Yaakov “Jack” Teitel, a resident of the Jewish settlement outpost Shvut Rachel, was arrested by Israel’s Shabak for his alleged murder of two Palestinians and planned terrorist attacks on a left-wing academic and homosexuals. Teitel, an immigrant from Florida who was granted Israeli citizenship through the country’s “right of return” policy for Jews, is the second accused terrorist to emerge from Shvut Rachel. The first, Asher Weisgan, murdered five Palestinian co-workers in 2005 in an effort to derail the Gaza disengagement.
So what’s the matter with Shvut Rachel? Was Teitel a lone wolf, as many, including Amos Harel, have argued? Or was the settlement an ideological seedbed for acts of terror against Palestinians and their allies?
Until Shabak’s investigation has concluded, there will be no way to know if Teitel had operational assistance, though the fact that it took Israeli security forces over 12 years after Teitel’s first killing spree to arrest him, and the ease with which he transported a fearsome cache of explosives and weaponry into his settlement, raise serious questions. What is clear, however, is that Shvut Rachel was founded on an ideology consistent with the radical beliefs Teitel apparently attempted to translate into violent action.
Ronit Shuker and her late husband Yosef founded the settlement in the hills east of Shiloh with explicitly political motives; they claimed to have been incited to action by the Palestinian murder of Jewish Shiloh resident Rachel Druck. For the Shukers, Shvut Rachel’s expansion became a means to send a message to the surrounding Palestinian population.
When I interviewed Ronit Shuker in May 2009, she spoke the same eliminationist language that might have resonated with Teitel. “The government doesn’t know how to deal with [the Palestinians],” Shuker told me. “If I was Prime Minister, I would send all of them to Iran, to Sudan, to Egypt, to Jordan. I would wish them all the best, but not in the land of Israel.”
Shvut Rachel founder and Moskowitz grantee Ronit Shuker appears at 2:23 to call for forcibly transferring Palestinians out of the “Land of Israel”
I interviewed Shuker immediately after she was honored at the 2009 Moskowitz Awards For Zionism ceremony in Jerusalem with $50,000 and the “Lion of Zion” prize. The gala, which brought together hundreds of radical settlers with sympathetic Israeli political bigwigs, from MK Benny Begin to National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, was made possible by the financial generosity of the 501 c-3 non profit of Irving Moskowitz. So who is Moskowitz?
A close confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Moskowitz has funneled millions in profits from his California-based Hawaiian Gardens casino, where he has been sued for exploiting undocumented workers, into settlement construction projects in the West Bank, including Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. He has also funded several neoconservative think tanks including a research center named after Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, who was killed while leading the Entebbe rescue raid in 1976. Moskowitz and Netanyahu have remained close since he established the center.
In 1996, Moskowitz convinced Netanyahu, in his first round as prime minister, to open a tunnel adjacent to the Temple Mount, a controversial act that led to several days of rioting and 70 deaths. Four years later, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the tunnel set off the so-called Al-Aqsa uprising, the opening salvo of the Second Intifada. Now, Moskowitz’s imprint on the West Bank’s landscape is most clearly reflected from the settlement he bankrolls called Kiryat Arba, a center of Orthodox Jewish radicalism that was once home to the terrorist Baruch Goldstein, to Shvut Rachel, the colony that spawned the terrorists Weisgan and Teitel.
The Moskowitz Foundation makes no mention on its website of its support for radical Jewish settlements. The extent of Moskowitz’s support for settlements is difficult to track because he does not disclose his grant recipients. I was only able to connect Moskowitz to Shvut Rachel through my interview with Shuker. Despite his preference for operating under cover of darkness, Moskowitz has been exposed once again by his connection, however peripheral, to acts of Jewish terrorism against Palestinians. Yet he has never been held accountable. Why has Moskowitz been allowed to funnel money through a tax-exempt non-profit into radical settlements that pose a clear and present danger not only to Palestinian civilians, but to US security interests as well? If the White House is serious about restricting settlement growth and imposing a two-state solution, it should arrange a visit by the IRS to the Moskowitz Foundation.