"Would you want someone to invade your house?"

There was a moment, years ago, when it seemed as though Moskowitz would be stopped.

In 2001, a new California regulation required casino operators to undergo background checks to ensure they were of "good character." Larry Flint sailed through the proceedings. But drama concerning Irving Moskowitz saturated state gambling commission hearings for weeks, luring an unusual cast of characters.

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.

Ed Asner, a 75-year-old star of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, wobbled into a commission meeting in 2004 and intoned: "We strongly question whether [Moskowitz] is a good character." Asner, raised Orthodox Jewish and chairman of the grassroots and nationwide stopmoskowitz.org, added, "Let Hawaiian Gardens go free."

But the commission granted Moskowitz a permanent license, and soon after, stopmoskowitz.org disbanded. Today, Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, a soft-spoken and gray-haired man who devoted a decade to stopmoskowitz.org, speaks of the bingo monarch with resignation. "He's an evil genius," Beliak says. "Israel is a failed Zionist dream. We have a homeland but no peace. Moskowitz isn't losing power."

If anything, he's strengthened. Since 2002, Cherna and Irving Moskowitz have dumped at least $52 million into organizations supporting the elimination of Palestine — nearly doubling what they gave in the 1990s. In the past four years alone, the Cherna Moskowitz Foundation has given $19.4 million. "The Moskowitz family has helped change the map of Jerusalem," family acquaintance Ronn Torossian says. "And the face of Jerusalem."

To be sure, Moskowitz isn't the only American to plunge big money into the explosive region. Ira Rennert, an investor living in Brooklyn, has also donated more than $10 million to Ateret Cohanim, the right-wing settlement group. Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas millionaire who bankrolled Newt Gingrich's and Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns, owns and pumps $20 million annually into the neoconservative paper Israel Hayom, the largest daily in the nation.

South Florida families besides Mosko­witz have also given big. Gita Galbut of Miami spearheaded a sprawling condominium complex for wealthy Jews in East Jerusalem named Nof Zion, and according to a resident comment board, neighboring Palestinians have stoned the buildings and residents. "The Arabs are frustrated they're not residents," says Gita Galbut's husband, David. When a New Times reporter asks whether frustration had emerged concerning Nof Zion's location, David Galbut replies without pause: "There is no Palestine. The Arabs that live in Israel are thriving. They love Israel." Referring to Nof Zion, he adds: "This wasn't political. It was for business." The complex faced bankruptcy in 2011.

Tax records from 2010 show the Falic family of Hollywood plowed nearly $1 million into organizations supporting settlements in occupied territories. The family declined both interviews and to release additional tax records.

But the full breadth of private U.S. investment in Israel — let alone the occupied territories — is nearly impossible to quantify. The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs magazine says $1 billion channels to Israel every year in private American donations. Even that figure, however, is opaque. The U.S. government neither monitors American money to settlement groups nor wants to talk about it. The State Department didn't return requests for comment.

What's more, the Israeli government has long abetted if not encouraged settlement activity under the banner of security. Settlers pay lower taxes than other Israelis, can buy land at a discounted price, have free education from the age of 3, and are eligible for wide-ranging farming subsidies — none of which is available to their Arab neighbors.

To supporters of Moskowitz, any international push to restrict settlements infringes on Israel's sovereignty and constitutes racism. "Why can't a Jew buy a home in Jerusalem without getting negative attention? Dr. Moskowitz has done everything legally," Torossian says. "He's only guilty of loving the Jewish people."

And many Israelis love him back. Yisrael Medad, a gray-haired and -bearded settler who traded a Bronx residence for a swath of brown hills in the northern West Bank, says the gambling tycoon and others have enabled his communities to educate a burgeoning population of 60,000 residents. "He's one of the top partners in the establishment of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland," Medad says.

When clashes with Arabs erupt at Medad's settlement — which has occurred several times in the past two decades, killing eight Jews, including a 5-month-old child — men like Moskowitz provide some degree of security. "Our determination to live here isn't supposed colonialism. This is the Jewish national home. And we've done very well in increasing our presence."

Once, Moskowitz visited Medad and the others in the West Bank. But that was years ago, and today, Medad doesn't know what's happened to the reclusive bingo king.

Few people, in fact, do.

Irving Moskowitz has lived in Miami Beach for more than 30 years, but despite all of his clout in other parts of the nation and world, few in his home city have met him. He's a name, appearing in the newspapers and at the top of donor lists, but rarely manifested in flesh.

Along a narrow road hugging Biscayne Bay is a white Spanish mansion framed in red flowers. In front of Irving Moskowitz's house sits a Miami Beach squad car, parked to deter attempts at assassination. His mailbox lid drops to a conveyer belt that pulls notes behind the bunker's walls; this, by every account, is the only remaining way to contact the casino king.

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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.