet Union.  The argument is dubious.  There were a lot easier ways to cause the Soviets heartburn and many other types of concessions that could have been demanded.  Moreover, Jackson was witness to postwar Europe.  He saw the destruction of European Jewry firsthand and it had a lifelong impact on him. 

Regardless of motivations, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, the most noted result of Henry Jackson's dedication to the freedom of Soviet Jews, put the issue smack-dab in the middle of U.S-Soviet relations.  Henry Jackson deserves the everlasting gratitude of the Jewish people.  He does not deserve being relegated to a traffic triangle.  His good works demand, and his memorial deserves, being restored to a dignified location in the heart of the free Jewish people, Jerusalem.

1 comment:

  1. Alan, I think you'll be interested to know that a British think-tank was set up several years ago called The Henry Jackson Society in honor of the late U.S. Senator, which is very active in Westminster political circles.


    "Our founders and supporters are united by a common interest in fostering a strong British and European commitment towards freedom, liberty, constitutional democracy, human rights, governmental and institutional reform and a robust foreign, security and defence policy and transatlantic alliance."