Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem
Produced by the
(Please note: the current and former Hawaiian Gardens city officials interviewed in the video are not members of the coalition.)
The video opens to simultaneous scenes of gritty poverty in Hawaiian Gardens-the tiny Los Angeles County where Dr. Irving Moskowitz runs a bingo game and is building a huge casino-and the Israeli anti-peace militants on whom Moskowitz lavishes financial support.
Coalition Co-Chair Mina Meyer, Coalition Coordinator Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, and former Hawaiian Gardens Mayor Kathleen Navejas outline the issues the film explores: how Dr. Moskowitz, the dominant force in Hawaiian Gardens politics, sends bingo proceeds he promised Hawaiian Gardens to organizations opposing Israeli-Palestinian peace.
A former deputy mayor of Jerusalem warns that Moskowitz's donations are fueling fiery strife over Jerusalem's future.
Navejas recalls how, in the wake of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, she learned of Moskowitz's connections to Israel's extreme right. Meyer, a member of the Long Beach Human Relations Commission, tells how she first learned from Jewish newspapers of Moskowitz's efforts to destroy the peace process, and only later learned about his activities next door, in Hawaiian Gardens.
The video then shows how Moskowitz has donated $4.3 million dollars from his Hawaiian Gardens bingo parlor to one Israeli ultra-right organization, Ateret Cohanim. The donations went through a US non-profit, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim. To fulfill its provocative and controversial goal of "keep[ing] Jerusalem Jewish," Ateret Cohanim buys Palestinian houses in Jerusalem. Former IRS Commissioner Sheldon Cohen explains why the group's evident purpose of wresting Jerusalem from the Arabs is not a proper tax-exempt purpose.
The video then turns to the huge Hawaiian Gardens Bingo Club, run by the Moskowitz Foundation. Because state law requires bingo workers to be volunteers, the foundation has mostly immigrant "volunteers" working set schedules but only for tips-no wages or benefits. "All of us who have worked in real volunteer organizations - our church and synagogue and service organizations - are appalled to see immigrant workers exploited to garner multi-million dollar proceeds for the Moskowitz bingo foundation," the narrator comments.
Viewers then see that, in 1996, riots sparked by the opening of another Moskowitz-funded anti-peace project, a tunnel near the Temple Mount, claimed more than 70 lives.
The focus moves to the for-profit poker casino, which Moskowitz is building, in part with funds from the city's redevelopment agency.
Nelson Oliva, a former city manager, tells of how the Moskowitz organization began the project in 1991 as a "supermarket" but that it was widely believed "that Dr. Moskowitz had always had the intention of building a card club in Hawaiian Gardens."
Fred Woocher, an attorney who represented casino opponents, decries the tactics Moskowitz used in elections to ratify his casino and recall its opponents, calling the hiring of gang members and passing money directly to voters "an ugly chapter in the history of democracy."
Navejas says Moskowitz "spent probably close to one million dollars" on the successful 1996 recall election against her.
The video then examines Moskowitz's use-and withholding-of bingo funds to control events in Hawaiian Gardens, most notably the dismantling of the police department, after it began investigating some Moskowitz allies. It shows a 1988 L.A. County Sheriff's Department investigation of Moskowitz, resulting in a recommendation (ignored) that the Hawaiian Gardens City Council reject Moskowitz's bid for a bingo license.
The video explains how Hawaiian Gardens' use of millions of dollars of redevelopment agency funds for the Moskowitz casino's may have violated the Isenberg law, which bars such spending on gambling establishments.
Meanwhile, spending on the casino has left the city without money for community needs, says Councilmember Placido Alvarez. Citing as examples the closure of a community gang-diversion program and swimming pool, Navejas says Moskowitz's actions have set the city back 25 years.
The video concludes by calling on California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to deny Moskowitz a permanent casino license, to revoke his provisional license, to make Moskowitz repay public funds spent on the casino, and to shut down the bingo.
Viewers are urged to write to Lockyer and other state officials and to stay informed by checking the coalition's Web site, stopmoskowitz.org.