Blocking Mideast Peace
in America Feeds Arab-Jewish Conflict in Israel: Hawaiian
Gardens, Jerusalem, and The Moskowitz Foundation, Part I of
a 3-part series
|by Dan Aznoff
Originally published 01 July 2001
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GARDENS, CA-The low-income minorities who live in the tenement apartments
in this tiny town southeast of Los Angeles share a nightmarish bond with
Palestinian residents of the Ras al-Amud neighborhood in Old Jerusalem.
groups share vivid memories of a knock on the door that led to the uprooting
of their families. In Hawaiian Gardens, poor black and Hispanic families
were moved out of their homes through eminent domain to make room for a community
redevelopment project that eventually became a gaudy, neon-covered gambling
The knock on the door was much more ominous for the Palestinians.
It was also a notice of condemnation. Not by the Israeli government wanting
the property to enhance the community. But from Arabs groups who threatened
to kill any Palestinian who sold their land to make room for Jewish settlers.
to Jews was like signing their own death certificate," said Rabbi Haim Dov
Beliak, founder of The Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem
( http://www.stopmoskowitz.com ). "They are forced to move. Not just out of Jerusalem, but out of the country if they have any hope of staying alive."
development in each country, critics say, is the direct result of the influence
peddled by Dr. Irving Moskowitz. Opponents claim that the retired Miami physician
bought enough influence in Hawaiian Gardens that he persuaded the city council
to use public funds to build him a casino. Gross receipts from his card room
and the bingo parlor around the corner--estimated to be as much as $35 million
per year--have been used by Moskowitz to buy out neighborhoods in East Jerusalem
to create new communities for Jewish settlers.
"We are not denying
that Dr. Moskowitz used his own money to buy the homes in Jerusalem. In most
cases the homes were purchased for twice what they were really worth because
the Palestinian owners knew the danger of selling to Jews," explained Moskowitz
attorney Beryl Weiner. "The money was probably used by the families to escape
the country before the Arabs were able to carry through on their threats."
Moskowitz-funded activities in East Jerusalem have been described by moderates
as a roadblock to the stalled Peace Talks in the Middle East. The area is
home to more than 200,000 Palestinians who pay Israeli taxes and benefit
from the country's social services. The area was occupied by Israel in 1967
and later annexed to the city of Jerusalem, a move that has never been recognized
by the international community.
Money has reportedly been funneled
straight from the bingo parlor profits in Hawaiian Gardens to build settlements
in East Jerusalem, Hebron and the Golan Heights. Moskowitz has publicly denied
that any profits from gambling have been secretly sent to Israel, explaining
that all monies have come directly from his own personal fortune.
latest project is a 132-unit complex of flats in East Jerusalem that is expected
to dramatically change the demographics of the neighborhood. Yeshiva students
and their families are scheduled to occupy the row of flats later this year.
neighbors see the new residents inciting violence in the area, including
Khalid Hamdallah who lives with his family in a one-story house on a narrow
strip of land adjacent to the new structure. The lorry driver claims that
he turned down large sums of money for his small olive grove.
Abu Saud, the director of Jerusalem's Arab chamber of commerce, said he will
never leave his home despite the fact that friends are too frightened to
visit his house because it is next door to the new settlement.
creates more violence and tension in the city," Barak Zemer of Peace Now
told a reporter from Mother Earth News. "He makes it harder for the people
who live here."
Sixty Palestinians and 15 Israelis were killed during
riots in 1996 that were sparked by the opening of a Moskowitz-financed tunnel
next to land considered sacred by Muslims.
The devoutly Orthodox Moskowitz
was born in New York, but raised in Milwaukee. He now lives in Miami, while
relatives in California oversee his business interests in Hawaiian Gardens.
He took over the city's floundering 800-seat bingo parlor in 1988, and soon
the non-profit foundation that bears his name was taking in an estimated
$33 million per year.
According to city records, Moskowitz then bought
up more than one-third of the commercial property in the one-square mile
municipality. According to his supporters, Moskowitz has been extremely generous
with both Jewish and non-Jewish charities in the area, helping to finance
congregations in Long Beach as well as sending children from nearby Orange
County to Jewish camps each summer.
By 1997, the Irving I. Moskowitz
Foundation was supporting Hawaiian Gardens with monthly installments of $200,000,
an amount that was roughly half of the city's annual budget. When the funds
abruptly stopped, the city was forced to shut down its police force and slash
its employee payroll by more than two-thirds from 105 to 30.
Part II : More on what the Foundation does with its money; a Jewish Latina comes home
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2003 design by elbop for the Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem