January 3, 2002
A local engineer, who jumped bail 16 years ago, pleaded guilty in federal court Dec. 28 to unlawfully exporting potential nuclear triggers to Israel.
Richard Kelly Smyth, 72, admitted shipping some 800 krytrons -- 2-inch long glass bulbs, whose applications range from high-speed photo copying to nuclear bomb triggers -- to Israel in the early 1980s, through the Israel-based Heli Trading Corp.
Heli was owned at the time by Arnon Milchan, a 10th-generation Israeli and one-time arms dealer and businessman, and now a major player in the Hollywood and international film industry.
Milchan is CEO of New Regency Productions, honorary chairman of the Israeli Film Festival in the United States, and producer of such hits as "Pretty Woman," "JFK" and "Under Siege."
In an interview with CBS television's "60 Minutes" last year, Milchan denied any role in the krytron case, but acknowledged that he allowed the Israeli government to use Heli as a conduit for trading with the United States.
He has not been charged with any offenses and a government source told the Los Angeles Times that the statue of limitations on possible prosecution has probably expired.
Israel returned most of the krytrons after Smyth's original indictment in 1985 and has maintained that they were never intended for use in a nuclear weapons program.
In the current case, the original 30-count indictment was reduced, under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, to one count of violating the U.S. Arms Export Control Act and one count of lying about the contents of an illegal shipment.
Smyth faces a maximum prison term of seven years and a $110,000 fine, with sentencing set for Feb. 28. His attorney, James Riddet, has asked U.S. Appeals Court Judge Pamela Rymer to limit the sentence to time already served.
In 1985, while first awaiting trial on the krytron charges, Smyth was freed on a $100,000 bond, and disappeared shortly thereafter with his wife, Emilie.
The couple was reportedly sighted in Israel, but Emilie Smyth told the Los Angeles Times that she and her husband had lived openly in southern Spain throughout the 16 years.
"Richard is a vice president of the American Club in Malaga and we were registered to vote in the local elections," she said.
Smyth's streak of luck ran out last July, when he filled out an application to open a bank account in Malaga. A check with Interpol turned up an outstanding American arrest warrant. He was taken into custody by Spanish police and extradited to the United States in November. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor.
Bill Would Impose Sanctions on Palestinians
A proposed amendment to the Senate Foreign Aid Bill for 2002 would impose sanctions on the Palestinian Authority for violence against Israel.
Introduced by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), SB 1409 -- the Middle East Compliance Act -- would require the president to determine if the Palestinian Authority has upheld its commitments under the 1993 Oslo accords, including the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for violence against Israelis. Violations of those commitments would, under the proposal, result in sanctions, including the suspension of assistance to the Palestinian Authority, denial of U.S. visas for Palestinian Authority officials, and a downgrade in the status of the PLO's U.S. office.
The text of the proposed bill is available at the Library of Congress Web site, http://thomas.loc.gov. -- Mike Levy, Staff Writer
WJCC to Stay Open Through June
Westside Jewish Community Center (WJCC) successfully raised more than $119,000 before a Dec. 31 deadline, which will be enough to keep the Fairfax/Olympic-area center open. The WJCC was one of five JCC centers slated to close its doors by Dec. 31.
The amount raised will fund operating expenses at WJCC for the next three months. Additional monies, pledged by a nonprofit corporation, will be made available in mid-April. Combined, the funds will keep the WJCC open through June.
Westside members will continue in their efforts to keep the flagship JCC open and develop its long-in-the-works WJCC Capital Campaign to renovate the facility.
"The community came through and raised $119,000," said Paula Pearlman, head of WJCC's Advisory Board. "It was a groundswell of support from big and little. These were mostly small donors."
Pearlman added that continued fundraising and a Tu B'Shevat concert next month will help toward those goals.
"The work's not over," Pearlman said. "There are also fundamental issues of governance that remains to be sorted out between the center and the JCCs of Greater Los Angeles."
On Sunday, Jan. 6, the WJCC will celebrate its short-term victory to keep the center open with a dairy potluck that is open to the community.
Meanwhile, Valley Cities JCC will hold a rally at its Burbank location on Wed., Jan. 9 at 5:30 p.m. to raise money to save that facility.
The WJCC is encouraging continued support of its facility. For more information, call (213) 938-2531 and visit www.savethejcc.org. --Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer
L.A. Hate Crimes Up
Hate crimes against people believed to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent have risen sharply in Los Angeles County in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In the three months between Sept. 11 and Dec. 12, reports of such hate crimes ran seven times higher than for all of last year, the L.A. County Human Rights Commission reported.
Ninety-two hate crimes against the target groups were listed in the three-month period, against 12 such occurrences during all of 2000. The last chronological entry in the commission's report is the Dec. 12 arrest of Irv Rubin and an associate of the militant Jewish Defense League for allegedly planning to blow up a mosque and the offices of an Arab American congressman.
Included in the current statistics are two murders, which are still being investigated as possible hate crimes.
One is the murder of a Coptic Christian grocer from Egypt, who was killed in his San Gabriel store. The second was a Palestinian American, who was killed while selling clothing door to door in South Los Angeles. In one response to the soaring hate crimes, actress Patricia Arquette has joined with other actors to create a series of radio public service announcements to combat hate and prejudice.
"Diversity makes America beautiful," Arquette, who has a Muslim father and a Jewish mother, told the Los Angeles Times. "My father celebrates Ramadan and my mother celebrates Chanukah." -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Sign Language Sermons
Starting in January, B'nai David-Judea will feature a sign-language interpreter for Shabbat morning sermons the second Saturday of every month.
The new program was inspired by a Shabbaton several months ago sponsored by "Our Way," the National Conference of Synagogue's Youths program for the hearing impaired. Dena Schechter, a member of B'nai David and professional interpreter, says the response to her signing the sermon at that Shabbaton was enthusiastic enough to prompt her to make sign interpretation a regular part of Shabbat morning services at the Orthodox congregation. "One of the central commitments that we have as a shul is to make ourselves and everything that we do as accessible as possible to the widest possible range of Jewish people," says Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, whose sermons will be interpreted.
Sign interpretation is scheduled the second Saturday of every months,starting Jan. 12. B'nai David Judea is at 8906 W. Pico Blvd., one block west of Roberston Boulevard. Services begin at 8:45 a.m. The sermon usually begins around 10:45 a.m. For more information call B'nai David at
310-276-9269. Information on this and other events can be found at the Jewish Deaf Community Center website at www.JDCCnews.org . --Julie Gruenbuam Fax, Religion Editor