Congressmen: Investigate LAX shooter
As the family of Victoria Hen, slain in the July 4 attack at Los Angeles International Airport, prepared to mark the end of the sheloshim mourning period with a public memorial service, pressure was increasing on federal authorities to declare the shooting by an Egyptian immigrant an act of terrorism.
The family of the 25-year-old murdered El Al ground hostess invites the public to the service and expresses its thanks for the sympathy and support shown by the community.
The wife and children of the second shooting victim, Yaakov Aminov, are expected to remain in Israel until the end of the mourning period.
Meanwhile, two Democratic congressmen from Brooklyn joined a campaign to convince the FBI to investigate the killings by Hesham Mohamed Hadayet as a possible act of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel terrorism.
In a July 19 fax to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, Rep. Anthony D. Weiner urged the FBI not to repeat the mistakes of its 1994 probe of the death of Lubavitch student Ari Halberstam, slain by a Lebanese taxi driver on the Brooklyn Bridge. Only after years of pressure by Halberstam's mother did the FBI reclassify the slaying from a case of road rage to an act of terrorism.
Spokesman Paul Bresson at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., said he was attempting to track down the fax and noted that at this point in its investigation, officials were still seeking a motive for Hadayet's attack.
In Los Angeles, FBI spokeswoman Cheryl Mimura said that currently two full-time agents, one in Los Angeles, the other in Santa Ana, were investigating the case.
Rep. Major R. Owens, in a July 21 press statement, warned that the FBI's failure "to publicly acknowledge (a suspected terrorist attack) is dangerous, because it lessens the vigilance against similar acts."
The two statements lent support to a campaign demanding congressional hearings on the FBI's handling of the case, which was launched by Rabbi Avi Weiss, the president of AMCHA -- the Coalition for Jewish Concerns.
Weiss has asked for a meeting with U.S. Attorney-General John Ashcroft to discuss the case, but Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock said she had no information if and when such a meeting will be held.
Memorial funds have been established to honor the two victims. The need is direst for the large Aminov family, bereft of its breadwinner. Contributions can be sent to 12426 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91607. The graveside memorial service for Hen will be held Monday, Aug. 5 at 8:30 a.m. at the Eden Memorial Park in Mission Hills. Contributions can be sent to the Vicky Hen Memorial Fund, 23277 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, CA 91364. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Chabad Case Heads to Beit Din
In the case of Chabad vs. the Living Judaism Center (formerly known as Chabad of the Marina), the Los Angeles Superior Court has sent the case to a beit din (Jewish court of law). The case had been filed back in March, after Rabbi Shlomo Cunin of Chabad of Westwood fired Rabbi Shmulik Naparstek from his position as Chabad shliach (rabbi) in Marina del Ray, and attempted to take over properties owned by Chabad of the Marina. Chabad of the Marina subsequently changed its name to the Living Judaism Center. Cunin contested the name change, claiming the property as Chabad's.
Last month, the court ordered both parties to desist from civil proceedings and to resolve their dispute in a beit din, whose decision will be binding. The court also imposed a $2,700 fine on the Living Judaism Center. "The fine was a discovery sanction, because the court felt that a motion I made seeking a protective order for Rabbi Naparstek was made without substantial basis," said Rex Beaber, attorney for the Living Judaism Center.
Beaber said that he disagrees with the court's decision. "I think that the Living Judaism Center should have prevailed without a trial, and I would have preferred the case to go to trial before a judge. I am confident that were that to happen, the Living Judaism Center would win."
Marshall Grossman, attorney for Cunin and Chabad of Westwood, expressed satisfaction with what he called a "successful" resolution. "The dispute will now be tried in a beit din, which is where it should have been submitted in the first place," he told The Journal. "Rabbi Cunin and Chabad are totally pleased with this result, and so am I."
-- Gaby Wenig, Contributing Writer
Cheviot Hills Charges Dropped
All charges have been dropped against the man arrested in the June 3 shooting incident at Cheviot Hills recreation center. Deputy District Attorney Erwin Petilos told Superior Court Judge Keith Groneman that "the people are not proceeding in the case" of Jansha Cohen, who was arrested on the scene of the shooting and had been suspected of belonging to a Muslim anti-Jewish group. Further investigation, however, found that Cohen, who is in fact Jewish, acted in self-defense during the melee at the park. Petilos, who admitted in court that "there are a number of people who don't like my conclusion in this investigation," found that Cohen had "transitory possession" of a gun, which someone handed to him when he was threatened by another man with a shotgun. Cohen apparently fired at the man with the shotgun, missed and accidentally wounded Farzad Sinai. Investigations are ongoing into the identity of the man with the shotgun.
Cohen's mother, Frea Cohen of San Diego, told The Journal, "If the things they said were true, I'd want to kill him myself. He's a kind of stupid kid and he tried to blend in with everyone else. He thought, 'These kids are cool.' If he was hanging around those dangerous people, it was because he's stupid, not dangerous." -- Mike Levy, Contributing Writer
Ross Sees Hope in Mideast
Dennis Ross, the Clinton administration's former point man for Middle East peace negotiations, sees a slight chink of hope in the generally dismal situation through a new ferment among the Palestinian people.
"I have never seen such uncharacteristic ferment on the Palestinian side," Ross said of his trip to Israel two weeks ago. "Everything is open to debate, including the use of violence, and there is much criticism of [Yasser] Arafat."
On the downside, he added, "There is no mechanism for translating this ferment into policy. The majority of Palestinians realize that the intifada, which is now a war, has been a complete disaster, but they cannot exert their will" to implement basic changes.
Ross spoke last week at The Jewish Federation building to 150 contributors to the Jews in Crisis campaign, whose entire proceeds go directly to victims of terror in Israel.
Annette Shapiro, co-chair of the campaign, reported that more than $17 million had been raised so far.
Among Israelis, "there is a sense of resignation that nothing can change until the Palestinians do something about the security situation," said Ross, who is now director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
After talking to Israeli military and intelligence officials, Ross concluded that "the last thing they want to do is occupy seven or eight Palestinian cities -- in the long-run, this situation is untenable."
The quandary Israel faces in the West Bank and Gaza was described to Ross by one official, who observed, "We've thrown a blanket over a fire, but as soon as we lift the blanket, the fire flares up again."
Ross criticized Arafat as "the least strategic leader there is, he works completely on an ad hoc basis ... the Palestinian Authority has never made a decision on what policy to pursue to achieve its objectives."
If Arafat has one strategy, it is to "let things get bad enough, so the international community will intervene," saving him from having to make his own decision, Ross said.