A small army combating human trafficking

Angela Guanzon is soft-spoken, but unwavering in her message: “Open your eyes and be vigilant in your surroundings,” she told a room full of volunteers during an outreach event hosted by National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles (NCJWLA) on Jan. 24. 

When Guanzon was 28, she was given an offer she couldn’t refuse: a free ticket from her native Philippines to the United States. What she didn’t know was that when she arrived in Long Beach in 2005, she would be inducted into a human trafficking ring, in which she was forced to work 18-hour days, seven days a week, at a nursing care facility for meager pay — just $300 a month. Threatened into silence, she worked without a day’s break for two years, until a neighbor became suspicious of the nursing home’s dealings and contacted the FBI.

After a sting operation busted the business, Guanzon lived for 18 months in a California Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) shelter, a transition house that helps victims like her get control of their lives. “CAST helped me get back on my feet and own myself again,” she told the room.

Guanzon, now 38, is an advocate for human trafficking prevention with CAST. 

In 2013, California passed Senate Bill 1193, which requires certain places of business, such as hospital emergency rooms, bus stops, adult clubs and bars, to display posters listing human trafficking hotlines in a visible area. Twenty-two states have enacted similar legislation. Since 2012, there has been a 250 percent increase of calls to the trafficking hotline because of the posters.

Cipra Nemeth, the volunteer vice president of legislative community engagement at NCJWLA, said human trafficking has always been on NCJW’s radar, since its founding in 1893. “One of the first things the group did was meet young women who came to Ellis Island,” Nemeth said, explaining that the group worked to eliminate exploitation of these fresh-off-the-boat women. “NCJW met them at the docks, created houses for them in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, gave them job skill training and English lessons so they could become self-sufficient and independent.” 

Today, NCJWLA is continuing the fight to eliminate human trafficking, because, as Nemeth pointed out, not only is it a major component of Jewish values, but because “this is an issue we care about because we feel we have a role to play and we have an obligation.” 

In order to implement the law, NCJWLA organized “Eyes on Trafficking: Night of Outreach,” recruiting nearly 70 volunteers to embark in teams of three to venture off into the city’s 15 districts, stopping at local bars, equipped with posters in hand. Los Angeles is the third-most popular port of entry for human traffickers in the United States.

Assigned to L.A. Council District 4, a team of volunteers trekked up Sunset Boulevard, carrying posters and paperwork, passing grungy tattoo parlors and smoke shops. The stops on their itinerary included Rock & Reilly’s Irish Pub, The Viper Room and The Comedy Store. For anybody else, this would have been one awesome pub crawl, but for volunteers Sandy DeLucci, Mariam Berry and Beth Edelstein, their mission was purely outreach.

The first stop was Rock & Reilly’s, a crowded pub with TVs blaring and conversation buzzing. The volunteers began their spiel with the hostess, what they’d been training for all afternoon. Earlier that night, Edelstein, an IKAR congregant, had joked about the intense training at NCJWLA: “It felt like traffic school.” But here they were, putting it to good use. “Is the manager around?” they asked. The hesitant hostess disappeared for a couple minutes before returning with the message: “The manager’s very busy.” 

The volunteers went into their rehearsed speech, telling the hostess that the business had received a letter from the city about the new bill, that they were just volunteers to help implement the law, and if the business didn’t comply, it would be subject to a hefty fine — $500 at first, eventually doubling.

Overwhelmed, the hostess finally said, “You can give it to us and we’ll put it up later.”

Underwhelmed, the volunteers left, to recalibrate outside the pub; they weren’t satisfied with the outcome. Edelstein suggested giving it a go one more time. “Do it, New York!” said Berry with enthusiasm (Edelstein, originally from Monsey, N.Y., earned the nickname from the group because of her go-getter attitude). A bystander taking a smoke break overheard the fuss before adding to the chorus, “Do it!”

DeLucci and Edelstein went back inside to confront the manager, with success this time. In one month, NCJWLA volunteers will return to Rock & Reilly’s and other designated sites to ensure the posters’ presence.

Next stop was The Viper Room, which proved to be more challenging when a man opened the door sheepishly and popped his head out, uttering the words, “I don’t care; I’m just the sound guy,” before taking a poster and shutting the door. Later that night, the group confronted the manager. The poster, he assured them, would be posted.

Last stop was The Comedy Store, which was remarkably compliant, leaving the volunteers very pleased. 

Walking back down Sunset, their job done, the volunteers discussed the day as a whole.

Berry, a North Hollywood resident and mother of three, said that she’s passionate about this human rights issue because of her children. 

“Human trafficking is modern-age slavery,” she said, and conducting her outreach on Sunset Boulevard, was crucial, considering the Strip’s notorious reputation. “This is a hub for human trafficking,” she said.

“It’s about giving a voice to the voiceless,” she said of her outreach, her voice rising at least an octave as she spoke above the cacophony of the traffic on the legendary Sunset Strip.

UCLA investigating activist David Horowitz over #JewHaters posters

A UCLA spokesman said campus police are investigating conservative activist David Horowitz after ” target=”_blank”>variations on infamous photos of Hamas executioners with accused informants, and of Hamas militants posing with armed Palestinian children. Each poster had the words “Students for Justice in Palestine” and the hash tag #JewHaters.

On March 5, a UCLA spokesman told the Journal that campus police were evaluating whether the posters constituted vandalism, but citing university policy regarding ongoing investigations, did not identify Horowitz or anyone else as a suspect in their investigation.

On March 3, though, the David Horowitz Freedom Center sent a fundraising email blast, signed by Horowitz, that said he had been accused by UCLA of defacing university property and that a legal battle might ensue. He also wrote that he wouldn’t cooperate with any investigation until UCLA enforces its “Principles of Community” — rules that prohibit religious and ethnic discrimination — against SJP.

The posters were the first major public action for a new Freedom Center initiative called Jew Hatred on Campus.

On March 5, Horowitz repeated his previous statement that he wants UCLA to revoke SJP’s status as an approved campus group. He also elaborated on the goal of his poster campaign:

“This campaign is designed to change the conversation about whether the Palestinians are engaged in a genocidal war against Israel, and whether Students for Justice in Palestine is a hate group,” Horowitz said.

As of March 9, Horowitz said he had not heard from UCLA investigators in several days.  

UCLA Jewish groups condemn David Horowitz for creating #JewHaters posters

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, conservative activist David Horowitz ” target=”_blank”>#JewHaters. The posters linked Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a national campus organization, with the terrorist group Hamas.

Horowitz said this was the first major public action for the Los Angeles-based center’s new campaign called “Jew Hatred on Campus.”

The Journal sought comment from UCLA and pro-Israel campus groups nationwide, and from some prominent Jews in Los Angeles, for responses to Horowitz’s action. Here are their statements.

Bruins for Israel:

Bruins for Israel welcomes support from the community in fighting anti-Israel propaganda. We do not, however, condone the actions of David Horowitz, which were grossly counterproductive. We hope that by working in tandem with the community outside of UCLA, we can strengthen, rather than weaken, pro-Israel efforts at UCLA. 

J Street U at UCLA:

J Street U at UCLA unequivocally condemns the actions taken by David Horowitz.

The David Horowitz Freedom Center, which coordinated these posters, acted with no consultation from the UCLA Jewish or pro-Israel community. Their actions, and especially Horowitz's statements in a recent interview, lead us to seriously question their commitment to the health of our community.

We are fortunate to have developed a united front against BDS efforts on campus, in coordination with Bruins for Israel and Hillel at UCLA. These actions taken by external organizations undermine our community's work. 

Judea Pearl. President, Daniel Pearl Foundation. Professor of computer science and director of UCLA's Cognitive Systems Laboratory.

I wish David Horowitz would have consulted Jewish Facuty at UCLA before using this poster on campus. For the past several years, one of our strongest argument against Israel defamers has been that Israel and Zionism, as identity-forming symbols to thousands of students on campus are entitled to the same respect and protection from abuse as Muslim students claim for their symbols of identity. Unfortunately, this poster now gives the abusers a pretence to victimhood and an excuse to exacting reciprocity.

Michael Berenbaum, professor of Jewish studies and director of the Sigi Ziering Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Ethics at American Jewish University.

I can’t understand Horowitz’s reasoning, I also think that a campus community is a community, and since the Jewish community has been doing a good job on defending itself and protecting each other and standing up for its values, why would an outside agitator come in uninvited and decide that his priorities should be the priorities of that community? 

He’s entitled to his opinions, but I am not sure he’s entitled to go into places where he hasn’t been invited and decide that he has the right solution. Does he know anything about UCLA? I wonder.

Feb. 26, 5:15 p.m.: This story has been updated with a statement from Judea Pearl.

Vintage Israeli posters, MethodFest, ‘Bush Is Bad’

Saturday the 31st

Theater with a historical lesson comes to The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, with the guest production of “Black and Bluestein.” The dramedy written by Jerry Mayer takes place in early ’60s St. Louis, and tells the story of Jewish homeowner Jeff Bluestein and the issues he faces while deliberating whether to sell his home — in a largely white Jewish neighborhood — to a black family.

Through April 29. $22-$25. 1211 4th St., Santa Monica. (323) 960-4418. ” target=”_blank”>www.methodfest.com.

Monday the 2nd

Another independent film worth your attention is Russell Brown’s “Race You to the Bottom,” which opens this week. The film focuses on the relationship between two friends, Maggie and Nathan. Maggie is straight, and Nathan identifies as gay, and both of them are involved with other people. Despite all of this, however, the two are also in the midst of a passionate affair and decide to take a romantic road trip to Napa together.
Special screenings: Sat., March 31, 7:30 p.m. Post-screening Q-and-A with Russell Brown.

Sun., April 1, 7:30 p.m. 2-for-1 “Girls Grab Your Best Gay/Gays Grab Your Best Girl” promotion. The Regent Showcase Theatre, 614 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. ” target=”_blank”>www.georgebillis.com.

Wednesday the 4th

AFI goes behind the music at the Arclight in their sixth-annual Music Documentary Series. Tonight’s opening night features the 1982 classic “Pink Floyd: The Wall.” Subsequent Wednesdays will screen “Buena Vista Social Club,” “Punk Rock Eats its Own: A Film About Face to Face,” “Shut Up and Sing,” “Rock the Bells” and “Last Days of Left Eye.” Post screening Q-and-A’s with filmmakers are also planned.

Through May 9. 8 p.m. $10-$11 (per screening). 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 464-4226. ” target=”_blank”>www.skirball.org.

Friday the 6th

Following a successful 15-month run in New York, “Bush Is Bad” makes its West Coast debut this evening. Those making up that 30-something percent approval rating will want to ignore this suggestion; others, however, may welcome a show with a bit of comic relief, described as “the hysterical love-child of ‘Forbidden Broadway’ and ‘The Daily Show.'”

Through May 20. $35. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 508-7101.

Arafat’s Paper Trail

These battleground spoils cannot explode or kill, but Israel considers them important benefits of its military operation in the West Bank: Thousands of documents, pamphlets and posters that provide written evidence of the Palestinian Authority’s massive involvement in terrorism. The documents were captured at places like Yasser Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah and other P.A. offices, offices of the P.A.’s Preventive Security Service and Arafat’s Tanzim militia, Palestinian organizations throughout the West Bank and the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Jerusalem headquarters at Orient House.

Israeli intelligence officers are just beginning to analyze the abundance of material, but the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) rushed to publicize parts to bolster Israel’s argument that Arafat himself has been directly involved in terrorist operations and stands at the head of an enormous terror entity. Israeli officials were said to be shocked by the extent of P.A. complicity in terrorism.

"In the West Bank, the more we enter, the more we understand," an Israeli military official told the New York Times. "This is coming directly from Arafat personally."

Some of the documents were publicized by the IDF spokesman in their original form in Arabic. The Palestinians claim that the documents are part of an elaborate Israeli fabrication operation, pitting their word against the IDF’s. The most important finding is that senior P.A. officers were actively involved in terrorism, providing logistical and financial assistance even to supposedly oppositionist elements such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Within the more mainstream Palestinian organizations, Arafat oversees two parallel and competing structures, each with its own funding, chain of command and capability for directing bombing attacks, the IDF told the Times. The cells that carry out the attacks are located in eight regions — Jenin, Tulkarm, Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Kalkilya and Gaza. Both structures report to Arafat and receive his financial backing.

"One of the most telling revelations of the documents, is that the broadly accepted view that Arafat leaves the details to others is completely incorrect," said Michael Widlanski, a Hebrew University researcher who monitors the Palestinian press. "The documents repeatedly show that Arafat is in day-to-day control of the details of all his organizations, relaying the information for comment to the senior members of his military branches."

Arafat signed off on various operational invoices for the Tanzim, the militia of Arafat’s Fatah Party that has been responsible for a large number of terrorist attacks, including the bombing near Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market April 12 that killed six. The IDF exposed documents showing that Arafat personally signed checks for Tanzim activists involved in terrorism. This, according to the IDF, contradicts Arafat’s usual denial that he has any control over the Tanzim. Other documents show militants within Arafat’s Fatah requesting money for bomb and weapons parts, itemizing the cost of each component and how many bombs per week the organization plans to use.

Moreover, evidence from documents and captured terrorists indicates, according to the IDF, that the P.A.’s West Bank intelligence chief, Tawfik Tirawi, helped recruit, arm and dispatch terrorists for attacks inside Israel.

When given lists of "Most Wanted" terrorists — whom the Palestinian Authority is obligated to arrest, under its agreements with Israel — Tirawi allegedly used the lists to warn the terrorists, so they could evade arrest. According to the IDF, Jamal Sawitat, the deputy head of the P.A.’s Preventive Security Service in Jenin, also constantly informed Islamic Jihad of the names of terrorists Israel was after.

Mortars and heavy machine guns, as well as kippot and other disguises for suicide bombers, were found even at the headquarters of Jibril Rajoub, the head of Preventive Security in the West Bank, who often is praised as a Palestinian moderate. However, Israeli military officials were careful not to assert that Rajoub himself had directed specific attacks. Prior to the recent escalation of the situation, Rajoub often was mentioned as a possible successor to Arafat. However, the fact that his security compound surrendered to Israeli soldiers — and that Rajoub did not join Arafat in his besieged headquarters in Ramallah — may have damaged his political prospects.

Some of the documents were found in the office of Fuad Shubaki, Arafat’s financial aide. Shubaki allegedly masterminded the Palestinian attempt to smuggle arms from Iran on the Karine A weapons ship that Israel seized in January. Palestinians had claimed that Shubaki’s was a rogue operation and that he was under investigation for his role, but he is currently believed to be holed up with Arafat in his headquarters, along with several of Arafat’s closest aides and a host of wanted terrorists. The army charged that members of Palestinian security services were directly involved in planning, and in some cases even perpetrating, attacks against Israelis. Uzi Landau, Israel’s minister of internal security, used the momentum to publish documents seized last year at Orient House, the Jerusalem headquarters of the PLO. Landau convened a press conference in early April at which he exposed documents reinforcing the link between Arafat and the Tanzim. The documents show that Faisal Husseini, the late PLO official in charge of Jerusalem, was updated by Tanzim leaders — such as Atef Abayyat, who was later killed by the IDF — on attacks against Jews, and was asked to intervene to get more money for Tanzim operations. Police confiscated a letter sent by Husseini to his lawyer on Sept. 28, 2000, the day Ariel Sharon made his controversial visit to the Temple Mount that the Palestinian Authority says provoked spontaneous riots that grew into the intifada. Husseini’s letter, however, mentions the "Al-Aksa Intifada" — before it had even begun. According to Landau, this proves that the intifada was preplanned. "These documents, many of them signed by Arafat, are more than a smoking gun," Landau said. "They are a smoking pen, a pen dripping blood held by Arafat."

Landau said the Palestinian leader "cannot deny these documents, that show he and his top aides planned and financed acts of terror."

But the Palestinians have done just that, challenging the documents’ authenticity and hoping that the world will not take too much notice — as, indeed, it hasn’t.

"No one can say they are 100 percent authentic," Hassan Abdel Rahman, the Washington representative of the PLO told the Times. "And in the past, Israel was able to take many expressions out of context and distort their meaning."

The IDF has posted some of the documents on its Web site, www.idf.il. The documents and intelligence provided to the Bush administration are more comprehensive. Other major findings include: