A Young John F. Kennedy’s Unimpressive Musings on Nazi Germany and Zionism

Reviewing the first volume of a new biography of JFK by the Harvard historian Fredrik Logevall, P.J. O’Rourke reflects on why a “distant, hazy, reminiscent glow lingers” in the air around the Kennedys. The dynasty’s founding patriarch, Joseph, Sr., was, in O’Rourke’s words, “a priapic, stock-jobbing, isolationist, defeatist, Hitler-appeasing anti-Semite,” who was recalled from his absurd posting as ambassador to Great Britain and resigned in disgrace in 1941. Yet, although his son John Fitzgerald would, as president, uphold the U.S.-Israel relationship, his earlier judgments were less inspiring:

Logevall wants us to see Jack as a keen and thoughtful observer of international politics, even on a 1937 college-summer-vacation jaunt through Europe. Then he quotes the kid. “Fascism seems to treat them well,” Jack wrote in his diary after two days in Milan. At an inn in Munich, Jack noted, “Had a talk with the proprietor who is quite the Hitler fan. There is no doubt about it that these dictators are more popular in the country than outside due to their effective propaganda.”

After graduation in 1939, Jack (with hospitality and official contacts arranged by ambassador dad) traveled through Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Logevall insists on taking us along. According to Jack, after visiting Danzig, “the situation up there is very complicated.” Jack finds the USSR “crude, backward, and hopelessly bureaucratic.” In Palestine Jack thinks . . . what people who think they are thinkers think to this very day: “The important thing is to try to work out a solution that will work, . . . two autonomous districts giving them both self-government.”

Logevall doesn’t let us turn our eyes away from Jack’s diary account of his 1945 postwar visit to Germany. “You can,” Kennedy wrote, “easily understand how that within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived.” Well, “significant” is one way to put it. . . . Logevall makes much of Jack’s Harvard senior thesis, which combined tepid criticism of appeasement with lukewarm apology for it.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Isolationism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, John F. Kennedy, Nazi Germany

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror