Remembering David Horowitz (16): Remember Amalak–Justice in Ramala

On the 15th of December, as the turbulent year of 1961 moved to a close, an Israeli war crimes tribunal sentenced Adolf Eichmann to die after being found guilty on all counts of crimes against humanity during the holocaust.

Eichmann

U Thant, a Burmese diplomat, was appointed new Secretary-General of the United Nations after his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjold died in a tragic plane crash.

In January 1962, the Foreign Press Association, consisting of some 200 foreign correspondents from all regions in the world, unanimously elected David Horowitz as General Secretary succeeding Zivko Milic of Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Horowitz at the time represented a number of foreign papers in Canada, Italy, South Africa and Israel and had been an active member and officer of the association for the past eight years.

Also in January, Horowitz delivered two lectures; one before a Manhattan branch of the American Jewish Congress, and another at Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck, New Jersey, on the universality of the Hebraic faith.

Professor Abraham S. Kotsuji, head of the Institute of Hebrew Culture in Japan arrived in the United States during the month of April and attended the 19th Annual Meeting of United Israel as an honored guest. He spoke to the group briefly about his work in Japan. Also attending were noted Israeli educator, Dr. Israel Ben Zeev and internationally renowned artist and sculptor, Dr. Rene Shapshak. It was Dr. Shapshak who designed the iconic United Israel emblem as previously covered in this series, ”

A few minutes past midnight on June 1, 1962, Otto Adolf Eichmann was executed by hanging at a prison in Ramla, Israel. The German Nazi SS lieutenant colonel was one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. He personally facilitated and managed the logistics of mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in German- occupied Eastern Europe during World War II.

Eichmann Trial

In his last hours, Eichmann remained defiant and unrepentant. Refusing a last meal (asking instead for a glass of red wine) and the traditional black hood, he was hanged.

The historical irony in this demonstration of poetic justice was not lost. The engineer and supervisor of Hitler’s “final solution” resulting in the systematic murder of six million Jews had met his fate at the hands of a Jewish tribunal. He stood before Jewish judges in a nation established by Jews. Within 4 hours of his death, Eichmann’s body had been cremated at a secret location, and his ashes scattered in the Mediterranean Sea, outside of Israeli territorial waters, by an Israeli Navy patrol boat.

July provided another first in the changing policy with Israel. President Kennedy agreed to the sale of HAWK anti-aircraft missiles, the first major weapons system to be supplied by the United States.

The main source of Israel’s weapons was France, whose support was critical in enabling Israel to meet its defense needs. The HAWK sale was significant not only because it was the first major direct arms transfer from the United States to Israel, but also because that system required that Israeli soldiers be given extensive training in the United States and that spare parts be supplied to Israel.

On October 22, President Kennedy delivered a nationwide televised address on all of the major networks announcing the discovery of Soviet medium range ballistic missiles in Cuba and the administration’s plan to implement a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba.

Cuba Missle Crisis NYTimes

The tense 13-day (October 16-28) political and military stand-off between the United States and the Soviet Union played out on television worldwide and was the closest the cold war ever came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war. The situation eased on October 28 when it was announced that Kennedy and Khrushchev had reached an agreement. Results of the agreement were the complete withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba, withdrawal of American nuclear missiles from Turkey (a secret part of the agreement at the time) and an agreement that the U.S. would never invade Cuba without direct provocation.

The naval blockade of Cuba was lifted on November 20th. The Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation that had brought the world to the brink of nuclear disaster had ended.

In November, the first Annual Dinner of the Tarbuth Foundation, created by Dr. Emanuel Neumann with the view to advance Hebrew culture, was held at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan. Some 300 of America’s outstanding Jewish leaders and educators attended the unique event. The keynote speakers were former French Ambassador to Israel, Monsieur Pierre E. Gilbert, and former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban, who at the time was serving as Israel’s Minister of Education.

Former Ambassador Gilbert, who did more perhaps than any other person to cement Israel-French friendship during one of the most critical moments in the history of the Jewish State, the 1956 Suez crisis, was a Catholic who had been educated in a Jesuit school. It would be what the Catholic Monsieur said in his address that would hold the audience spellbound.

Declaring that the Hebrew language alone “can bring out the true meaning of the Bible,” Ambassador Gilbert remarked that the Jewish peoples “had been chosen by God to bring Monotheism to the whole world.” Mr. Gilbert further revealed that through the study of Hebrew “a new world gradually opened up before my eyes.”

“At first, as a linguist and a philologist” he told the distinguished audience, “I discovered the beauty of the Bible. In addition to its religious, historical and philosophical interest is a colossal literary monument. Now that I have read it in the Hebrew text, which is the only one able to bring out all its values, I find it to be the most captivating book I’ve ever read.”

The surprise of the evening came when Gilbert began to speak in a fluent Hebrew to the amazement of even the scholars in the audience, including Harry Orlinsky, the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation of the Torah.

The message delivered by Ambassador Gilbert was one that David Horowitz, in the audience at the time, would have heartily endorsed.

As 1962 drew to a close, it marked seven long years of U.S. entanglement in the Vietnam War. Sadly, it was to last over another decade.

On March 6, 1963, David Horowitz departed for his sixth visit to the Holy Land. His first two visits: 1924-1927 and 1932-1934 were sojourns while Britain held the Mandate over Palestine. The other three: 1951, 1953 and 1955 were pilgrimages to the re-born Third Hebrew Commonwealth.

Following a three-week visit in Israel, David was off to Turkey. It was a special occasion.

The Turkish Government had invited the United Nations correspondent to be its guest for a week. The Turkish Press Association, representing reporters of all the leading Turkish dailies and agencies, paid special tribute to David Horowitz at a reception given in his honor at the press club in Izmir, Turkey. The Association officers presented David with a certificate making him an honorary member of the Association.

Following the reception, a press conference was held at which David answered questions relating to the basic issues facing the United Nations. Among these were Vietnam, Cyprus, and the Middle East.

In Ankara, the capital of Turkey, David was feted at a special dinner given by the heads of the Ministry of Information and Press. Mr. Ben Yitzchak Yaakov, the Israeli Charge d’Affairs, was among the invited guests.

During his stay, David met with other officials, including the Governor of Istanbul State, Niyazi Aki and its Mayor, Necdet Ugur. He also visited the Jewish community leaders who spoke very highly of the Turkish Government, which has close and friendly relations with the State of Israel.

After four weeks of intense activity, that included some well-deserved recognition, both in Israel and Turkey, a tired, yet inspired David Horowitz was finally back home.

During this commemoration year of UIWU’s 20th anniversary, David Horowitz received a personal letter from an old friend. It was a friendly letter, hand-written in English, addressed to David. The envelope was also hand-written with the back flap containing only two letters: B.G. It was from David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, and the one who had declared the independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.

The former Prime Minister concluded his letter to David by quoting a passage from Isaiah 62, writing it in Biblical Hebrew.

The personal hand-written letter from David Ben Gurion, dated July 27, 1963, remains on display today in the David Horowitz Memorial Library archives located at United Israel World Union’s headquarters.

David Horowitz had experienced a remarkable year. There would be yet another award as The Deadline Club, New York City Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, and America’s most outstanding professional journalism fraternity, selected him for “distinguished journalistic achievement” for United Nations reporting.

As 1963 drew to a close, a November event would shock our nation and the world. It would leave a lasting impression on many Americans who will always remember where they were when the tragedy struck.

 

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the sixteenth in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering David Horowitz (15): US and UN “Under New Management”

The new decade was well underway.

1960 had frightened us all with the release of the shocking psychological, thriller-horror film “Psycho”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, alarmed us by placing over 900 “military advisors” in South Vietnam and had given us a new President after eight years of the Eisenhower administration. The times, they were a-changin’

The 1960 Presidential election was the closest election since 1916. Democrat John Fitzgerald Kennedy narrowly defeated Republican Vice President Richard M. Nixon to become the 35th President. In doing so, Kennedy became the first Catholic and at 43, the youngest person ever elected President. Kennedy won by a mere 113,000 votes. Almost 69 million people voted.

When Kennedy came to power, he became the next man up in the juggling act of Middle Eastern politics. He made a remarkably serious effort to reach an accommodation with the forces of indigenous Arab nationalism. He believed that the best way to deal with Arab nationalists was to treat them with respect, allow them to make their own foreign policy decisions, and offer them generous assistance in developing their countries internally. He also downplayed Cold War themes, stressing local concerns instead.

Concerning Israel, Kennedy also tried to strike a balance between ensuring Israel’s security and pressuring Israel to make concessions to its Arab neighbors. Whereas Eisenhower had kept Israel at arm’s length, Kennedy established much friendlier relations with Israel.

Before becoming President, John Kennedy had made two visits to Israel. He had these observations regarding his trips: “In 1939 I first saw Palestine, then a barren and unhappy land under alien rule. In 1951, I traveled again to the land of the River Jordan, to see first-hand, the new State of Israel. The transformation that had taken place was hard to believe. For in these twelve years a land had been born, a desert had been reclaimed, and the most tragic victims of World War II had found a home.”

A Significant Meeting, New York City, 1961
A Significant Meeting, 1961

In the words of British author Israel Zangwill: “The land without a people waited for the people without a land.”

Following the 18th Annual Meeting of United Israel World Union on April 2, 1961, it was announced that Harry Leventhal, noted philanthropist and co-publisher of the United Israel Bulletin had been named a vice-chairman for the committee supporting the “Salute to General Omar N. Bradley Dinner.” It was announced that the dinner affair, sponsored by the Eleanor Roosevelt Cancer Foundation, would be held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on the evening of May 30. President John F. Kennedy would attend as the main speaker and Bob Hope would serve as Master of Ceremonies.

On April 11th, the trial of Adolf Eichmann as a World War II war criminal began in Jerusalem, Israel.

In early July, Dr. Rene Shapshak, noted sculptor and United Israel Bulletin Art Editor was back in the news. It was announced that Shapshak, whose works of art are exhibited in some of the world’s most famous museums, had been commissioned by the Eliezer Ben Yehudah Museum authorities to execute a large scale monument dedicated to the renaissance of the Hebrew language as inspired by the late Ben Yehudah. The monument was to be erected in the museum in Jerusalem.

It was Dr. Rene Shapshak who designed the special seal of United Israel World Union as covered in a previous installment of this series.

On September 18, 1961 tragedy struck. A Douglas DC-6 airliner crashed near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold and fifteen others perished in the crash. Hammarskjold was en route to Ndola to negotiate a cease-fire between “non-combatant” UN forces and troops of President Moise Tshombe of Katanga.

dag-hammarskjold
An Extraordinary Leader, a Tragic Loss

The circumstances of the incident were never clear. A British-run commission of inquiry blamed the crash on pilot error and a later UN investigation largely rubber-stamped its findings. Later evidence would suggest otherwise.

David Horowitz and Dag Hammarskjold first met in 1953 when Hammarskjold, a Swedish diplomat and economist, was elected the new Secretary-General of the UN after Trygve Lie’s resignation. Horowitz and Hammarskjold were both Swedes. They became good friends and the fact that they shared the same birthplace gave them great chemistry.

One of the first acts by Horowitz was to present a gift to the new Secretary-General. It was an Aztec stone head that Horowitz himself had brought back from Mexico some years ago. It would make a colorful and unique paperweight for the new desk.

Dag Hammarskjold was a true statesman and diplomat in every respect and became personally and actively engaged in the world problems facing the United Nations. In a 1955 visit to China, Hammarskjold negotiated the release of 11 captured U.S. pilots who had served in the Korean War. He was involved in struggles on three of the world’s continents and approached them through what he liked to call “preventive diplomacy.”

Horowitz would often communicate with Hammarskjold before he would leave on diplomatic missions. One such case was the intervention in the 1956 Suez Crisis.

Horowitz made a personal written appeal to the Secretary-General before he left to meet with Egyptian President Nasser in Cairo and Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv. The content of the appeal and exchange between the two appeared in a previous episode entitled: Back to the Desert-The War over Suez.”

The friendship and respectful working relationship would continue up until Hammarskjold’s tragic death. Horowitz remarked, “that Hammarskjold was able to understand people, psychologically. He could almost read their minds. He was very, very clever. He had an intuitive quality that is rare in individuals.”

In 1960 when Hammarskjold was working to defuse the Congo Crisis, he came under intense pressure to resign from elements within the United Nations, led by the Soviet Union. They demanded his resignation and the replacement of the office of Secretary-General by a three-man directorate with a built-in veto, known as the “troika.” Horowitz, knowing Hammarskjold’s sensitivities well, sent the Secretary-General a letter to his apartment in New York, to comfort him. In the letter, he cited a quotation from the Bible. He recalls that Hammarskjold responded immediately to the letter, with “a beautiful note.”

For more than half a century, three separate inquiries have been unable to come to a definitive conclusion about what happened on that fateful night. Conspiracy theorists have remained in overdrive, possibly with good cause.

As recent as March 16, 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed members to an Independent Panel of Experts, which would examine new information relating to the tragic event. The panel’s 99-page report, released on July 6, 2015, assigned “moderate” value to nine new eyewitness accounts and transcripts of radio transmissions. Those accounts suggested that Hammarskjold’s plane was already on fire as it went down and that other jet aircraft and intelligence agents were nearby. Additional new evidence may exist which, for national security reasons, was and remains classified by several governments more than 50 years after the fact.

The circumstances of the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjold remain shrouded in mystery.

Four years after the tragic plane crash, David Horowitz visited Sweden, returning home to see his own birthplace, and to see Uppsala, where Hammarskjold had grown up. He decided to visit Backakra, the farm Hammarskjold had bought with the hope that it would one day be his retirement home.

When Horowitz entered the farmhouse, he saw books, paintings, and sculptures, either collected by Hammarskjold, or gifts he had received. What Horowitz saw next caught his attention. On the desk in the library, which was a replica of Mr. Hammarskjold’s Park Avenue study, there was a family crest he used as his seal. Mounted above it was an Aztec stone head-the one given to the Secretary-General by Horowitz shortly after they met in 1953. David Horowitz remarked that he left Backakra that day “with a heavy heart and a mood of sadness.”

Dag Hammarskjold was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously in 1961, having been nominated before his death.

In 2011, The Financial Times wrote that Hammarskjold “has remained the benchmark against which later UN Secretaries-General have been judged.” Historian Paul Kennedy hailed Hammarskjold as “perhaps the greatest UN Secretary-General we’ve ever had.”

U.S. President John F. Kennedy regretted that he opposed the UN policy in the Congo and speaking of Hammarskjold, said: “I realize now that in comparison to him, I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.”

The turbulent year had ended. The US and the UN would continue to face complex and difficult world issues, but would now, however, face those uncertainties under the guidance of new leadership

 Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the fifteenth in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering David Horowitz (14): Bringing the Torah to Harlem

The decade of the 1960s had arrived and the United Nations had a new occupant.

A huge bronze sculpture with the inscription “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Plowshares,” created by Soviet artist Evgeny Vuchetich, had been presented to the United Nations on December 4, 1959 by the Government of the USSR. The sculpture, depicting the figure of a man holding a hammer aloft in one hand and a sword in the other, which he is making into a plowshare, is meant to symbolize the human wish to end all wars by converting the weapons of death and destruction into peaceful tools that are more beneficial to mankind.

UN Isaiah Image

The phrase originates from the Biblical book of Isaiah (2:3-4) and it’s theme repeated in the books of Joel (3:10) and Micah (4:3).

The impressive statue is located in the North Garden of the United Nations Headquarters and remains today as much an inspirational ideal as it is an elusive reality.

Sammy Davis Jr., the famous entertainer legend, finally told the whole story of why he had chosen to convert to Judaism and share the fate of the people of Abraham. The lengthy feature story appeared in the February issue of Ebony Magazine.

From his modest beginnings in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and an itinerant lifestyle to his incredible success as an actor, comedian, singer and dancer, Davis’s story is riveting and extraordinary.

Contending with the prevailing racism of that period, Davis refused to appear in any clubs that practiced racial segregation. The action led to the integration of several venues in Miami Beach and Las Vegas. In 1954, he lost his left eye in an automobile accident. One day on a golf course with Jack Benny, following his conversion to Judaism, Davis was asked what his handicap was. “Handicap?” he replied. “Listen, talk about handicap-I’m a one-eyed Negro Jew.” This became a signature comment, recounted in his autobiography, and in countless articles.

Sammy Davis Jr., the convert, was a regular reader of the United Israel World Union Bulletin and included in our UIWU archives today, are copies of letters exchanged between Davis and David Horowitz.

The United Nations Correspondents Circle, an experiment in seeking better understanding and fellowship among reporters from politically antagonistic regions in all parts of the globe, marked the occasion of its third anniversary. The fellowship of UN correspondents had managed to bring together some 90 highly opinionated, and sometimes rather emotional correspondents, who represented newspapers, wire services, magazines, radio, and television media of nearly 30 nations.

The background story of the group’s beginning is worth mentioning.

David Horowitz conceived the idea for an informal fellowship of UN news representatives in 1957. At the time, David served as a special correspondent in the U.S. for the American Association of English-Jewish Newspapers and the Israeli papers Heruth and Ha’Olam Ha’Zeh of Tel Aviv. His column, “Behind the Scenes at the United Nations,” regularly appeared in 35 newspapers in the U.S., Canada, Italy, South Africa and Israel.

Horowitz felt the need to stress the common interests of correspondents, rather than frictions, and the need for a mutual effort to learn more about the attitudes of various UN delegations and regional blocs. The organization was also needed to dispel the atmosphere of isolation and unfriendliness in which many correspondents felt they were working.

Thinking in international terms came easily for Horowitz. After all, of Jewish descent, he was born in Sweden, naturalized in America, married an Irish girl and maintained close professional connections with Israel. Clearly, tolerance and goodwill were the basic aims of his effort.

Appearing as the guest at the celebration luncheon of the UN Correspondents Association, former President Harry Truman was asked by correspondent David Horowitz about his historic decision to recognize Israel at the moment of its birth and how he felt about it as the young State celebrates its 12th birthday. Never hesitating, Truman replied that he would do it all over again today. He added that the prophets and judges of ancient Israel had laid the foundation for the American form of government and that the heirs of those great people are not doing so badly themselves today.

It was vintage Harry Truman.

On May 11, 1960, German war criminal Otto Adolf Eichmann was captured in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eichmann was a former German Nazi SS lieutenant colonel and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. In 1959, David Ben Gurion learned that the notorious Nazi war criminal was likely living in hiding in Argentina and ordered the Israel foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, to capture the international fugitive alive for trial in Israel.

The covert operation succeeded and Eichmann was smuggled out of Argentina aboard the same El Al Bristol Britannia aircraft that had a few days earlier carried Israel’s delegation to the official 150th anniversary celebration of Argentina’s independence from Spain.

As we shall learn later, David Horowitz, who also suffered personal family loss in the holocaust, would also play an important and key role in exposing and bringing to justice Nazi war criminals residing in the United States.

The 17th Annual Meeting of United Israel World Union took place on Sunday, April 17th with the majority of the International Board members present. Special greetings were conveyed from those as far away as Israel, Germany and Ghana. A highlight of the affair was the presentation of a Torah Scroll to the Wilber, West Virginia Mid-Western headquarters of UIWU, followed by an inspiring ceremony. The scroll was a gift from Dr. and Mrs. Howard L. Werner of Glencoe, Illinois. Dr. Werner, a noted psychiatrist and philanthropist, was an officer of the Chicago Information Society for the Propagation of Judaism. This Torah scroll is now preserved at the United Israel World Union offices in Charlotte, NC and is used regularly at UIWU gatherings.

The young black Rabbi who first learned of United Israel World Union when he met UIWU officer Avraham Fuhrman while traveling to Israel in the summer of 1957 had began attending various UIWU functions and held similar views to those of David Horowitz. He had become the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth B’nai Israel in Harlem. Befriended and encouraged by Horowitz, it soon became evident that this youthful Rabbi was born an intellectual. Even the simplest question elicited a detailed, fact-heavy answer. The destiny of this gifted teacher had an unusual and most remarkable beginning.

Hailu Moshe Paris was born an orphan in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on October 17, 1933 and adopted by Eudora Paris from the orphanage when she migrated to Ethiopia in 1935.

Following Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia as a prelude to World War II, they were forced to flee the violence of Mussolini and the fascist invaders. On board a ship bound for America, Eudora Paris carried with her a carefully wrapped bundle and an adopted Ethiopian two-year-old named Hailu.

When the ship pulled into the port of Bremen, Germany late in 1935, Nazis boarded looking for Jews. The bundle was wrapped in a blanket, which also covered her young son’s shoulders. “They rounded up everyone sitting nearby” she would later say. They looked at Eudora and her child, but because of the color of their skin, the Nazis never suspected they were Jewish. “They ignored us because they never thought black people could be Jews” said Eudora. It would later be expressed “that it was the one time racial prejudice about what a “real Jew” looked like worked in their favor.”

RabbiParis

The carefully wrapped bundle that Eudora Paris was carrying to America was a Torah Scroll destined for a synagogue in Harlem.

In his twenties, Hailu Paris attended Yeshiva University in New York, earning a degree in Hebrew literature and a Masters in education. He later taught Talmudic courses at the Israelite Rabbinical Academy in Queens and was an assistant and later head rabbi at the black Temple of Mt. Horeb in the Bronx.

Rabbi Paris became a vocal advocate for African Jewry. He became a bridge between the African-American community and Ethiopian community. Teaching that the descendants of the biblical Israelites had spread across the continent of Africa was a history which at that time was considered radical and controversial.

This gifted teacher would spend decades campaigning on behalf of Ethiopian Jews. He made trips to Ethiopia where he worked with the Beta Israel and the Falash Mura, a related group of Ethiopians with Jewish family connections. He also served on the board of the American Association of Ethiopian Jews and was an early activist on behalf of their immigration to Israel.

In 1977, the State of Israel recognized the Beta Israel community of Ethiopia as Jewish. More recent cultural and genetic studies suggest that the Lemba of South Africa and the Igbo of Nigeria may also have Jewish roots.

Alongside his central role in the black Jewish world, Rabbi Hailu Moshe Paris also made crucial connections to mainstream Jewry, working to foster interaction between black and white Jewish communities. He remained a lifelong friend of David Horowitz and strong advocate of United Israel World Union where he also served as a member of its board of directors.

As the dog days of summer 1960 wound down, there remained an air of uneasiness and uncertainty in America regarding possible Vietnam entanglement. There was also the question of who would be our next leader as the U.S. presidential election drew near. Plenty of time left for a few surprises, as we shall see.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the fourteenth in the series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did the Khazars Convert to Judaism? New Research Says No

The popular notion that the Khazars converted to Judaism in the 9th century CE is a widespread common assumption. Various writers, some of them of an anti-Semitic bent, have made much of this idea, claiming that modern eastern European Jewry primarily traces back to these Asiatic peoples rather than to a Semitic/Abrahamic lineage. It turns out the whole idea is without historical foundation as this new research from Prof. Shaul Stampfer of Hebrew University demonstrates.

KhazarMap

Here is a summary of his work as reported on the Hebrew University website with links to his academic article.

Did the Khazars Convert to Judaism? New Research Says ‘No’
26/06/2014
Hebrew University professor cites lack of reliable source for conversion story

Did the Khazars convert to Judaism? The view that some or all Khazars, a central Asian people, became Jews during the ninth or tenth century is widely accepted. But following an exhaustive analysis of the evidence, Hebrew University of Jerusalem researcher Prof. Shaul Stampfer has concluded that such a conversion, “while a splendid story,” never took place.

Prof. Shaul Stampfer is the Rabbi Edward Sandrow Professor of Soviet and East European Jewry, in the department of the History of the Jewish People at the Hebrew University’s Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies. The research has just been published in the Jewish Social Studies journal, Vol. 19, No. 3 (online at http://bit.ly/khazars).

From roughly the seventh to tenth centuries, the Khazars ruled an empire spanning the steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas. Not much is known about Khazar culture and society: they did not leave a literary heritage and the archaeological finds have been meager. The Khazar Empire was overrun by Svyatoslav of Kiev around the year 969, and little was heard from the Khazars after. Yet a widely held belief that the Khazars or their leaders at some point converted to Judaism persists.

Reports about the Jewishness of the Khazars first appeared in Muslim works in the late ninth century and in two Hebrew accounts in the tenth century. The story reached a wider audience when the Jewish thinker and poet Yehudah Halevi used it as a frame for his book The Kuzari. Little attention was given to the issue in subsequent centuries, but a key collection of Hebrew sources on the Khazars appeared in 1932 followed by a little-known six-volume history of the Khazars written by the Ukrainian scholar Ahatanhel Krymskyi. Henri Gregoire published skeptical critiques of the sources, but in 1954 Douglas Morton Dunlop brought the topic into the mainstream of accepted historical scholarship with The History of the Jewish Khazars. Arthur Koestler’s best-selling The Thirteenth Tribe (1976) brought the tale to the attention of wider Western audiences, arguing that East European Ashkenazi Jewry was largely of Khazar origin. Many studies have followed, and the story has also garnered considerable non-academic attention; for example, Shlomo Sand’s 2009 bestseller, The Invention of the Jewish People, advanced the thesis that the Khazars became Jews and much of East European Jewry was descended from the Khazars. But despite all the interest, there was no systematic critique of the evidence for the conversion claim other than a stimulating but very brief and limited paper by Moshe Gil of Tel Aviv University.

Stampfer notes that scholars who have contributed to the subject based their arguments on a limited corpus of textual and numismatic evidence. Physical evidence is lacking: archaeologists excavating in Khazar lands have found almost no artifacts or grave stones displaying distinctly Jewish symbols. He also reviews various key pieces of evidence that have been cited in relation to the conversion story, including historical and geographical accounts, as well as documentary evidence. Among the key artifacts are an apparent exchange of letters between the Spanish Jewish leader Hasdai ibn Shaprut and Joseph, king of the Khazars; an apparent historical account of the Khazars, often called the Cambridge Document or the Schechter Document; various descriptions by historians writing in Arabic; and many others.

Taken together, Stampfer says, these sources offer a cacophony of distortions, contradictions, vested interests, and anomalies in some areas, and nothing but silence in others. A careful examination of the sources shows that some are falsely attributed to their alleged authors, and others are of questionable reliability and not convincing. Many of the most reliable contemporary texts, such as the detailed report of Sallam the Interpreter, who was sent by Caliph al-Wathiq in 842 to search for the mythical Alexander’s wall; and a letter of the patriarch of Constantinople, Nicholas, written around 914 that mentions the Khazars, say nothing about their conversion.

Citing the lack of any reliable source for the conversion story, and the lack of credible explanations for sources that suggest otherwise or are inexplicably silent, Stampfer concludes that the simplest and most convincing answer is that the Khazar conversion is a legend with no factual basis. There never was a conversion of a Khazar king or of the Khazar elite, he says.

Years of research went into this paper, and Stampfer ruefully noted that “Most of my research until now has been to discover and clarify what happened in the past. I had no idea how difficult and challenging it would be to prove that something did not happen.”

In terms of its historical implications, Stampfer says the lack of a credible basis for the conversion story means that many pages of Jewish, Russian and Khazar history have to be rewritten. If there never was a conversion, issues such as Jewish influence on early Russia and ethnic contact must be reconsidered.

Stampfer describes the persistence of the Khazar conversion legend as a fascinating application of Thomas Kuhn’s thesis on scientific revolution to historical research. Kuhn points out the reluctance of researchers to abandon familiar paradigms even in the face of anomalies, instead coming up with explanations that, though contrived, do not require abandoning familiar thought structures. It is only when “too many” anomalies accumulate that it is possible to develop a totally different paradigm—such as a claim that the Khazar conversion never took place.

Stampfer concludes, “We must admit that sober studies by historians do not always make for great reading, and that the story of a Khazar king who became a pious and believing Jew was a splendid story.” However, in his opinion, “There are many reasons why it is useful and necessary to distinguish between fact and fiction – and this is one more such case.”

Meaningful Passover Season

Wishing all of our friends an insightful and meaningful Passover season. May the observance of this ancient “festival of freedom,” for ancient Israel contribute to the true liberation of all humans as well as the unfortunate beasts whom we enslave and torture so the vision of the Prophet might be fulfilled.

And they will neither hurt nor destroy in all my holy Mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Creator as the waters cover the seas.

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Remembering David Horowitz (13): United Israel–An Iconic Symbol

  On New Year’s Day 1959, Cuban President Fulgencio Batista resigns and flees to the Dominican Republic, clearing the way for Fidel Castro to seize power in February. Cuba would become the first Communist state in the West.

In another first, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev tours parts of the United States and meets with President Dwight Eisenhower at Camp David.

It was announced in Jerusalem that the Government Statistical Office reported that the population of Israel had reached the 2,022,500 mark. Of this number, 1,801,806 are Jews.

The purpose and message of United Israel World Union continued to gain popularity and widespread approval both here and abroad, attracting many leading professionals in various fields.

A number of noted surgeons, authors and other distinguished leaders attended a January 18 meeting of UIWU held at the Dr. M. J. McDonald Reception Studio adjacent to the Union’s headquarters at 507 Fifth Avenue. Among those present were the famous physicians Dr. Harry Cohen and Dr. Sholom Shakin, both active in numerous humanitarian endeavors and brotherhood activities. Present also, was author Shlomo Dov London, executive director of Keren Or. All joined in hailing the universal brotherhood program of UIWU and called for greater support to the movement’s worldwide activities.

The meeting opened with an invocation by Falasha Rabbi Hailu Moshe Paris, the spiritual head of the Congregation Beth B’nai Israel located at 204 Lenox Avenue, New York. Rabbi Paris had spent a year studying in a Jerusalem Yeshiva, arriving in the Holy Land aboard the same Israeli ship as UIWU’s officer Avraham Fuhrman in the summer of 1957.

Born in Ethiopia, Rabbi Paris himself is a remarkable story. He became a close and lifelong friend of David Horowitz, supporting the mission and work of United Israel World Union for many years. He also served as a member of UIWU’s Board of Directors. His amazing story and contribution to UIWU will be featured in a future article.

Rabbi Paris at his Beth Shalom Synagogue
Rabbi Paris at his Beth Shalom Synagogue

On April 19, a treaty of friendship between Israel and Liberia was signed in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. Joining other African states such as Ghana and Nigeria, they sought the opportunity to acquire the advanced technologies that the State of Israel had to offer. They viewed the Jewish State as their solution to the problem of securing modern techniques in agriculture, science, industry and medicine without pawning their future to the departing colonial powers.

The Arab states in Africa; Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and the UAR, whose influence kept Israel out of the Bandung Conference, moved to block the new friendship. They would fail to do so.

During the 16th Annual Meeting of UIWU on April 26, the national board unanimously approved a new United Israel World Union emblem. The new insignia holds special significance because of its unique design and the little-known story behind it.

Five years earlier, noted artist and sculptor, Dr. Rene Shapshak and his wife Eugenie, moved from Johannesburg, South Africa into the famous Chelsea Hotel on 7th Avenue located in downtown Manhattan. Born and educated in Paris, Shapshak was an alumnus of the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris that produced such giants as Claude Monet and Pierre Renoir.

Dr. Shapshak had become a world-renowned artist and sculptor, bringing his artistic and cultural contributions to many countries. His art is represented in Buckingham Palace, in the Rothschilde, Schiff and Schonegevel Collections in England and Athens, Greece and in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. He did sculptures of Mahatma Ghandi and John Cecil Rhodes of Great Britain. His Rhodes sculpture is in the Rhodes Museum at Bishops Stotford, England. Among his sculptures in New York City are those of Cardinal Francis Spellman, Dr. Leo B. Mayer and Playwright Arthur Miller.

In 1956, Dr. Shapshak had the privilege of sculpting a bronze bust of former President Harry S. Truman. The sculpture was placed in the Hall of Fame at the Ben Yehuda National Museum in Jerusalem, Israel. It was unveiled in Israel on Truman’s 73rd birthday.

ShapshakTruman

Now, about that new UIWU emblem; Dr. Rene Shapshak was a close friend of David Horowitz and an active member of the United Israel organization. It was Dr. Shapshak who personally designed the new insignia. Brilliantly conceived, the Seal itself represents a dynamic activating Wheel with a spinning Star of David in which the Earth revolves and on which is the Levitical escutcheon with the Ten Commandments. It honors YHVH as the true Savior as indicated in the ancient Hebrew script YHVH Hu Go’alenu. On the periphery of the spinning wheel are the symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel.

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The special seal crafted by internationally renowned Dr. Rene Shapshak remains today our official logo appearing on all organizational documents and stationery.

In the summer of ’59, David Horowitz began a multi-part series entitled “An Answer to Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason.” Paine (1739-1809), author of Common Sense, The Rights of Man, The Crisis, and The Age of Reason, was an English and American political activist, philosopher and revolutionary. His Common Sense became the clarion call that led to the independence of the thirteen American colonies and freed the States from the tyranny of monarchial rule. The insightful series of expositions written by Horowitz received high praise from noted scholars, rabbis and scientists, including Professor Robert H. Pfeiffer of Harvard and Luxembourg’s Chief Rabbi Dr. Charles Lehrman.

From Tel Aviv came a strong endorsement and a call to action. Reuven Ben Arje-Lev, author of Halicha Ladror, a history of the great liberation movements and the Jewish spirit that inspired them, appealed to United Israel World Union for the creation of a Torah Center in Israel. Calling UIWU “the right association for such a center,” Ben Arje-Lev declared “United Israel has proven its faithfulness in this very task for many years. Its message is already being heard in many parts of the world, and those whom it brings to the Torah have become members of the Hebraic community.” Referring to such a center as the building of the Gate to Zion, he stated “Israel awaits UIWU in action!”

On October 7 in Baghdad, a group of Baath Party gunman try to assassinate, but only wound, Iraq’s ruler, General Abed al-Karim Qasim. One of the gunmen, 22-year-old Saddam Hussein, is forced into hiding.

October brought another surprising international story.

The heir to the ancient Irish Throne, H. R. H. Raymond Moulton Nathan Seaghan Donogh VI, of the House of O’Brien of Thomond, officially identified himself with Israel and Jewry on the strength of his family genealogy that traces his line to ancient Israel. Both Donogh VI, his wife Sarah Loreta Santos, as also their two children, Prince Turlogh and Princess Grania, consider themselves Israelites in the full sense of the term. They announced they would be seeking affiliation with an established Hebraic Temple of worship.

Having been informed of United Israel World Union, Donogh VI- himself a 33 degree Mason-immediately contacted UIWU and submitted official documents (duly notarized by the Lord Mayor of Dublin and Magistrate Benjamin Shaw, P. C., a past President of the United Hebrew Congregation of Dublin), testifying to the true genealogy of the Royal and Imperial House of O’Brien of Thomond. The principality of Thomond, (which includes Shannon) at the time had a population of over 90,000, most of which were Roman Catholic.

David Horowitz described the revelation as “living proof of Ireland’s Hebraic ancestry.”

In December, United Israel also played a major role in hosting an important and influential foreign guest. Outstanding leaders within the three branches of the American Jewish Rabbinical world joined hands with United Israel World Union in organizing a reception committee to greet the arrival of the noted Japanese convert to Judaism, Professor Abram Setsuzau Kotsuji, a descendant of Shinto priests. Professor Kotsuji, 60 years of age and acknowledged as Japan’s top Hebraist and author of a Hebrew grammar, was the former tutor of Emperor Hirohito’s brother, Prince Mikasa.

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Rabbi Setsuzo Kotsuji, 2nd from left, with other Rabbis, in Japan

A special reception was held for Professor Kotsuji at the Plaza Hotel. Among those who honored the newcomer in Israel’s ranks were officials of UIWU, the Jewish Information Society, officials of the Histadruth Ivrit and some of New York’s outstanding Rabbis and business leaders.

In his address, Professor Kotsuji related the story of his early life as a boy in Japan and how he had turned to the Jewish peoples and Judaism. He told of later being interrogated by Nazi-inspired Japanese army officers for befriending the Jews, and in the face of death, his miraculous escape to safety through an incident he felt was the providential hand of God in his life.

Prior to his arrival in America, Professor Kotsuji was in Israel where he delivered several lectures and was officially brought into the Abrahamic covenant in Jerusalem in the presence of Rabbis and Israeli officials.

Fittingly, Dr. Rene Shapshak also designed the new emblem for the Institute of Hebrew Culture that Professor Kotsuji had established in Japan. Dr. Shapshak presented the new design to Mr. Kotsuji on behalf of UIWU before his return home.

In 1959, the United States added their last two states. The territories of Alaska and Hawaii were ratified as the 49th and 50th states respectively.

The decade of the 50s had drawn to a close. By its end, the world had largely recovered from World War II, but a new cold war between the rival super-powers of the Soviet Union and the United States had grown hot.

Like special chapters in a grand story, a new decade was about to be written.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the thirteenth in the series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

 

Remembering David Horowitz (12): Out of Africa

It was April 1958 and the celebrations and tributes marking the 10th Anniversary of the Republic of Israel and the 15th of United Israel World Union were in full swing.

On the world scene, General Charles de Gaulle becomes premier of France as a result of the Algerian crisis and is given special powers by the French Parliament. In a reply to Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s message of congratulations, the new premier stated: “I salute the courageous nation of Israel, with which France maintains solid ties of friendship and shares the same spiritual ideal.”

It’s worth mentioning that in the midst of hostilities toward the young nation of Israel, the Druze people who represent a religious minority reflect a most welcome and refreshing attitude of acceptance. Rooted in Ismailism, a branch of Shia Islam but whose social customs differ markedly from those of Muslims or Christians, the Druze are Arabic speaking citizens of Israel who serve in both the Israeli Defense Forces and in politics.

In a new publication issued for the Druze community in Israel by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, a number of leading Druze hail the State of Israel and emphasize their loyalty to it. Sheikh Salih Adu Rukun, in discussing the duties of which a man owes towards his country and government writes: “We are duty bound to love our country, for there are strong ties between us and it. We were born and bred among a people which God has gathered in from all the corners of the earth into its promised land, and which has turned this holy land into a Garden of Eden, in fulfillment of the words of Isaiah: Behold, I create a new heaven and a new earth. We are a branch of the Israel nation, and its ways have become ours.”

On May 11th (21 Iyar, 5718), Mrs. Bertha Chazan Horowitz, 84, wife of Cantor Aaron Horowitz, spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Jacob, and mother of UIWU President David Horowitz passed away. She was taken into the bosom of the Eternal’s grace, fittingly, on Mother’s Day.

In a meeting with Ambassador Daniel A. Chapman, Permanent Representative of Ghana to the UN, David Horowitz congratulated him on Ghana’s first anniversary of its independence. In March of 1957, Ghana became one of the first African nations to declare its independence from European colonization.

A number of years before Ghana became independent, hundreds of Gold Coast bible students became interested in United Israel World Union and in 1955 some of them, under the guidance of several schoolteachers, organized a unit of UIWU in the province. In subsequent years, Headmaster Immanuel Johnson Kumi of Presby Village School in Kwaboanta, himself a convert to the Hebrew faith, corresponded regularly with David Horowitz. Photos and reports about unit activities in Ghana have appeared in past UIWU bulletins.

Ghana maintains a close association with the State of Israel and there’s a story behind it.

Had it not been for an American black woman, Marguerite Cartwright, a roving correspondent for the Pittsburgh Courier, Israel today would never enjoy the close and friendly relations with the new, important West African state of Ghana. Both Marguerite and her husband, Leonard Carl Cartwright, played a vital role in the events that led to the Ghana-Israel relationship.

Bandung Conference Participants, 29 Countries representing over half the world's population
Bandung Conference Participants, 29 Countries representing over half the world’s population

It all happened in the year of the Bandung Conference. The Conference was the first large-scale meeting of Asian and African states, most of which were newly independent, which took place on April 18-24, 1955 in Bandung, Indonesia. In a sobering way of looking at it, the 25 countries that participated at the conference represented nearly one-quarter of the earth’s land surface and a total population of 1.5 billion people.

En route to Bandung, Marguerite, a type of modern Queen of Sheba, visited what was then the Gold Coast and interviewed the leaders of the country, including Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah. Through many discussions, Marguerite convinced Nkrumah and his colleagues that, upon Ghana’s attainment of independence, Israel would be the most logical country to call upon for technical, cultural, maritime, civil and administrative assistance. She cited Israel’s enormous success in these areas during its short period of independence.

At first, Nkrumah appeared skeptical, being fully aware of the strained Arab-Israel relations, and seemed to dismiss the thought. The persistent Marguerite Cartwright, however, kept pressing the positive results that would accrue from relations with the Jewish State. Finally, Nkrumah agreed that he would be open to the idea.

Bandung1955

Fortified with this mandate, Marguerite attended the Bandung Conference and on her way back, stopped in Israel. There she conferred with Golda Meir, Moshe Sharett and others. Realizing the great importance and significance of Marguerite’s mission, the Israeli leaders lost no time in putting the Foreign Office machinery into motion. The results were hugely successful. Trade agreements were signed and an Israel-Ghana shipping line established, opening doors of trade and industry between the two countries. Both nations would benefit greatly from the mutual exchange of goods. Ghana would become the first African country to establish diplomatic relations with the nation of Israel.

Marguerite Cartwright would become the darling of the Israeli Foreign Office and one of the best friends that Kwame Nkrumah could have.

High summer had arrived and the Middle East was busy being the Middle East.

In July, Iraq’s pro-Western monarchy was overthrown. King Faisal II and Premier Nuri es-Said are murdered.

Fearing that his own regime would be next, Lebanon’s President Camille Chamoun appeals to the US, Britain and France for military aid. Following the invocation of the Eisenhower Doctrine the next day, the US would send 14,000 Marines to land on the coast of Lebanon to protect it from a United Arab Republic or Communist invasion.

King Hussein of Jordan then sought military aid from Britain to withstand United Arab Republic and Communist threats after the revolt in Iraq. British paratroopers landed in Jordan and would remain there until October 29.

In the midst of Israel’s 10th anniversary celebration, Premier David Ben Gurion, who held great interest in biblical research, opened his Jerusalem home to monthly bible study groups in which he himself was an active participant. The Prime Minister made it clear that this present generation of Jews was the last generation of bondage and servitude and the first in redemption, thereby bringing the Messianic ideal of deliverance from a long and wearisome journey. This vision of Jewish and universal redemption fostered a sense of spiritual closeness and bond to the sacred books of the Hebrew faith.

By now, the Eisenhower administration was convinced that challenging Egypt’s Nasser was counterproductive. In late 1958, it quietly abandoned the Eisenhower Doctrine and decided to seek an accommodation with Nasser. This decision was facilitated by an unexpected deterioration in relations between Nasser and the Soviet Union. The result was a modest US-Egyptian rapprochement lasting for the rest of Eisenhower’s term and into that of his successor.

Ghana and Israel maintained mutual ties, but later severed their relations in the wake of the Yom Kippur War. For the next four decades they maintained only basic ties through Nigeria. They would later restore full diplomatic relations, mutual economic growth and an abiding friendship.

Marguerite P. Cartwright, the sociologist and journalist who specialized in African affairs and whose early persistent efforts played such a key role in the Israel-Ghana relationship, lived in Manhattan. She became friends with another old journalist, David Horowitz. For more than three decades, her newspaper columns appeared regularly in “The Pittsburgh Courier” and “The New York Amsterdam News.” Surviving her husband by four years, she died in 1986 at the age of 76. They left no survivors.

In Sefwi Wiawso, located in southwest Ghana, there is a Jewish community who call themselves “The House of Israel” and claims to have roots in the Ten Lost Tribes of ancient Israel. They built themselves a synagogue in 1998, a simple, rectangular concrete building and painted it a brilliant blue and white to match the Israeli flags that hang above the doorways. 

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the twelth in the series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

 

Remembering David Horowitz (11): The Ides of April-Twin Anniversary Celebrations

Dateline: January 1957. Following the 1956 Suez Campaign, President Eisenhower launched an initiative that became known as the Eisenhower Doctrine to secure the Middle East against Soviet aggression by aiding any nation against overt armed aggression from any other nation controlled by international Communism. Congress adopted the doctrine in March.

Saudi Arabia’s King ibn Saud visits Washington at the invitation of Eisenhower, the first official visit of an Arab head of state. During Eisenhower’s eight years in the presidency, no Israeli is so honored.

In March, the Suez Canal reopens after clearance by the UN salvage crews of ship hulks sunk to block the entrance during the Suez crisis.

United Israel World Union began republishing the United Israel Bulletin in a new format in April. This edition, released during the Passover redemptive season, was the first published since the last printed magazine appeared in March 1952. During the interim, there were a number of UIWU newsletters published periodically. The first United Israel Bulletin was printed in Washington, DC in July 1944.

In the April bulletin, it was reported that movie stars Marilyn Monroe, Carol Baker and Elizabeth Taylor had all, at various times, embraced the Decalogue Faith of Moses following long periods of contemplation and study of the Hebrew Scriptures.

In July, David Horowitz was instrumental in creating the “United Nations Correspondents Fellowship,” to foster closer understanding and fellowship among the correspondents at the UN. The move was unanimously embraced by the association and lauded in written letters of endorsement by Ambassadors Abba Eban of Israel, Dr. Djalal Abdoh of Iran, Alberto F. Canas of Costa Rica and UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold himself.

BillyGraham1957In early August, Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham told David Horowitz in an exclusive interview, that God’s word with respect to Israel’s future boundaries as promised in the Bible-from the Euphrates to the Nile-cannot fail eventual fulfillment. Dr. Graham agreed that the return of the Jews to the Holy land marks one of the great turning points in the history of the world.

As 1957 drew to a close, it became apparent that the “Eisenhower Doctrine” was not a great success. Middle Eastern governments were generally eager to accept US aid under the new program, but Arab public opinion was hostile to the doctrine, seeing it as an effort to impose Cold War thinking on the Arabs by pressuring them to join an anti-Soviet alliance. Consequently, few Arab governments publicly endorsed the program.

It was announced in early 1958 that American Jewish Press correspondent at the UN, David Horowitz, had been elected to the Executive Committee of the Foreign Press Association during its recent meeting. Fitting recognition for the many contributions Horowitz was making to the association.

BenGurionTime1957The American Committee for Israel’s 10th  Anniversary announced that the inauguration of the celebration would take place on April 24 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the cradle of America’s independence and the home of the famous Liberty Bell containing the Old Testament inscription “Proclaim ye liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof.” Harry S. Truman, the first head of government to recognize the newly born state 10 years earlier and Israeli Ambassador Abba Eban were to be the featured speakers during the unique ceremony.

During a television interview with leading CBS newsman, Edward R. Murrow, former president Truman was asked: “You moved immediately to recognize Israel after it was created. Do you have any regrets about that?” With no hesitation, Truman replied: “Not the slightest…I know the history of that section of the world fairly well. There was the Balfour Declaration on the creation of the State of Israel. They hesitated and prolonged the situation. When it became my time to make the decision and there was a chance to create the State of Israel, as had been promised, I just carried out the agreements that had already been made. I’ve never been sorry for it, because I think it’s necessary that there be a State of Israel. It’s going to stay there no matter what they (the Arabs) think or what they do. Because the Israelites will take care of themselves as they always did in historic times.”

Israel’s 10th birthday was not the only significant event being celebrated in the month of April 1958.

United Israel World Union would also be observing the 15th anniversary of its existence.

Remarking that the great Hebrew prophets prophesied the rise of the Third Hebrew Commonwealth in a period of stress and trial among nations, David Horowitz drew a providential connection between the two events, saying: “despite the confusion among nations, two great rays of hope and fulfillment beam on the world horizon: Reborn Israel in two dispensations-United Israel World Union and the rising Hebrew Commonwealth on the ancient site.”

“Notables Hail United Israel World Union On Its Fifteenth Anniversary” announced the front-page headline of the April edition of the United Israel Bulletin. Leaders from all walks of life-among them professionals, rabbis, and laymen alike-joined hundreds of others in hailing the successful endeavors of United Israel on the occasion of its 15th anniversary.

Among the many rabbis who praised the constructive, Torah-reviving activities of UIWU were: Dr. W. Gunther Plaut of St. Paul’s Mt. Temple; Rabbi Arthur Meyerowitz, Scarsdale, N.Y., a member of the N.Y. Board of Rabbis, and Rabbi Samuel S. Lerer of Temple Sholem, Hollywood, California. Also, the world-renowned Lubavitch Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson, who sent a special Passover message along with his best wishes and blessings.

Especially meaningful to Horowitz, was a message from London from former Catholic Priest, Abraham Isaac Carmel, congratulating UIWU on its fifteenth birthday. Dr. Carmel, the first and only fully ordained Catholic priest to have adopted the Hebrew faith, hailed UIWU as a “heaven-sent” movement that has “created a new era in Jewish history.” In an open letter to UIWU, Dr. Carmel wrote: “As a proselyte to Orthodox Judaism, and the first Christian Priest to enter the Hebrew family, I write to offer my warmest congratulations on your 15th birthday. I personally owe a great debt to David Horowitz and his wonderful work. It was a heaven-sent revelation to me to learn of the amazing activity of David Horowitz and United Israel World Union.”

In still another open letter to UIWU, which was entitled “Time for rededication and to open the gates of Sinai,” Dr. Hirsch Loeb Gordon, world-renowned leader in the field of neuropsychiatry and research, offered the following remarks: “On the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Republic of Israel and the 15th of United Israel World Union, we should all rededicate ourselves to the rebuilding of our ancient Fatherland and to the propagation of our ancient faith universally.” Dr. Gordon, a giant in his field, was the holder of six Doctorates and four Masters in several different fields, and had served in the Neuropsychiatric Consultants Division, Office of the Surgeon General and was the past National Commander of the American Palestine Jewish Legion of World War I.

In a stirring endorsement, Dr. Gordon had this to say about the work of United Israel World Union: “Your movement to send the Chariot of YHVH across the firmament of the pagan world to finish the mission begun at Sinai and crush the false idols is most inspiring.”

Perhaps Rabbi Samuel Lerer of Temple Beth Sholem expressed it best when he said: “I wish to convey my deep gratitude for your dedicated work in bringing the Judaic faith unto the nations of the earth. Your missionary work that brings pure monotheism and Torah-faith to mankind, which is now merely a trickling spring of clear water, will eventually develop into a great fountain that will break forth into many springs from which humanity will drink.”

Two fitting anniversary tributes; one to Israel reborn in their ancient prophetic homeland and the other to the emergence of an organization calling for a return to the Decalogue Faith of Moses for all mankind.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the eleventh in the series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

 

Remembering David Horowitz (10): Back to the Desert–War over Suez

The Suez crisis was a crucial turning point in world history. It marked Britain’s demise as the pre-eminent Western power in the Middle East and the assumption of that role by the United States-a role the US continues to play to this day.

Egyptian President Gamal Nasser began buying arms from the Soviets, unleashed the fedayeen (terrorists) on Israel, and had blockaded the Straits of Tiran. He continued to take actions that rankled the Eisenhower administration, threatening to turn to the Soviet Union for funding of the Aswan Dam project and to extend diplomatic recognition to Communist China.

In January 1956, David Horowitz learned that UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold would visit both Cairo and Tel Aviv in efforts to ease tensions in the region. He was scheduled to meet with both Nasser and Ben-Gurion. David made a personal written appeal to the Secretary-General. In his letter to Hammarskjold, David stated, in part: “Since your flight to Cairo and Tel Aviv has been announced as a good will visit, you are in an excellent position to drive home the points you wish to raise with both President Nasser and Prime Minister Ben-Gurion. They must meet if peace is to come in the Palestine Zone.”

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David continued by suggesting: “When you see Nasser, you might mention that Egypt had played a vital role in Old Testament history as evidenced so wonderfully in the fascinating story of Joseph and his brethren who found refuge in Egypt under a kind and benevolent Pharaoh. For a period of 400 years the Hebrews lived and thrived with their cousins the Egyptians, until Providence ordained them to leave and become an independent nation under the leadership of Moses, whom Islam venerates as Nebi Musa.

When you see David Ben-Gurion, you might open the Bible and show him Isaiah chapter 19, verses 24-25, when prophecy of the future speaks of an Israel and an Egypt at peace and as constituting a blessing in the midst of the earth.”

Just before his departure to the Middle East, Hammarskjold expressed his thanks to David, remarking that he considered the counsel to be of great value and hoping that his own personal intervention might bring a measure of success.

Other attitudes were shifting politically. The new Socialist government of France, headed by Guy Mollet, had grown increasingly close to the new Israeli government, politically, diplomatically, and militarily. The alliance with France proved to be crucial for Israel in the years to come. The French became Israel’s primary source of arms for roughly a decade and provided the key elements that ultimately allowed Israel to develop a nuclear capability.

At the end of January, Former President Harry Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and labor leader Walter Reuther issued a joint statement urging the US provision of defensive arms to Israel to help it protect itself from the introduction of Communist arms to Arab countries in the Middle East.

France immediately informed the US that Mystere jet fighters would be sent to Israel.

The US made it known it would not object to the sale of arms to Israel by France or Britain, but continued to defer action on Israel’s request for US arms.

On February 26, 1956, Cantor Aaron Horowitz, David Horowitz’s father, was hailed as the dean of American Cantors in an impressive tribute to his 60 years of service to Orthodox Judaism. The testimonial dinner event, sponsored by B’nai Jacob Synagogue, brought forth messages of tribute to Cantor Horowitz and his wife from regional, state and national personages.

Among the many tributes in messages were those of President Eisenhower, Governor George M. Leader and Herman Wouk, iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose works include “Caine Mutiny” and “Marjorie Morningstar.”

Mr. Wouk described the testimonial to Cantor Horowitz as a rare and splendid event. The author cited a traditional Hebrew concept that in each generation there are 36 unknowns whose spiritual ministrations enable the rest of the world to survive. Wouk concluded that Cantor Horowitz’s career might well place him in that category.

It was a most high tribute for Cantor Horowitz and a special time for a proud son.

In June 1956, Britain withdraws from Egypt, ending 74 years of military occupation and Golda Meir replaces Moshe Sharett as Foreign Minister in the Ben-Gurion government.

Following Britain’s withdrawal, Nasser responded by announcing that he was nationalizing the British-owned Suez Canal Company and would use toll revenues to finance the Aswan Dam Project. Britain regarded Nasser’s action as intolerable and began advocating a military intervention to reverse it. The US strongly opposed military action and pressed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

From Israel’s perspective, the continued blockade of the Suez Canal and Gulf of Aqaba, combined with the increased fedayeen attacks and buildup of Arab arms, made the situation intolerable. David Ben-Gurion decided to launch a pre-emptive strike with the backing of the British and French governments.

1956suezThe three nations subsequently agreed on a plan whereby Israel would land paratroopers near the Canal and send its armor across the Sinai Desert. The British and French would then call for both sides to withdraw from the Canal Zone, fully expecting the Egyptians to refuse. At that point, British and French troops would be deployed to “protect” the Canal.

On October 29, 1956, Israel attacked Egypt. Operation Kadesh began with a paratroop drop near the Mitla Pass, about 30 miles from the Suez Canal.

The US government received no prior notice of the British-French-Israeli plan. Eisenhower was infuriated and immediately sent a message to David Ben-Gurion urging the withdrawal of forces. Ben-Gurion ignores the request. The US seeks a UN Security Council resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal. Britain and France veto the US resolution and address a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel to withdraw from the Suez Canal area.

On October 31st, French and British warplanes destroy most of the Egyptian air force in raids on air bases near the Suez Canal. The Soviets inform Gamal Abdel Nasser they will not go to war over the Suez. Jordan and Syria reject his appeal for military support. He orders a withdrawal from Sinai to concentrate forces to repel the impending British and French invasion.

Given the pretext to continue fighting, the Israeli forces routed the Egyptians. The IDF armored corps swept across the desert, capturing virtually the entire Sinai by November 5th. That day, British and French paratroopers landed near Port Said and amphibious ships dropped commandos onshore. British troops captured Port Said and advanced to within 25 miles of Suez City before the British government agreed to a cease-fire.

Meanwhile back home, the Republican incumbent Dwight D. Eisenhower defeats challenger Adlai E. Stevenson for another term as US President in a rematch of their contest 4 years earlier.

Israel’s failure to inform the US of its intentions, combined with ignoring American entreaties not to go to war, sparked tensions between the countries. Pressuring Israel to withdraw included a threat to discontinue all US aid, impose UN sanctions, and expel Israel from the United Nations.

