102. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the White House Chief of Staff (Haldeman)1

    • The Jewish Defense League

The narrow conclusion of Tom Huston’s memorandum to you (Tab A)2 is unimpeachable: we should not over-react to the JDL provocations. His memorandum also correctly identifies the fact that we have an international responsibility to safeguard Soviet life and property in the US (just as they do with respect to American life and property in the USSR). For us, the situation demands a very careful blend of federal and local actions and of various foreign policy (as well as domestic political) factors.

The main burden of protection and prosecution has rested with local authorities. Federal authorities have been involved only where there has been a clear allegation of a violation of Federal law (e.g. the Federal Firearms Control Act), or where the Federal Executive Protection Service has definite responsibilities. The question of possible use of Federal injunctive powers has been held in abeyance. In short, the federal role has been kept within limits, and there has been no activity by the Federal Government or the Administration which anyone could charge amounts to conducting or planning a witch-hunt of the JDL.

The best basis from which to judge the Administration’s response to JDL activities—and then only statement at the highest level—is the [Page 303] President’s message of January 11 to American Jewish leaders.3 This message very carefully stressed the Administration’s continued commitment to freedom of emigration and other human rights (for Soviet Jews), concern over criminal acts of violence, and determination—in cooperation with local authorities—to prevent such acts or take legal action when they occur. This is the sort of proper mix of the various ingredients which we shall continue to use in this issue.

For obvious reasons, I have not treated the domestic political points in the Huston memorandum.

You may also want to check with John Dean, who is conversant with the various legal actions involved.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 405, Subject Files, USSR (Jewish Defense League). Confidential; Sensitive; Outside System. Printed from a copy that indicates Haig signed the original for Kissinger.
  2. Dated January 14; attached but not printed. Sonnenfeldt forwarded Huston’s memorandum and a “self-explanatory response” to Kissinger on January 19. Huston argued that the White House should not “launch a Federal pogrom,” which would needlessly alienate “those lower-middle-class Jews of largely Eastern European origin who tend to identify with the JDL.” “In short,” Huston concluded, “we should attempt to identify those individuals responsible for acts of violence, collar them, and make it clear we will not tolerate lawlessness. However, we should keep the federal presence to the minimum, we should be quite precise in recognizing the legitimacy of the Jewish concern about Soviet treatment of Jews, and we should not be unaware of the political significance of the hard-line attitude emerging in certain Jewish circles. Moreover, we should above all not lose sight of the international significance of the Soviet Jewry question as a point of leverage in our relations with the Soviet Union.” Haldeman wrote the following note to Kissinger on Huston’s memorandum: “K Is he right? H.” (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 91.