Blocking Mideast Peace
in America Feeds Arab-Jewish Conflict in Israel: Hawaiian
Gardens, Jerusalem, and The Moskowitz Foundation, Part III
|by Dan Aznoff
Originally published 01 July 2001
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Part III of a 3-part series by Dan Aznoff
Moskowitz' attorney Beryl Weiner countered the attacks on his client by pointing
out that the Arab homes purchased with Moskowitz money "had been owned by
Jews until the rightful owners were forced out in the early 1900's." According
to Weiner, the American millionaire often paid twice what the land and homes
were really worth.
"These people are taking the money for their homes
and land," said Weiner. "Most of them are happy with the exchange. Nobody
is putting a gun to their head and forcing them to take the money."
year ago, Jerusalem granted approval for another Moskowitz group to build
a 200-unit Jewish settlement in Abu-Dis, an area once considered as a possible
site for a Palestinian capital and a controversial piece of real estate that
is a key element in the compromise settlement in the current round of peace
Construction in Israel and the gambling controversy have left
a trail of victims back in Hawaiian Gardens. Besides costing Julia Sylva
her job with the city, the debate has been blamed for the defeat of Assemblyman
Scott Wildman in his attempt to secure a seat in the California state senate,
the early retirement of Hawaiian Gardens Police Chief Walter McKinney--and
for Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, the loss of his pulpit at Temple Ner Tamid in
the neighboring city of Downey, CA.
Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak first became
aware of the Moskowitz activities while he was working in Israel from 1988
until 1990. When the congregation at Ner Tamid became available in 1997,
he took the position to be closer to the controversy. A year later he founded
The Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem (http://www.stopmoskowitz.org), and persuaded attendees at a meeting of Reform rabbis to picket the casino.
former congregation in Downey is now without a rabbi. Beliak claims that
he resigned because he was too busy serving as the spiritual leader of two
other Conservative congregations, Adat Chaverim in Los Alamitos (where Julia
Sylva and her family are active members) and Beth Shalom in Whittier. Weiner
claims that Beliak was forced out of Downey because of his preoccupation
with the politics in Hawaiian Gardens. (A spokesperson at Ner Tamid declined
to settle the disagreement.)
"Building homes for Jewish settlers right
in the middle of Palestinian neighborhoods or on sacred Arab ground is like
trying to put out a fire with kerosene," said Beliak. "We are trying to save
the peace process in Israel by cutting off his [Moskowitz'] primary source
Irving Moskowitz is confused by the controversy that
has surrounded him since the day he was invited to run the struggling bingo
operation in this one-square-mile urban municipality 20 miles southeast of
Los Angeles. A 73-year-old retired physician who made his fortune building
and managing hospitals in Southern California and Florida, he proudly declares
that he is using his "personal fortune to help rebuild Jerusalem." Moskowitz
has labeled his investments in Israel as "Jews helping Jews."
opponents argue that gambling money generated in the low-income, mostly Hispanic
community of Hawaiian Gardens is not being used as originally intended to
help rebuild the economic health of the city, but instead is being sent to
build settlements in Israel that have derailed the peace process.
does not consider the casino or the alleged misuse of public funds to be
a Jewish issue. He dismisses the entire controversy as a one-man vendetta
by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak conducted from the pulpit of local synagogues against
his client. He described Beliak as a "crusader."
"Dr. Moskowitz wants
peace as much as anybody," according to his attorney, Beryl Weiner, "but
a secure peace. The rabbi blames every failure of the peace process in Israel
on Dr. Moskowitz," said Weiner. Beliak laughed at this characterization,
and at the term "crusader."
Beliak's hopes to cut off the Moskowitz funds at their source, through legislative action in California.
not enough to stop Moskowitz from getting his casino license or controlling
bingo," said Beliak. "We want to free the city to repair the social damage
that has been done."
The casino is currently operating with a temporary
gambling license while the state gambling commission investigates critics'
claims that the doctor's moral character disqualify him from holding a gambling
license. A special agent with the commission explained that he is authorized
to look into the allegations that public money was misused to build the casino,
but has no authority over how or where the profits are spent.
issued by The Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem on
June 17 questioned why Moskowitz was being paid an annual salary of $320,000
by his own foundation.
The use of monies generated by bingo parlors
would be limited to charities within the state of California under proposed
Senate Bill 832. An assembly version of the same legislation had been sponsored
by Assemblyman Scott Wildman before he was forced out of office this year.
Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) is spearheading the bill during the
current legislative session with support from former members of Wildman's
Lawmakers have postponed any possible vote on the measure until
2002, the second year of the two-year legislative session. A Joint Legislative
Audit Committee report released last year focused on state law that expressly
prohibits redevelopment funds from being used for gambling establishments.
The report concluded, "Hawaiian Gardens provides an example of what can go
wrong when redevelopment is manipulated for the benefit of one rather than
for the benefit of the community as a whole."
Rabbi Beliak urged any
person (whether Jewish or not) who supports peace in Israel to visit The
Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem website.
Read all the background information. Read the story of Irving Moskowitz and
how he has used the people of Hawaiian Gardens for his own personal gain
and to delay the possibility of peace in Israel," said Beliak.
"If you read, you will take action. That much I know."
Beliak suggests the following for those concerned about the Foundation's operations:
Get updated information and background from the Coalition's website.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to deny Dr. Moskowitz a permanent
gambling license and close down the bingo hall. Call (916) 445-9555, ext.
5 or P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550.
Phone the state Division
of gambling Control at (916) 322-3360, ext 7. Plead with them to enforce
the Isenberg Amendment that would return gambling profits to the people of
Join the effort to support Senate Bill 832 in California.
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2003 design by elbop for the Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem