Remembering David Horowitz (24): Black September

1970. We were entering a new year and a new decade.

The 28th Annual Meeting of United Israel World Union was held on Sunday, April 12, at the Manhattan home of David and Nan Horowitz.

During the meeting it was announced that United Israel Vice President Edward S. (Eddie) Abrahams, the purveyor of the ancient Oriental Torah Scrolls from Calcutta, India, had been honored with a special recognition. Mr. Abrahams became a recipient of a special award presented by the Israeli Government to former Legionnaires who had fought for the redemption of Palestine during World War I.

It was also noted that the West Olive, Michigan congregation had sent a memorandum to Michigan Representative Gerald R. Ford requesting him to read into the Congressional Record, a United Israel World Union statement relative to Israel’s eternal rights to the Holy Land as decreed in the Scriptures.

Congressman Ford would later acknowledge the communication in a letter sent to William Goodin at West Olive. Sending his “warm personal regards,” he stated, among other things: “I appreciated your comments and your deep interests in Israel and the Jewish people. I want to thank you especially for sending me the copy of the United Israel Bulletin.”

Hostilities in the War of Attrition against Israel would continue until August, ending when a ceasefire agreement was reached. The frontiers remained the same as when the war began and with no real commitment to serious peace negotiations. The War of Attrition, lasting three years, claimed the lives of 1,424 Israeli soldiers and left more than 3,000 wounded. While the number of Egyptian fatalities remained unknown, they were believed to number around 9,000.

A month later, a major crisis occurred that was to have a far-reaching impact on U.S.-Israeli relations.

Jordan King Hussein greets PLO Leader Yasser Arafat.

By the late 1960s, the Palestinians in Jordan had become increasingly militant and powerful. King Hussein of Jordan concluded an agreement in July 1970 with the PLO’s new leader, Yasser Arafat, but the ink was hardly dry when Palestinians hijacked TWA and KLM airliners and landed them at the airport in Amman.

The incidents escalated the tension between the Palestinian radicals and King Hussein who saw this as a challenge to his authority. Armed clashes would soon break out between the king’s troops and the PLO, which had established a state-within-a-state in Jordan.

On September 1st, an assassination attempt against King Hussein failed.

On September 19, a column of Syrian tanks crossed the northern Jordanian border in support of the PLO. King Hussein appealed to the United States to launch air strikes to support his forces. Both logistically and politically however, it would have been extremely difficult for the U.S. to intervene militarily in the Jordan crisis.

The Israelis were naturally alarmed by a conflict not far from their borders. Concerned that a PLO takeover of Jordan would pose a grave threat to their security, they were willing to intervene on Jordan’s behalf. In a menacing gesture, a squadron of Israeli jets flew to northern Jordan and swooped low over the advancing Syrian tanks. The tanks withdrew.

King Hussein’s forces then turned on the PLO, killing and wounding thousands of Palestinians and forcing the leadership, along with thousands of refugees, into Syria and Lebanon. The defeat of the PLO came to be known by Palestinians as “Black September.”

The Black September crisis had a profound effect on U.S. policymaking toward the Middle East. President Nixon was extremely pleased with Israel’s behavior in the Jordan crisis and gained a new appreciation for Israel’s potential as a strategic ally of the United States. Thus, by the early 1970s, Israel, too, had become an American ally under the terms of the “Nixon Doctrine.”

Black September also had a number of other significant repercussions.

Israel’s willingness to come to King Hussein’s aid created warmer relations between Hussein and the Israeli leadership, which facilitated periodic secret meetings to try to make peace. Jordan has never again been involved in military action against Israel.

The head of Syria’s air force, Hafez Assad, decided not to enter the war in Jordan, thereby dooming the Syrian invasion. The action paved the way for Assad to seize power.

The crisis in Jordan had prompted Egyptian President Gamel Nasser to call a meeting in Cairo of Arab heads of state. On September 28, during the talks, he suddenly died of a heart attack. His little-known vice president, Colonel Anwar Sadat, would replace him.

UN Correspondent David Horowitz, in frequent demand as a speaker, addressed five different synagogue bodies on the subject of Israel and the United Nations within the span of six weeks during October and November. In each case he spoke to a capacity crowd.

On December 23, the North Tower of The World Trade Center is topped out at 1,368 feet, making it the tallest building in the world at the time.

In early 1971, David Horowitz became vitally interested in another pursuit. It wasn’t something that just caught his attention, it demanded a response. It stirred painful memories of personal loss and inflamed a passion to act.

The story unfolds with the classic elements of a high-profile Cold Case, a relentless investigative reporter, and an unlikely person-of-interest.

The subject arrived in the United States after World War II under the “Displaced Persons Immigration Law.” He was ordained as a priest of the Rumanian Church soon thereafter. He rose quickly to the rank of bishop and archbishop. He became the spiritual leader of 35,000 members of the Rumanian Orthodox Episcopate, based in Grass Lake, Michigan. He lived in comfort in a 25-room farmhouse on a 200-acre estate maintained by his church.

He was an honored prelate. In 1955, he gave the opening prayer before the United States Senate. He was also appointed to the governing board of the National Council of Churches.

His name was Archbishop Valerian D. Trifa and he was a man with a dark past.

David Horowitz became interested in the United Nations agenda item that dealt with the apprehension and punishment of war criminals. After uncovering previous exposes by the late columnist Drew Pearson and broadcaster Walter Winchell, as well as documentary evidence from other sources, David became convinced that the evidence against Trifa had proved to be so absolute and yet, why had there not been a breakthrough in the case?

Survivors of the Nazi years, Jewish organizations, journalists and the Justice Department had pursued the case against the church leader for more than a decade. But the case against the Archbishop had many twists and the whole matter rested in the belief that not much could be done in the face of the Immigration Services bureaucracy and negative attitude.

It was at this point that UN Correspondent David Horowitz decided he would become involved in a campaign to have the Justice Department consider reopening the Trifa case.

The shocking next step proved only to be an opening salvo in a lengthy campaign for justice. Archbishop Valerian D. Trifa’s ecclesiastical life of comfort was about to change.

Ralph 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 twenty-forth in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

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