1989 arrived and America had a new President. Republican incumbent Vice President George H. W. Bush and his running mate, Dan Quayle, defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen in the 1988 presidential election. This brought an end to eight years of the Ronald Reagan administration.
The inauguration of George H. W. Bush as the 41st President of the United States was held on January 20, 1989. The oath of office carried a special historic significance and a little known United Israel connection.
The occasion marked the 200th anniversary of the Presidency and was observed as George Bush took the executive oath on the very same Bible that George Washington used in 1789. The ceremony occurred on the west front terrace of the Capitol with Chief Justice William Rehnquist administering the oath.
It first took place on the historic day of April 30, 1789, when the stately figure of George Washington, the father of our country, stood before a huge crowd gathered to witness the grand occasion on Wall Street in New York City. Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States of America, holding his right hand on the Bible and his left hand over his heart, symbolic of the prayer for protection of this first democracy of a great nation and a pledge for his supreme efforts to preserve it. Chancellor Robert R. Livingston administered the oath.
The famous Bible, printed in 1767, had been held in the possession of the St. John’s Lodge No. 1 of the Masonic Order in Manhattan. A three-man delegation of leading Masons was selected to bring the priceless heirloom to the swearing-in ceremony for President Bush’s Inauguration.
Chosen to officially convey the original Bible and attend the ceremony were Louis Warter, long-time United Israel World Union member and supporter; R. W. Clifford Green, Master of St. John’s Lodge #1, and R. W. Charles Clement, Chairman of the Bible Committee for the George Washington Bible.
As part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the grand historic occurrence, the Bible was placed on display in a special glass enclosed case in the White House where it was viewed by thousands of visitors over a period of ten weeks.
The 46th Annual Meeting of United Israel World Union was held on April 30, 1989 at the home of its President, David Horowitz, in New York City. The day chosen for the meeting was symbolic: it was Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), and the 200th anniversary to the very day of George Washington’s inauguration as the first President of the United States.
In key appointments, Dr. Heskel Haddad, M.D., noted Sephardic leader and head of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, along with Ms. Joy Malka, great granddaughter of the late Chief Rabbi of the Sudan, Solomon Malka, were elected members of the Board of Directors of United Israel. Mr. Gregg Sitrin was also elected to the position of Secretary-treasurer.
Dr. Haddad spoke to the group about the symbolism of the day, Yom HaShoah, and his plans to work closely with Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, for the establishment of a Holocaust Memorial in Washington D. C.
United Israel veteran Louis Warter, one of the three leading Masons chosen to convey the Washington Bible to the Bush inauguration, also spoke of their personalized tour of the White House and opportunity to meet the new president.
On June 3rd, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of Iran died at the age of 86. Founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he was the leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution that saw the overthrow of the Pahlavi monarchy and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran.
Khomeini was named “Man of the Year” in 1979 by American news magazine Time for his international influence.
This “Man of the Year” would later be known for his support of the hostage takers during the Iran Hostage Crisis when 52 American citizens were held hostage for 444 days, and his later fatwa calling for the murder of British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, and for referring to the United States as the “Great Satan.” Khomeini called democracy the equivalent of prostitution.
In June, Edward Ezra Shalom Abrahams, long-time vice president and active supporter of United Israel passed away at his Los Angeles residence following a brief illness. He was 88 years old.
Those familiar with United Israel most likely know the incredible story of Eddie Abraham’s life and his role as donor of rare Indian Torah Scrolls to worthwhile congregations around the world, including one to the United Israel World Union organization. He was elected a Vice President of United Israel in 1965. Eddie Abraham’s remarkable story can be found in a previous article titled “The Strange Saga of Eddie Abrahams.”
A formal review of U.S. Persian Gulf policy, finalized in National Security Directive 26 and signed by President Bush in 1989, reaffirmed the existing view that Iran, and not Iraq, posed the greater threat to U.S interests in the region. As a result, President Bush supported a policy of trying to build a political and commercial relationship with Iraq, in the hopes of moderating its behavior and offsetting Iranian power. The Middle East juggling act was on full display.
During the summer, David Horowitz met with Israeli Knesset member Rabbi Elizer Waldman, who also heads Yeshivat Kiryat Arba located in Hebron. Rabbi Waldman served as a reserve captain of a tank unit that aided the liberation effort in the 1967 Six-Day War. He was one of the original pioneers who returned to Hebron and established the Hesder Yeshiva.
On November 9, 1989, thousands of jubilant Germans brought down the most visible symbol of division at the heart of Europe-the Berlin Wall. For two generations, the Wall was the physical representation of the Iron Curtain, and East German border guards had standing shoot-to-kill orders against those who tried to escape. But just as the Wall had come to represent the division of Europe, its fall also came to represent the end of the Cold War.
Meeting in Malta on December 2, President Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev “buried the Cold War at the bottom of the Mediterranean” as one of Gorbachev’s staffers later described.
Meanwhile, seeing the Iraqi regime as a lesser evil than the Iranian one, the previous Reagan administration and now the Bush White House continued to cultivate its support of Saddam Hussein.
Iraq possessed the largest and most powerful Arab military force, it had substantial oil reserves, and it served as a counterbalance to Iran in the region. The U.S. provided Iraq with tens of millions of dollars in agricultural credits, gave them satellite intelligence information on the position of Iranian forces, and provided naval protection in the Persian Gulf to Kuwaiti tankers, whose oil shipments financed the Iraqi war effort. Equally important, George Bush encouraged friendly Arab regimes; Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait to “transfer” U.S. supplied arms to Iraq.
But soon after the Iraq-Iran War had ended in late 1988, tensions began to rise between Iraq and Kuwait. Kuwait demanded repayment of the 15 billion dollars Iraq had borrowed from Kuwait to wage the war. Saddam Hussein refused, saying that Iraq had already paid its debt in blood. Saddam then charged that Kuwait was producing too much oil, driving the price down and reducing Iraqi oil revenues. He also charged that Kuwait was extracting oil from Iraqi oil fields on the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border.
By the end of the year, the U.S. effort to work with Iraq was deterred by the reality of Saddam’s bad behavior.
The Middle East has been called many things including volatile and complex. Maybe another description can be added: that it is never boring.
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 forty third in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.”