The al-Hawa family transported Muhammad's remains back to Jerusalem for burial. But the neighborhood seethed. Finally, at a makeshift cemetery miles down a sand-choked road to the east, the family put Muhammad in the earth.

At some point in 2006, according to reports in the Jerusalem Post, Muhammad Abu al-Hawa had sold his three-story house in the neighborhood At-Tur to a settlement group called El'ad through a Palestinian middleman. Active in the warrens of East Jerusalem, El'ad is a major recipient of money from Irving and Cherna Moskowitz. Since 2004, the couple has given the group, also known as Ir David — which means "City of David" — $5.6 million, nearly one-fifth of its budget during that period.

"No one knows exactly what happened," al-Hawa's uncle Ibrahim Abu al-Hawa tells New Times while reclining in his East Jerusalem house, strewn with leather furniture and books. "We don't think he sold his house directly to a Jew. But after he was killed, all of the secrets died with him."

Irving Moskowitz, 85, hasn't been seen publicly in years, but his influence reverberates across Israel.
Wikimedia Commons / Mazel123
Irving Moskowitz, 85, hasn't been seen publicly in years, but his influence reverberates across Israel.
The Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem once housed a Muslim spiritual leader in Jerusalem. Moskowitz bought it in 1985 and tore it down earlier this year.
Wikimedia Commons
The Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem once housed a Muslim spiritual leader in Jerusalem. Moskowitz bought it in 1985 and tore it down earlier this year.

His nephew, he says, has now been dead for six years, and Arab life in East Jerusalem has darkened. Where al-Hawa's house once stood, El'ad constructed a high-rise for seven Jewish families.

And today, it seems men like Moskowitz have won. Every day, more Jewish settlers arrive, while al-Hawa's wife and children — ostracized and destitute — eke out an existence in the margins. "They've lost everything," Ibrahim says.

A red-checkered scarf shadowed Ibrahim's features. His teeth were yellowed and decayed. He was quiet for a moment, thinking.

"People are scared," Ibrahim says. "They don't trust anyone. You sell your house to a Jew and you're dead. I will never sell my house! I would be an ugly man! We are forbidden. We need it for our children."

Again, he paused. "I'm not a citizen of any country. I don't have a passport. I'm not allowed to vote. I can't work anywhere in the world, and even if I leave, I can't come back. What's the difference between me and a Jew?"

The short answer: rights and money.

On a California afternoon in 1988, Irving Moskowitz puttered his battered baby-blue Cadillac down Los Alamitos Boulevard in Los Angeles County, pulling up to a cheap seafood joint called the Fish Company. Wearing jeans and a tucked-in Izod polo, he hurried to the entrance. Moskowitz, then 60, graying, and recently arrived from Miami, was late.

A thin, dark-haired 30-something named Kathy Navejas watched Moskowitz hustle over, ease into a chair across from her, and order a plate of salmon. Navejas was mayor of Hawaiian Gardens, a city of 15,000 mostly Latino residents two dozen miles south of downtown L.A. They'd met to talk bingo.

Hawaiian Gardens is less than one square mile, half the size of Wynwood. Fewer than 10 percent of its residents have bachelor's degrees or higher, and one in five lives below the poverty line. It's one of seven cities in Los Angeles County that allows casino gambling, and its primary source of revenue — the local bingo hall — had recently been sold to Moskowitz for $4 million.

But there was a problem. Moskowitz didn't have a city bingo license. So he schmoozed the young mayor. "He told me these amazing stories about his childhood, and he was just so intriguing," says Navejas. Moskowitz reminded her of her father. "I was mesmerized by his way of speaking. He came from nothing." Within weeks, Navejas had built political support for Moskowitz, and he had his license.

The bingo parlor became an immediate cash cow for Israeli radicals, according to tax records collected by the Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens & Jerusalem, an anti-Moskowitz organization. In 1987, the year before Moskowitz opened the bingo club, he gave only $6,750 to a Zionist group called Ateret Cohanim, which settles Jewish families near some of the holiest sites in the Muslim world.

But with the bingo club churning out $33 million per year, Moskowitz sank much, much more into its proxy, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim (the name translates to "Crown of the Priests.") Through 1994, the bingo king gave the American group $2.35 million — all of it tax deductible, all of it funneled to Jerusalem. "The Moskowitz family is a very unique family in many ways," says Daniel Luria, Aterit Cohanim's director general. "They've done wonderful work for Jerusalem... and they've had involvement with us throughout the years."

Throughout the 1990s, as the United Nations condemned settlement in the conquered areas and President Bill Clinton urged peace, Moskowitz provided $35 million to some of the most right-wing organizations in Israel. Nearly $7 million went to an American Friends of Mercaz Harav Kook, which Mother Jones called the "intellectual leadership and core of the settler movement." Another $4.1 million streamed to the American Friends of the Everest Foundation, which builds homes across the West Bank. And $1.2 million was channeled to the One Israel Fund, another organization funding Israeli communities in the West Bank.

During the 1990 Gulf War, Jerry Levine helped Moskowitz fly a jumbo jet of Jews into Israel. Moskowitz wanted to flout warnings that Jews shouldn't enter the nation. "He's a defiant kind of guy," says Levine, who lives in Miami. "If you look at it from the U.S. perspective, he's not helping our policy, but he doesn't care what the U.S. policy is. He doesn't want anyone ever to know what he's doing... He's a powerful man. He doesn't stop. If he has a goal, he's going to achieve it."

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@Zayd Awadallah South Florida Millionaire Irving Moskowitz's Millions Thwart Middle East Peace

By Terrence McCoy


Anyone who thinks that but for settlements the Palestinians would be in love and peace with Israel must also still believe in the Easter Bunny, that Santa Clause still exists, and that Google is closing Youtube today.

smdrpepper topcommenter

Is there any wonder why the Arab world hates the West so much?  If you want peace in the Middle East, people like this need to stop funding the hatred.  He is no better than the Nazis.