Gambling money finances new East Jerusalem settlement

Irving Moskowitz (standing) speaking at the Beit Orot settlement he also financed in East Jerusalem (Photo: Wikipedia)

With revenues extracted from an impoverished community in southern California, the Irving Moskowitz Foundation deepens the Judaisation of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced Monday, 2 April that he intends to promote the establishment of Kidmat Zion, a new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. About 200 new homes are being planned for the settlement that lies between the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighbourhoods of Abu Dis and Jabal Mukkaber, close to the Separation Wall. The planning budget for the new settlement has yet to be approved by the Knesset Finance Committee.

The settlement is to be built on a plot of land purchased by U.S. millionaire Irving Moskowitz from ultra-orthodox Jews who own it since the turn of the 20th century. While Israel recognizes property rights of Jews who purchased land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank previous to the 1948 Middle East war, it denies the same rights to Palestinians and other Arabs.

Irving Moskowitz is a Florida-based businessman who built a business purchasing and selling hospitals, as well as investing in gambling in the American state of California. In 1988 he took over the Bingo parlor of Hawaiian Gardens, a small town in Los Angeles County, California. The town agreed to accept 1% of gross receipts, and Moskowitz kept the rest.

California state law demands that bingos should be run on a not-for-profit basis, and Moskowitz thus established the Irving I. Moskowitz Foundation to administer the operation in Hawaiian Gardens. The bingo parlor is open 363 days a year and staffed by “volunteers,” many of them reported to be undocumented workers who work six or seven days a week for tips. In recent years, the foundation has raked in between $30 million and $40 million in revenues. The casino was unsuccessfully sued by concerned citizens in the United States for alleged abuses committed against its workers.

In 1993 Moskowitz started to build a casino in the town and the operating license was renewed in 2005. Community activists in Hawaiian Gardens claim that the permit to build the casino was gained by bribing local politicians.

The Irving Moskowitz Foundation, established in 1968, claims on its website that it aims “to help people in need regardless of race, creed, politics or religion”.  The foundation also claims that in the city of Hawaiian Gardens, proceeds from the Bingo Club benefit the residents of the city through social action organizations such as Head Start and The United Community Group, and through the Foundation’s direct support of the Hawaiian Gardens Food Bank, children’s athletic programs, scholarship awards, health care programs, and educational initiatives. The Bingo Club has also played a role in revitalizing the Hawaiian Gardens community.

However, the foundation reports that less than $ 100,000 was invested in the Hawaiian Gardens Food Bank in 2008 and an additional $ 100,000 in Hawaiian Gardens Public Safety and Police Foundation. The foundation also takes pride for organizing a “Mexican fiesta” in Hawaiian Gardens.

On the other hand, the gambling money from Hawaiian Gardens is channeled through extreme right wing organizations, such as El’ad and Ateret Cohanim, to finance settlements within Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

Moskowitz’s revenues from Hawaiian Gardens bingo and casino also serve to support U.S. neoconservative organizations that promote hard-line Israel-centric Mideast policies. These include the Hudson Institute, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Center for Security Policy (CSP).

Praising Moskowitz’s generous funding, David Wurmser, an adviser on the Middle East to then-Vice President Dick Cheney and a former AEI fellow, once said that the bingo mogul was a “gentle man whose generous support of AEI allows me to be here.”

In related news, the Israeli High Court of Justice turned down a petition by descendants of the Mufti of Jerusalem against the sale of land to Moskowitz that was once owned by Haj Amin al-Husseini.

Muna Husseini,  the granddaughter of Husseini, has said she wants to build a center for Israeli-Arab coexistence on the East Jerusalem site, on which the Shepherd’s Hotel was later built. Israel’s Custodian of Absentee Property sold the property, which ended up in the hands of Moskowitz.

The court accepted the position of the state, which argued that the petition against the sale was submitted too late.

* This article was published by the Alternative Information Center (AIC)

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