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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 1997, pgs. 68-71

California Chronicle

Israeli Settlers, Soldiers Attack and Trash East Jerusalem Orphanage

By Pat McDonnell Twair

The pressure of encroaching Judaization of East Jerusalem has increased four-fold since the election of Likud party ideologue Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel. Nowhere is it stronger than in the traditionally upscale Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarah. Orient House, unofficial headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority in Jerusalem, has been the special target of the Netanyahu regime and of Jewish settlers who stationed themselves in front of the elegant old structure the day Netanyahu’s victory was announced. Directly across the street from Orient House is the 106-year-old Dar Husseini (Husseini House), which since April 25, 1948 has been the site of an orphanage called Dar El Tifl (Children’s House).

Nearly 50 years after the orphanage was established for 55 tiny survivors of a massacre of Palestinian villagers by Jewish terrorists, Israeli militants still are threatening youngsters who live inside its walls. Why would Israeli extremists want to terrorize Palestinian orphans, theWashington Report on Middle East Affairs, asked Dalal Muhtadi, president of Dar El Tifl-USA.

“It’s simple,” she replied. “Religious fanatics in Israel want to wipe out every indication of a Palestinian presence in Jerusalem.”

One of the first Zionist attempts to do exactly that took place April 9, 1948, when 254 Palestinian civilians were massacred in the hilltop village of Deir Yassin, overlooking the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road, by members of the Irgun and Stern Gang Jewish militias, supported by artillerymen of the Haganah, the future army of Israel. While many of the victims were women and children, 55 traumatized infants and youngsters were spared by being trucked to East Jerusalem and dumped on a street in the Arab quarter. There Hind Husseini, a member of a leading Muslim family in Jerusalem, found the terrified survivors huddling against a wall and gave them shelter inside her family mansion. Two weeks later, on her 32nd birthday, Husseini officially named her family home Dar El Tifl. The orphanage grew and, before the 1967 Israeli invasion, two four-story buildings were constructed on the grounds. Today there are 250 orphans and 1,450 day students. Instruction is from kindergarten through the 12th grade. Dar El Tifl also operates a college devoted to Palestinian arts and culture, a joint venture with Jerusalem University. The original family residence now houses a primary health clinic downstairs and guest quarters upstairs for international visitors.

Over the years, Miss Hind turned down offers of millions of U.S. dollars for her property and, shortly before her death in 1995, she took the ultimate step in protecting it from falling into the hands of the Israelis by registering it as a possession of the Waqf (the Islamic religious authority).

“Extremist Jews say that eventually they will take over the Haram al Sharif,” Muhtadi shrugged, “but until they go to those outrageous limits, Dar El Tifl should remain out of their grasp.”

That doesn’t mean that mean-spirited settlers don’t do their best to make life miserable—even scary—for Dar El Tifl students. Twice, settlers have broken the gate of the school, entered the playground area and threatened children. Inasmuch as Orient House, across the street, is a target of the fanatical settlers, they’ve installed themselves in front of the school and raised wooden signs painted with a skull and crossbones on the school wall. As the day students approach the school, the racist settlers make them walk a gauntlet of insults and loud curses.

This has been described by Mahira Dajani, head of Dar El Tifl’s board of trustees, who writes: “The scholastic year 1995/ 1996 was the worst year in the history of Dar El Tifl. We have tried to teach our children the love of peace and to train them to accept peaceful co-existence as a reality and to forget the evils of war. The presence of settlers outside the school gate changed the children’s outlook on life as a whole. The settlers harassed the children in many ways, including: uttering filthy words and making lewd gestures, throwing rotten fruit and empty bottles at the school gate and inside the school grounds, and trespassing onto the school grounds repeatedly so that the school has been forced to erect a wire fence over the wall.”

The school wall has become a favorite place for Israeli troops to stand, thus imposing a siege mentality on the children in the playground. Since Netanyahu’s election, the military presence has been increased in front of Orient House. School officials complain the live ammunition the soldiers use has a bad smell. But the odor of gunpowder is nothing compared to the stench of urine. Portable latrines have been set up in front of the school for the soldiers’ use, but they relieve themselves throughout the area, the Palestinians believe, as a deliberate insult.

“You can’t imagine how terrible it is,” Muhtadi commented. “The urine odor is overwhelming for a three-block radius.”

Many day students have transferred to other schools rather than be chased and threatened by settlers. The Israeli policy of making Jerusalem off-bounds to West Bank and Gazan Palestinians has left students from the West Bank and Gaza with one of two choices: becoming boarders at Dar El Tifl and seldom visiting their families, or leaving Dar El Tifl for schools closer to home. Israelis also have tried to lure Dar El Tifl teachers and staff away with better salaries.

“It’s a difficult choice for many of the teachers,” Muhtadi explained. “Of course they have loyalty for us, but Palestinians are squeezed financially and if they can feed their families with three times the salary we pay, it is understandable in some cases.” The school also has lost those of its teachers who live on the West Bank, because Israel won’t grant them identity cards to enter Jerusalem.

Two of the children who have been brought to live at Dar El Tifl are Sabreen, 5, and Wafa, 15. Sabreen’s father was shot and killed after he finished his prayers at a mosque in Gaza. At the time, Sabreen’s mother, who suffers from heart problems and has twice undergone surgery, was pregnant with her third child. She had no choice but to leave Sabreen at Dar. Wafa is from Bethlehem, where her mother was shot dead by Israeli bullets when she was shopping. Her father is unemployed. He brought Wafa and her two brothers and two sisters to Dar.

Despite the daily obscenities by settlers in the name of their religion, and the protection of the settlers by the soldiers of the Netanyahu regime, which only wants to acquire real estate, Muhtadi’s organization raised $14,000 for Dar El Tifl in 1996. But after the carnage at Qana, Lebanon, where some 105 Lebanese civilians were killed in April 1996 by deliberate Israeli shelling of a United Nations camp, half of the proceeds were devoted to a project on behalf of Qana victims. Muhtadi learned a used Red Cross ambulance was soon to go on sale for $10,000 in Germany. She formed an emergency committee of Arab-American businessmen in Orange County, CA, and they raised an additional $3,000 to meet the full price of the ambulance. Pharmaceuticals and an EKG machine were donated in Europe and put into the ambulance which was shipped to Beirut in December. Once the vehicle was unloaded, signpainters wrote in red letters in Arabic on the side of the ambulance: “From the Children of Deir Yassin to the Children of Qana with Love.”

Anyone caring to donate to Dar El Tifl may contact Muhtadi at (714) 777-0645 or write to P.O. Box 611, Yorba Linda, CA 92686.

Moskowitz Wins in Hawaiian Gardens

Of the American Jewish millionaires financing the extremist Ateret Cohanim organization’s program to usurp property in Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim quarters, the name of Irving Moskowitz is best known. CBS’s “60 Minutes” reported on Dec. 15 that Moskowitz has donated $2.3 million to American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and millions more to other organizations for the same purpose. Most of these funds allegedly come from a bingo parlor operated by Moskowitz in the bankrupt Los Angeles suburb of Hawaiian Gardens. It was Moskowitz, incidentally, who financed and was guest of honor at the September opening of the tunnel near the Haram al Sharif that sparked riots killing 60 Palestinians and 15 Israeli soldiers.

After Moskowitz sought to open a cardclub in Hawaiian Gardens, City Councilwoman Kathleen Navejas asked for full financial reports on Moskowitz’ use of bingo parlor profits. Instead of getting the reports, she suddenly ran up against opposition from the city council and other city employees. So Navejas launched litigation to inspect the financial records of Moskowitz’ Hawaiian Gardens operation. People on the Moskowitz payroll responded by demanding her recall. The city police department sided with Navejas last October by refusing to drop an investigation of missing market equipment that Moskowitz employees allegedly were seen trying to sell on the streets of Riverside, a city 50 miles east of Los Angeles. The Hawaiian Gardens city council then moved to abolish the police department.

Explained Ray Gillmore, president of the Police Officers Association, “The issues Kathy Navejas brought up about casino operations made us wonder why, if Moskowitz’s [proposed new] casino was legitimate, it wasn’t already in this town.”

On Dec. 17, Navejas lost the recall election, but the 21-member police force was busy monitoring activities at the seven polling stations in Hawaiian Gardens. According to Navejas, the city clerk opened a polling place without prior advertisement and accepted absentee ballots on the weekend before the race. Along with the police, Moskowitz employees with walkie-talkies in hand kept track of who entered the polling places. Police arrested on voter fraud charges a Moskowitz employee who repeatedly delivered absentee ballots. Moskowitz’s attorney, Beryl Weiner, followed police to the Lakewood station and bailed out the individual arrested.

“Kathleen Navejas lost and we lost,” said Gillmore, who predicted that the police department’s days are numbered. Moskowitz now plans to replace the city police with Los Angeles County sheriffs. “Can they be bribed if they question Moskowitz’ tactics?” the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, asked.

“I don’t see how they could,” Gillmore responded. “Our police department certainly wasn’t bribed.”

Navejas wasn’t so sure. “How do you control a man who buys votes and people?” she asked in a phone interview. “He keeps people on two payrolls. His goons go from the bingo hall to the city hall. Why don’t the authorities just go in with search warrants and see where the money is going?”

At this point, some Hawaiian Gardens citizens seem willing to have Moskowitz continue to funnel millions to right-wing Jewish fanatics in Israel so long as these citizens, a significant percentage of the residents of tiny Hawaiian Gardens, remain on the Moskowitz payroll.

“We keep asking for help from our congressman, from the state attorney’s office, and no one is doing anything,” Navejas complained. Her attorney is pursuing a suit on the legality of the card club and of the Dec. 17 elections, but Moskowitz is countersuing Navejas for damages in holding up the license for the card club.

“Ultimately,” her attorney said, “the state attorney general can prevent Moskowitz from getting a license if he believes there are illegalities.” The big challenge is to nudge the IRS into conducting an investigation into the millions of tax-exempt dollars Moskowitz has sent to right-wing Jewish entities dedicated to takeovers, with significant help from the extremist Netanyahu government, of Christian and Muslim properties in Jerusalem. The “60 Minutes” program, America’s most widely viewed television news program, already has called for such an investigation. But it is going to take a national campaign to put a crimp in the actions of the Big Kahuna of Hawaiian Gardens.

Rafiq Hariri Visits L.A.

Two days after Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri attended the Friends of Lebanon conference in Washington, DC that raised a pledge of $3.2 billion for the Arab state over the next four years, the billionaire contractor-turned-politician addressed the Los Angeles World Affairs Council in December. The Sunni Muslim leader demonstrated his savoir faire and lightning-fast wit in two languages as he dealt humorously with some unfriendly questions from right-wing Lebanese in the audience.

When it was suggested that Israel might withdraw its forces from Lebanon if Hezbollah forces were first disarmed, Hariri answered with a rhetorical question:

“Why disarm Hezbollah? If we were to do that, we would only help Israel to remain on our territory. This is not a normal situation at the beginning of the 21st century for part of civilized Lebanon to be occupied. The only solution is for Israel to obey international law and implement U.N. Resolution 425 calling for it to withdraw from Lebanon. I can only hope the Israeli leadership decides to live within the borders of Israel and to live peacefully with its neighbors by withdrawing from south Lebanon and the Golan and solving its problems with the Palestinians.”

When a question was posed about the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon, Hariri replied:

“The Syrian army has been in Lebanon for 20 years and is playing a positive role in helping to maintain security. Six years ago, we did not have a well-trained army. Today we do. And we have well-trained internal security forces. The Syrians are helping us and they won’t move until Israel is out. We will not jeopardize our country.”

Another query dealt with corruption in Lebanon’s government.

“This is not fair,” Hariri responded. “Our government is doing its very best. We have very honest people who used to work outside the country. They returned to work [in Lebanon] for very low salaries because they want to serve their country. In a democracy, people sometimes throw words around without evidence or thinking how badly it reflects on the country. I can’t say there is no corruption, but I can say my government is doing its best to lead the country to a better future.” Then, in an aside that brought a ripple of laughter from the audience, he continued: “I would be delighted if you can supply me with the name and proof of a corrupt person and we will try him by the law.”

Another query asked when the religion of an individual will no longer appear on Lebanese identity cards.

“This is a very sensitive question,” Hariri replied. “Lebanon is a democratic country, but a very particular country in which Muslims and Christians are living together. The president must be Maronite Christian, the prime minister Sunni Muslim, the speaker Shi’i Muslim and the parliament members half Christian, half Muslim. Some people don’t like this situation, but I don’t think it should be touched unless an overwhelming majority of Christians ask for a change. I don’t want anyone in our population to feel insecure.”

When asked if Armenians and other minorities are involved in reconstruction projects in Lebanon, he quipped: “Most of the Armenians are here [in Los Angeles]. But I would be happy to see them participate. They are more than welcome.”

Hariri again earned chuckles from the audience when he addressed a query as to why only Beirut is undergoing massive reconstruction.

“This is from someone who is not from Beirut,” he said. “You see more going on in Beirut because the destruction was centered there and the population is concentrated there. All of Lebanon is one big construction site, we are building telephone and road networks throughout the country.”

Asked when Lebanon plans to increase the minimum wage, Hariri responded, “We don’t want inflation, which would hurt the poor before anyone else. We are trying to increase salaries on a par with the cost of living.”

Why, another questioner asked, did President Clinton seek loans for Lebanon but did not lift the U.S. State Department ban on Americans traveling to Lebanon?

