Blocking Mideast Peace
in America Feeds Arab-Jewish Conflict in Israel: Hawaiian
Gardens, Jerusalem, and The Moskowitz Foundation, Part II
|by Dan Aznoff
Originally published 01 July 2001
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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.
Moskowitz' attorney Beryl Weiner explained
that Hawaiian Gardens was spending more than $2.5 million on its own police
force every year, while better protection was available through a $1.3 million
annual contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
no secret that Dr. Moskowitz cut off funding for a police department that
he judged to be wasting money when they could subcontract elsewhere for less
money and better protection, just like most of the neighboring cities," Weiner
The attorney also downplayed reports that Moskowitz
bought the 1995 election to legalize gambling in Hawaiian Gardens. Public
records confirm that proponents of gambling spent more than $540,000 to convince
voters in the city of less than 15,000 residents.
"But nobody mentions
that the opposition (other cities with legalized gambling) spent over $1
million to defeat the same measure," said Weiner. The proposal was approved
by 57 percent of the voters in the first election and then by 63 percent
in a second election three years later.
Gambling generates approximately
$5 million in revenue for the city each year, with any amount surplus to
the city budget earmarked to retiring the $12 million in redevelopment bonds
the city sold to pay for the construction of the gambling hall.
funds have also been utilized to expand community services for senior and
youth activities as well as build a new library.
None of the programs
or buildings bears the Moskowitz name. "The doctor is not that kind of individual,"
said Weiner. "He's not in this for personal gratification."
A Jewish Latina Comes Home Julia Sylva has come full circle.
a Latina, she was a minority in the Russian-Jewish neighborhood of Boyle
Heights in the shadow of downtown Los Angeles until her family moved to the
barrios known as Hawaiian Gardens. She thrived in the small-town Latino atmosphere,
but eventually left the old neighborhood to attend college and law school.
on the night she graduated from law school, she met the man who would eventually
become her husband. Julia admits being confused when her friends pointed
out the interesting charm on the chain hanging around his neck or his obviously
Jewish last name.
It was not until the young couple discussed the
possibility of marriage that Julia decided to convert to Judaism. She served
one term as mayor during her tenure as a member of the Hawaiian Gardens City
Council before applying to become the city attorney in her hometown in 1996.
new religion seemed much too important to some of the more powerful people
who controlled the city [during public hearings]. Especially Dr. Moskowitz
and his attorney [Beryl Weiner]," Sylva recalled. "We'd go to lunch often,
but we never discussed religion [then]. Maybe they thought I would treat
them differently because of my new-found Judaism."
Sylva was city
attorney in Hawaiian Gardens during the time the city fathers voted to use
community redevelopment funds to assist Moskowitz build a shopping complex.
The city bought the property near a city park for $5.5 million in 1993, then
turned around and resold the land to Moskowitz for half that amount with
hopes the land would produce tax-generating revenue each year.
the plans mysteriously changed from a grocery store to a card room in 1998,
Sylva pointed out a state law in California that prohibited public funds
from being used to build a casino. Sylva resigned her post on the same day
the council was scheduled to discuss her termination.
Before she resigned,
the fiery Sylva delivered a rambling condemnation of the city's ties to Moskowitz,
to Weiner and the use of taxpayer money being used to benefit interests outside
Hawaiian Gardens. She argued that millions of dollars had been raised at
the bingo parlor, "And the city gets zero."
"Ms. Sylva did not understand
the concept of win-win," said Weiner. "She saw the profits that Dr. Moskowitz
was getting and could not see the benefits the arrangement had given to her
own city. If there is a winner, it does not [necessarily mean that somebody
else is coming out on the short end of the transaction."
was being pulled in many directions. As a Latina, she felt empathy for the
low-income residents of her town who had been forced out to make room for
a gambling establishment. As a lawyer, she saw how the strategies used by
Moskowitz and Weiner confused the members of the city council who served
in dual capacity as the town's redevelopment council. As a Jew, she was appalled
to learn that the monies generated from bingo by the non-profit Irving I.
Moskowitz Foundation were apparently being funneled to Israel to displace
Palestinians to make room for fundamentalist Jewish settlers in Jerusalem
and along the West Bank.
"The residents of Hawaiian Gardens have suffered
in a way that cannot be remedied or compensated with bingo or casino proceeds,"
said Sylva. "All gains have been for Moskowitz/Weiner, all the losses have
been suffered by the residents of the city."
Members of both the Likud
and Labor governments in Israel have criticized the estimated $25 million
given to Orthodox settlers to establish Jewish communities in Arab neighborhoods.
In 1997, then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright described the "racist
policy" of building of Jewish-only settlements as, "the seizing of Arab lands,
demolishing Arab homes, settlement expansion and the construction of Jewish
homes in East Jerusalem."
Louis Roth of American for Peace Now has
come out publicly against the construction of flats for settlers. "What they
are trying to do is establish a Jewish stronghold in Arab neighborhoods with
the eventual goal of taking over."
In our next issue: Moskowitz' attorney responds; a trail of victims and Rabbi Beliak's crusade.
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2003 design by elbop for the Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem