Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Los Angeles Sleaze Strip Czar Funds Israeli Right-Wing Extremists

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Los Angeles Sleaze Strip Czar Funds Israeli Right-Wing Extremists

Article excerpt

Los Angeles Sleaze Strip Czar Funds Israeli Right-Wing Extremists

By Pat McDonnell Twair

"Bingo King Aids Israeli Right Wing" read a rhyming headline on the front page of the May 9 Los Angeles Times, raising the curtain on a chain of local scandals involving the misuse of a nonprofit foundation's status, withholding funds from a minuscule suburb of Los Angeles threatened with bankruptcy, and the ethics of basing a city's income on gambling revenues. The story continued on two inside pages, but although it had innumerable angles for local followup, there was none.

The apparent reason for the curtain of silence that came down around the entire matter was the fact that state laws may have been broken and local officials discredited or bought off in order to divert Southern Californian gambling profits amounting to millions of dollars each year to sub rosa schemes in Israel to buy up Arab land and buildings in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and turn them over to fanatical right-wing Jewish "settlers."

In the original report, L.A. Times correspondent Mary Curtius reported from Israel that Dr. Irving I. Moskowitz, now a resident of Miami Beach, FL, has donated millions of dollars of profits from the Bingo Club of Hawaiian Gardens, a one-square-mile township in the blue-color suburbs of southeast Los Angeles, to ultra-right-wing interests in Israel, including $2.35 million up to 1994 to American Friends of Ateret Cohanim. That organization's publicly professed goal is to erect a new Jewish Temple on the Haram al-Sharif, site of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site on the planet for the world's one billion Muslims.

Hawaiian Gardens, the tiniest city in Los Angeles County, has a largely Hispanic population of 14,000 living in 1950s-era wood-frame stucco bungalows that stand in sharp contrast to houses starting at $200,000 in neighboring El Dorado Park Estates in Long Beach. For years the city of Hawaiian Gardens received 1 percent of the gross from a bingo hall operated by a non-profit foundation. In 1988 the city was threatened with loss of this revenue, about $200,000 annually, because the operator of the bingo club was facing criminal charges. Dr. Moskowitz, owner of a number of hospitals including one in the area, reportedly was asked if he had a charitable foundation of his own--the prerequisite for running a bingo parlor. Indeed, he did: the Irving I Moskowitz Foundation.

On Sept. 13, 1988, the city council named his foundation to take over the Bingo Club. By 1991, the Bingo Club was taking in $34 million annually. According to foundation tax returns, $24 million was given out in prizes, $511,000 was paid to security forces, the doctor reportedly paid himself $310,000 in rent for the bingo hall, and $30,000 a month was earmarked for a food bank for the city's needy. The latter was run by Hawaiian Gardens city councilwoman Kathleen Navejas' husband.

Despite growing bingo profits, however, the city remained a shabby and seedy community. Then a corporation headed by Moskowitz persuaded city officials to allot $5.5 million in redevelopment funds to purchase several acres next to the bingo parlor and give it to the corporation. Moskowitz was to repay half the money and develop a supermarket that would bring in $250,000 in taxes annually.

Small businesses previously existing on the land protested, claiming it was a ploy to bring in a gambling casino. Mayor Robert Canada went on record that he would "not vote in any form for a poker casino." Dennis Duski, whose garden center was lost in the takeover of the land, stated: "He [Moskowitz] owns Hawaiian Gardens and they do whatever he wants."

The supermarket never materialized. Instead, in 1995, the city was faced with a new expense. It had to come up with $500,000 annually to pay salaries of a police force to replace patrols previously provided by the Los Angeles County sheriff's department. The city, however, was broke. …

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