“The war is over, security is assured,” Hariri said. “Thousands of Americans go to Lebanon and they are not hurt. We can only hope the problem will be solved as soon as possible and that American and Lebanese American businessmen will invest in Lebanon.”

L.A. 8 Win Small Victory

In the first ruling on a key section of the controversial Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson rejected on Jan. 13 the Justice Department’s request that he dismiss a case filed by members of the L.A. 8 contending the government is violating their First Amendment rights.

It was the latest development in the 10-year-old campaign by the Justice Department and Immigration and Naturalization Service to deport the seven Palestinians and the Kenyan wife of one of them on the allegation that they were supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In November 1995, the 9th Circuit ruled that under Supreme Court precedents, “guilt by association” violates the First Amendment. Earlier legislation ruled that non-citizens also deserve First Amendment protections. The appeals court said the government failed to show that the L.A. 8 had a “specific intent” to further any illegal aims of the PFLP.

Using the new IIRIR Act, the government filed papers in December stating the 1996 law deprives federal trial courts of jurisdiction over challenging deportation proceedings and that the L.A. 8 suit should be dismissed. Wilson ruled Jan. 13 that the L.A. 8 are entitled to have their claims of selective prosecution heard before any deportation suit is held. He reasoned that the defendants’ First Amendment rights have a higher priority than any other claims.

If the Los Angeles federal judge had ruled in favor of the government, it would have granted the go-ahead to the INS to re-open deportation proceedings against the eight.

Shapiro Donates to JDL

When Los Angeles attorney Robert Shapiro, who achieved national prominence as a defense attorney in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, received a Christmas week visit from Jewish Defense League chairman Irv Rubin, Shapiro reportedly gave the tough-talking Rubin a $1,000 cash donation. Later, Rubin bragged on TV that Shapiro gave him oral permission to try to collect $500,000 in legal fees Shapiro says Simpson owes him.

Asked about Rubin’s boast, Shapiro responded that Rubin “solicited a contribution to his organization, and I did make a cash contribution. Neither Mr. Rubin nor the Jewish Defense League is authorized to do anything regarding Mr. Simpson.”

Rubin is a regular fixture outside the Santa Monica Courthouse, where TV cameras show him shouting slurs at Simpson. Simpson now is defending himself against wrongful death charges in a civil suit filed by the parents of murder victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Rubin’s excuse for being there is that one of the victims, Goldman, was Jewish.

A Cedars Bank in Orange County

Cedars Bank (formerly Bank Audi of Lebanon) has been in Los Angeles for a decade, and in December it officially opened its Orange County branch with an al fresco buffet at Prego Ristorante adjacent to its headquarters in the city of Irvine. More than 300 well-wishers were on hand, including former Oregon Governor Victor Atiyeh, a Lebanese American.

After a period of relative calm, tension began to build again last August, when a group of motorcyclists arrived in Greek Cyprus determined to ram their way through the U.N.-controlled buffer zone. Turkish defenders killed two bikers when they tried to carry out their threat. Tension increased in November when Turkey ordered its warplanes to overfly the Cypriot capital of Nicosia—a move that Greek Cypriots now use to justify the purchase of an air defense system.

If escalating tension is not enough to persuade the international community to focus again on peacemaking in Cyprus, expected negotiations with the EU over Cypriot membership is certain to do the trick.

With Turkish and Greek Cyprus so deeply divided and unable to agree on a solution to their inter-communal conflict, the government in Nicosia can only negotiate on behalf of the Greek Cypriots.

That raises complex questions for both Turkey and the EU, including whether Europe wishes to import the Cyprus conflict by adopting only one of the island’s communities. At the same time, Turkey is unlikely to take kindly to Greek Cypriot membership at a time when Europe is unwilling to honor Turkey’s own long-standing request to become part of the union.

Some European officials believe that the prospect of EU membership negotiations with Greek Cyprus as well as glaring economic disparity between the more prosperous Greek and economically lagging Turkish parts of the island, may serve to break down resistance in Turkey to a compromise resolution.

to do with Israel that will end the honeymoon for Annan, who will have to reconcile his almost certain attempt at a second term with what most acquaintances identify as his basic integrity and honesty. As Boutros-Ghali’s demise shows, it will not help him to refer to international law, treaties or U.N. decisions in connection with Israel.

Ironically, that would probably reveal the complete ineptitude of Albright’s “success” in getting rid of Boutros-Ghali, an austere patrician whose sacking was opposed on principle rather than personality by most diplomats. Kofi Annan is charming, friendly, accessible, and much better on television than Boutros-Ghali. All that could make him a much more formidable opponent of the Israel-firsters on the U.S. domestic political front.