But Moskowitz was only getting started. In 1996, when peace talks were at a delicate stage, he funded a tunnel under the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, spurring bloody riots that killed 60 Palestinians and 15 Israelis. "He completely destroys any chance of peace," Jeff Halper, director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, recently told New Times. "Peace for him is threatening, and it's not that he's just funding settlements but he's supporting the most extreme settlements in Israel."

Around this time in Hawaiian Gardens, Navejas was beginning to realize Mosko­witz wasn't an affable father figure. In 1996, months after the assassination of dovish Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, reporters hounded her about the bingo club's owner. They questioned why she'd signed financial agreements with Moskowitz that granted the city only 1 percent of his club's revenues.

"I'd made a mistake," she says now. "I let him take complete advantage of a poor community that didn't understand, that wasn't sophisticated."

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.

But by then, it was too late. Moskowitz owned the city. "Irving Moskowitz is 75 percent of our revenue," current Hawaiian Gardens Mayor Michael Gomez tells New Times. "We're really small, with no industry at all. And without Moskowitz, we'd only have property taxes."

Though Moskowitz at the time was pumping millions into charity in Hawaiian Gardens — the bogeymen label stuck. Protests swept the city.

He incensed the community even more in 1997 by evicting 16 destitute families living in a "row of clapboard apartment units set on a narrow asphalt alleyway," the Jewish Week reported. In all, more than 50 lawsuits were filed against Moskowitz and his holdings, ranging from allegations of negligence to failure to prevent discrimination. (New Times could discern dispositions in only 20 of these suits, 18 of which were dismissed. Two complaints filed in 2011, which allege failure to prevent discrimination at Hawaiian Gardens Casino, have entered arbitration. Messages left with Moskowitz's attorney, Beryl Weiner, weren't returned.)

In 2000, a committee of the California Legislature concluded that Moskowitz, ensconced hundreds of miles away in his Miami Beach mansion, had violated state law when he used the city's money to build a casino. "Hawaiian Gardens provides an example of what can go wrong when redevelopment is manipulated for the benefit of one individual rather than the community," the report said.

One day around this time, Navejas met the millionaire recluse, whom she hadn't seen in years. She recalls arriving at a downtown Los Angeles office and entering a Spartan conference room. There was Moskowitz, sitting demurely, hands clasped. He smiled and asked whether they could figure things out.

"My rose-colored glasses are off," she remembers saying. "And I'm not going to let you take this community."

Pain flashed in his gray eyes. "I thought we had a friendship," he murmured. "It's my money."

"It's the community's money," Navejas told him. "You got the license from us."

"It's my money," Moskowitz repeated. "And I'll do with it what I want."


And what Irving Moskowitz wanted, on a sun-washed morning in East Jerusalem decades later, was eviction.

At 8 o'clock that morning, several Israeli police cars stopped before a squat house and disgorged a dozen blue-uniformed officers onto the craggy earth. The settlers — tall, scraggly men — soon appeared, leathered faces scowling. In their hands was barbed wire.

A rotund and unshaven man named Khaled Hamdallah stepped out of his small house, the lone Palestinian residence near a cluster of ivory-colored Jewish condominiums. For years, the only thing that stopped the settlers from encroaching deeper into this crowded Arab neighborhood called Ras al-Amud, had been the Hamdallah family.

Khaled, age 46, settled a pair of black aviators onto his round face. The settlers, he saw, were just about to begin work.

They drilled one of Hamdallah's doors shut. Next, they slapped plastic over an entryway, sealing off that room for habitation. Relative Ahmed Hamdallah; his wife, Amani; and their 1-year-old son, Yazan, were all kicked out. The room now belonged to Irving I. Moskowitz and his settlers.

Last March, following a 17-year legal campaign that included four lawsuits in Israeli court, Moskowitz was awarded one room in the house. A judge decided the Hamdallahs had illegally added onto their house in the mid-1980s, violating city law.

More than a dozen reporters had arrived to cover any protest, but everything was calm. The scene was neither sudden nor lurid and reflected broader themes in the settler movement. It's slow encroachment: house by house, room by room. Moskowitz expended nearly two decades and thousands in legal fees to expel three people, to annex one room in one house for the settlers.

Now the Hamdallah family shares the house — which extends like boxcars in a train — with three settlers, who declined to comment when a New Times reporter approached them. "Moskowitz's money causes hatred," says Khaled Hamdallah, the family patriarch. "He's helping the Jews against the Arabs, and it causes hatred, even death."

Most days, the settlers and Hamdallah, even the children, maintain silence. Barbed wire divides the residences, stretching across the courtyard out front. The Israelis sometimes warn Hamdallah they plan to open a Jewish restaurant in the house. Trivial matters assume grand significance. There have been arguments over laundry cables, dogs, and loud music. "The settlers have guns," Khaled Hamdallah said recently. "If we do anything wrong, they'll say, 'The Arabs came and did this and they did that' and then they'll start coming after our kids.

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5 comments
mrwheat
mrwheat

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
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.

david1749
david1749

The Nazis learned genocide methods from the Arabs. See the Armenian genocide for details. The cause of this conflict is far deeper and more twisted than any simple answer.

These on going battles do not resemble most current 19th and 20th century conflicts where a victory in war decides things. Here there is war after war, and low level conflicts in between the wars. This more resembles the Carthaginian wars to me where neither side would accept peace, or even defeat. Finally the Romans, with overwhelming might got the Carthaginians to accept a peace treaty under condition of disarmament. Once Carthaginian arms and armor was safely loaded into Roman ships, the Roman army arrived and destroyed Carthage and it's people. I think that is the Arab plan. The backup plan is just to have lots of kids and become the majority population in Israel, and the Jews once more become wanderers of the world. No easy solutions for this war weary world.

smdrpepper
smdrpepper topcommenter

@david1749 Actually you are completely wrong.  The Nazis did their thing all on their own.  However, the Palestinians learned terrorism from the Israelis.

david1749
david1749

@smdrpepper @david1749 Actually I am not wrong. If you will look into the methods the "New Turks" used against the Armenians, you will find many of the tricks the Nazi's later used on the European Jews. These methods were not new. Please drop the know-it-all attitude and look into it. I am waiting for the Palestinians to convict one of their own for a war crime. The Jews have done this, but to the Palestinians, anything goes. Do you know the ancient Greek meaning of the term Bar-Bar?

 
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