Additional pressure from the Soviets, the US and the UN would force Britain, France, and Israel to end their attack on Egypt. Nasser’s regime was saved.

By the end of the fighting, Israel held the Gaza Strip and had advanced as far as Sharm al-Sheikh along the Red Sea. A total of 231 Israeli soldiers died in the fighting.

US pressure resulted in an Israeli withdrawal from the areas it conquered without obtaining any concessions from the Egyptians. This would sow the seeds for a later war with Egypt in 1967. The only thing Israel would gain for giving up all the territories it had won would be the US assurance that its shipping lanes would be kept open.

On December 23, the last British and French troops leave the Suez Canal region.

Gamal Abdel Nasser’s prestige at home and among Arabs was undamaged. In fact, his greatest influence and popularity was just beginning.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the tenth in the series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

Remembering David Horowitz (9): The Gathering Storm

1954 began with an all too familiar sameness. A January issue of the New York Times reported King ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia urged the sacrifice of 10 million Arabs to “uproot the cancer” of Israel, while infiltration attacks inside Israel by Arab guerrillas continued on a frequent basis.

David Horowitz became involved in controversy when the editor of a small mid-western newspaper, James M. Watkins, accused David of advocating the conversion of Christians to Judaism. In the February 23, 1954 edition of “The Restitution Herald” of Oregon, Illinois, Mr. Watkins criticized David for being a Jewish missionary, along with the frivolous charge that he somehow had near complete control of Israeli news. Watkins charged that “Since Horowitz controls most of the press dispatches that go to the nation of Israel, as well as that which is sent out in this country, we can assume that he expressed the official viewpoint of the nation (Israel).” Talk about the power of the press.

Reacting to Watkins’ editorial, Karl Baehr, Executive Director of the American Christian Palestine Committee (a pro-Israel Christian group), in a letter that was printed in the March 30 edition of the “Restitution Herald,” tried to dissuade any anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish feelings among Watkins’ readers.

FootofPrideResponding to both Watkins and Baehr, David sent a reply to the “Restitution Herald” dated April 13, 1954. In the letter, David defended his views and his press dispatches. In reference to a specific passage, he remarked that the statement was not his, but that of “a Catholic, Malcolm Hay, author of the book The Foot of Pride (Beacon Press, Boston 1950). “A book,” Horowitz suggested, “that Watkins and every true Christian ought to read.” Hay’s book carefully chronicles the roots of Christian anti-Semitism.

Middle East policy continued to focus on containing the Soviet Union. The Arab states often played the superpowers off against each other in an effort to win concessions from one or the other. One Arab ruler, however, stood in the middle of everything: the inter-Arab rivalries, opposition to Western imperialism, Eisenhower’s bid to create a regional alliance, and the perpetuation of the war with Israel. That man was Gamel Abdel Nasser. Over the next two decades, Nasser was to be an extremely forceful and charismatic advocate of radical Arab nationalism and of resistance to Western domination.

This was an especially busy and active time at the UN and Horowitz’s role as a journalist took on an intensive tempo. In addition to his many hours interviewing delegates and ambassadors from various other nations, he had considerable contact with Israeli Ambassador Abba Eban and new UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold. He also interviewed France’s Pierre Mendes France during his visit to the world organization.

Hammerskjold

Horowitz, persistent as always, continued his campaign to get the Israel-Arab dispute settled by the utilization of the Bible and the Koran. During August 1954, he tried to convince Egypt’s chief UN delegate Major-General Abdel Hamid Ghaleb and received a most interesting and candid response.

Speaking to Horowitz, Ghaleb emphatically stated that he and all religious Egyptians believe in the Torah as much as in the Koran and they venerate Moses as one of the holiest men to have appeared on earth. He further told David “that if the people in the Middle East turned to the Torah and the Koran for guidance instead of accepting their own narrow views, peace could come to the region. Allah is the same God worshipped by Israel, and this one God certainly does not want them to quarrel and fight over questions which, in the final analysis, are disposed of by Him anyway.”

Ghaleb also revealed that Egyptian President General Mohammed Naguib (who appointed Ghaleb), during his premiership, often visited synagogues and was sincere in his desire to come to some understanding with Israel. But, as recent developments showed, his way was overruled. Undoubtedly having restrained his innermost feelings, he succeeded in escaping the fate that befell the late King Abdullah of Jordan whose mind was open for negotiations with Israel.

On September 28, 1954, Egypt seized the Israeli merchant vessel “Bat Galim” in the Suez Canal. The issue would be brought before the UN Security Council with the fiasco continuing into 1955 before a resolution would be reached.

In February 1955, Israeli Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon resigns following the uncovering of an Israeli intelligence network in Egypt. David Ben Gurion returns to government as Defense Minister.

In March 1955, David Horowitz made his fifth trip to Israel. His first visit took place in 1924 when Israeli pioneering was in its height. Subsequent trips were taken in 1932, 1951 and 1953. This time David would be holding high level meetings as a UN correspondent as well as conducting a little United Israel business.

David met with former Irgun leader Menachem Begin, who was a member of the Israeli Knesset in behalf of the second largest party, Herut. Mr. Begin expressed to David that the greatest threat facing Israel at the time was guerrilla warfare.

David also gained an audience with Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who had served in the Jewish Legion together with Ben-Gurion and was among the signers of the Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. The Israeli President showed a deep interest in United Israel World Union and said he would extend an official welcome to any UIWU group. David later remarked “that President Ben-Zvi is a great scholar who has shown a profound interest in the fate that has befallen Israel’s tribes scattered all over the world.”

Countless hours were spent in interviews with other officials at Jerusalem’s UN headquarters.

Before leaving Israel, David visited some old friends, the Tritto family, now residing in Safed in the Galilee region. Esther, her husband Eliezer and family were among scores of other Italians, all former Catholics who had embraced the Hebrew faith, who came to Israel from the south Italian town of San Nicandro in 1949. He happily reported that they had established firm roots in Safed and were helping to build Israel.

As April 1955 came to a close, France was hit with Arab threats and protests for shipping arms to Israel. Jordan also threatened to boycott French goods and the Foreign Ministers of both Syria and Lebanon protested the French action. Egypt was asking that the Negev be detached from Israel. Just another busy day at the office of Middle Eastern affairs.

AbrahamicFaithIn June 1955, David became a charter member of “Judaism Universal,” a new international society for the propagation of the Hebrew faith as a world religion funded in New York City. Blessed and endorsed by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, “Judaism Universal” adopted the following three-point program: to reclaim the Jewish youth; to Judaize the Jews; and to draw within the sphere of Jewish life neglected Jewish communities in isolated parts of the world, including non-Jewish populations who hunger after universal truth and righteousness.

During a national election in Israel, David Ben-Gurion is again elected Prime Minister and Defense Minister. Moshe Sharett becomes Foreign Minister.

US officials continued to reach out to Gamel Nasser. Egypt was offered promises of arms and help in building the Aswan Dam. Nasser instead began to look to the Soviet Union. He began to import arms from the Soviet Bloc to build his arsenal for a confrontation with Israel. In the short-term, however, he employed a new tactic to prosecute Egypt’s war with Israel. He announced it on August 31, 1955: “Egypt has decided to dispatch her heroes, the disciples of Pharaoh and the sons of Islam, and they will cleanse the land of Palestine.” These “heroes” were Arab terrorists, or fedayeen, trained and equipped by Egyptian Intelligence to engage in hostile action on the border and infiltrate Israel to commit acts of sabotage and murder.

The terrorist attacks violated the armistice agreement provision that prohibited the initiation of hostilities by paramilitary forces; nevertheless, it was Israel that was condemned by the UN Security Council for its counterattacks.

The escalation continued with the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s only supply route with Asia. Less than two weeks later, on October 25, Egypt signed a tripartite agreement with Syria and Jordan, which placed Nasser in command of all three armies.

As 1955 drew to a close, Gamel Nasser was making clear his intent. In an interview with New York Post reporter Paul Sann, he explained, carefully and quite clearly, “that Egypt would never, under any circumstances, consider peace with the Jewish State.”

Even as war clouds gathered over the Middle East, history would remind us once again: One should never say never.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the ninth in the series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.