Court Dismisses Suit in Two Airport Shooting Deaths
The families of two Israeli Americans killed by a terrorist at Los Angeles International Airport are not due any compensation from the city of Los Angeles, a federal judge has ruled.
The victims, Yaakov (Jacob) Aminov, 46, and Victoria Hen, 25, were at an El Al check-in counter when they were gunned down by Egyptian immigrant Hesham Mohamed Hadayet on July 4, 2002.
Hadayet was killed immediately after the shooting spree while wrestling with El Al security guard Arie Golan.
In dismissing the $87.5 million multiple suits against the city on March 29, U.S. District Judge Alicemarie Stotler ruled that California law grants immunity to public agencies for failure to provide adequate police protection.
Attorney Richard Fine said the victims’ families were “devastated and shocked,” and he sharply criticized the judge and the city. He promised to take the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Fine represented Aminov’s widow, Adat, their five children, and three children from Aminov’s previous marriage, all now living in Israel. He also represented Hen’s parents, who live in the Los Angeles area.
Hen had been working as an El Al ticket agent for less than two months when she was killed.
Also seeking compensation for emotional trauma and loss of income were Golan, the El Al security agent; Michael Shabtai and Moti Harari, who stood in line next to Aminov; and Harari’s 6-year-old daughter.
In an interview, Fine attacked the ruling in unusually harsh language.
“The court and city are saying that the value of an ordinary citizen’s life is zero,” he charged. “It is a shanda that violates every principle of humanity,” he said, using the Yiddish word for travesty.
Fine also claimed that Stotler mistakenly had ignored an applicable recent ruling by the California Supreme Court.
He was even angrier at the failure of city and airport police to provide protection, even though law enforcement agencies already had pinpointed LAX and the first July 4 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as likely terrorist targets.
“There was only one airport policeman on hand, and he was at the other end of the terminal,” Fine said.
However, attorney Douglas Knoll, who represented the city’s insurance company, said there had been a maximum deployment of police.
After a drawn-out investigation, the pace of which was criticized by Israeli officials, the FBI belatedly classified the airport attack as a terrorist act, fueled by Hadayet’s hatred of Israel.
Hadayet, a limousine driver who used two guns, a knife and an extra clip of ammunition during the attack, had no links to terrorist organizations, according to the FBI report.
A civil suit for compensation against Hadayet’s estate is still pending. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Anti-Semitic Harassment in ’04 Rises 32 Percent in Calif.
California Jews reportedly experienced more anti-Semitic harassment last year than in 2003, a worrisome trend fueled by hate groups, the Internet, the Iraq War and rabidly anti-Zionist attitudes on university campuses, experts said.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in report Monday that California Jews reported 237 anti-Semitic incidents last year, compared to 180 in 2003, nearly a 32 percent increase. The group said the statistics appeared even starker in Southern California. Ninety-five Jews reported anti-Semitic harassment in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Kern, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, up from 46 the year before, the ADL said.
“We’re seeing an increasing acceptance of anti-Semitism in every day conversation, in the classroom, playground, workplace and neighborhood,” said Amanda Susskind, ADL regional director of the Pacific Southwest Region.
Not all the news is negative. The number of anti-Semitic acts of vandalism, including assaults against Jews or the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, dropped last year both locally and statewide. However, the upsurge in anti-Jewish harassment, including verbal taunting and hate speech, more than offset the vandalism drop, Susskind said.
The widespread dissemination of anti-Semitism on the Internet by white supremacists and neo-Nazis has fueled discrimination against Jews, she said, as has the unwillingness of some secular Jews to confront hate speech. Unrelenting attacks on Israel and the occupation by leaders of the antiwar movement have also encouraged anti-Israel attitudes that often bleed into anti-Semitism, added Allyson Taylor, associate director of the West Coast Region of the American Jewish Congress.
However, David Lehrer, former head of the ADL, said things seemed to be getting better. The president of L.A.-based Community Advocates, a human relations committee, said that life for many Southland and other Jews appeared to have improved as societal acceptance has grown.
“I just don’t sense that Jews are under siege,” Lehrer said. “My sense is that if you were to ask Jews individually whether they’ve encountered anti-Semitism in their daily lives, the overwhelming majority would say no.”
A national ADL survey released concurrently with the report on anti-Semitic incidents reported a drop in the number of Americans holding strong anti-Semitic beliefs from 17 percent in 2002 to 14 percents today.
Among the anti-Semitic incidents in Southern California reported last year by the ADL: