Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016



Israeli Military Stalls a College Career


Tom Maayan had been the focal point of an international tug of war, pitting the Israeli military against Seton Hall.

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — For months, Tom Maayan had been the focal point of an international tug of war, pitting the Israeli military against a major American university, while clouding what looked to be a bright basketball career. But when Maayan, a sophomore atSeton Hall, returned to the bustling campus here Aug. 16, after five months of army service in Upper Galilee, the northern Israeli province where he was raised, it was with a sense of relief.

Conscription, for Jewish citizens over age 18, is an unavoidable cornerstone of Israeli life; after years of widespread exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva students, more of them have also started to serve.

Men generally spend three years in the military and women two. Exceptions are rare, and temporary exemptions, for elite athletes, musicians and artists hoping to pursue professional careers and spread their good will, even more rare.

Gal Mekel, a rookie for the Dallas Mavericks and the second Israeli to be drafted in the N.B.A. after Omri Casspi in 2009, earned a postponement of his service for two years, during which he played at Wichita State from 2006 to 2008, before returning to Israel to fulfill his three-year military commitment.

“This is who we are,” Mekel said in a telephone interview this month. “Every Israeli, that’s his duty — to serve the country.”

But balancing that civic responsibility and grand athletic aspirations could be difficult, Mekel said. Service requires time away from gyms and coaches, time that other players in other nations would spend on developing their skills. It is an undeniable hurdle.

“Growing up, yeah, you have those concerns,” Mekel said. “Because you want to focus on your dream, your job, basketball. But everybody knows you got to serve. It’s not something you want to fight with.”

Maayan got a glimpse of such a fight: because he was late arriving to Israel in March, the army sent him to a military prison for two days. From there, he went to boot camp for a month, where he rose at 5 a.m., trained in the heat, learned how to shoot guns and how to sleep in the desert. After camp, he worked in a military office, filing paperwork, and trained with the Israeli under-20 national team in the evenings.

Meanwhile, Fuchs and Sauers continued to send emails and letters and place phone calls...

Seton Hall sophomore Tommy Maayan must return to Israel


Seton Hall sophomore Tommy Maayan will leave the program before the end of 2013 and is not expected to return to the team this season as he completes required military service in Israel, Seton Hall officials confirmed on Tuesday.

Maayan, a 6-2 point guard, is averaging 3.5 assists in 17.5 minutes per game and has one start for the Pirates (3-1). The 3.5 assists are second only to Sterling Gibbs, who averages 4.5.

When Seton Hall was riddled with injuries last season Maayan stepped in, starting 17 games and finishing with 101 assists in 33 games. Immediately after the Big East Tournament, he returned to Israel to begin required military time that all Israeli citizens serve. A typical stint is three years.

After a six-month stint, he got a waiver that he and Seton Hall believed would allow him to spend his entire sophomore year at school. The New York Times reported that he was told this week that he must return by Jan. 2, 2014.

According to the Times report, Israeli officials had problems with Maayan deciding to enroll at a U.S. college before completing his military requirements, and there has been some debate about when he would return and about the terms of the waiver he received.

Maayan is from Galilee, which borders Syria and Lebanon. That is where he did his first six months of military service before he returned in August to resume studies and basketball at Seton Hall.


Courts v. Cops


New York’s proactive style of policing is under assault from politicians and the media as never before. But the greatest threat lies in the courtroom, where three cases before a federal judge assert that the New York City Police Department’s practice of stopping, questioning, and sometimes frisking suspects is unconstitutional and racist. On January 8, the judge issued the first of her rulings in that trilogy of suits, holding that the NYPD routinely makes illegal trespass stops in the Bronx. The ruling was a bad enough blow for the NYPD in its own right, but it is even more disturbing as an augury of things to come. The decision makes clear that U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin will rule against the city in every stop-and-frisk case before her, decimating the police department’s ability to fight crime.

Ligon v. New York challenged a decades-long program that authorizes New York police officers to patrol private buildings for trespassers and other lawbreakers. The Trespass Affidavit Program (TAP) tries to give low-income tenants in high-crime areas the same protection against intruders that wealthy residents of doorman-guarded buildings enjoy. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), however, police officers routinely abuse their power under TAP by stopping and arresting minority residents and their guests on suspicion of trespass without any legal justification.

The NYCLU didn’t come close to proving its case. But the litigation’s most disturbing failure was its blindness to the realities of inner-city crime.

Debbie McBride has nothing but contempt for the ongoing litigation. McBride is a street-hardened building superintendent in the heart of the South Bronx zone targeted by the NYCLU. When asked about TAP, also known as the Clean Halls program, she doesn’t mince words. “I love it!” she roars. “I’m serious, I love it. Me being a woman, I feel safe. I can get up at 4 AM and start working.”

McBride represents a type that seemingly lies outside the conceptual universe of the advocates and their enablers in elite law firms and the media: the inner-city crusader for bourgeois order. In 1999, McBride moved from Brooklyn to her present residence in the Mount Hope section of the Bronx. Her own intersections with street life had left her a three-time victim of rape and blind in one eye from assault—a boyfriend had struck her for...

Stop-and-frisk: only 3% of 2.4m stops result in conviction, report finds


New York’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, hailed by the city’s mayor and police chief as crucial in fighting crime, could boast only a 3% conviction rate between 2009 and 2012, according to a report by the state attorney general released on Thursday.

The report by Eric Schneiderman, the first detailed examination of the policy’s arrest and conviction rate, used data from the New York Police Department and the Office of Court Administration to examine approximately 2.4m stops over the three-year period. Those stops resulted in almost 150,000 arrests, but only half of those led to a conviction or a guilty plea.

The findings give more ammunition to opponents of the policy, which is viewed by civil rights activists as unfairly targeting African-Americans and Hispanics. It was ruled unconstitutional earlier this year. The administration of outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg is appealing against the ruling, although the future of the litigation is in doubt as the newly elected mayor, Bill de Blasio, is an opponent of the policy and has pledged to replace the police chief, Ray Kelly.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has campaigned extensively against stop-and-frisk, said the report showed that the practice is “pathetically ineffective and inefficient in apprehending criminals”.

Schneiderman's study found that 0.3% of the 2.4m stops led to jail sentences of more than 30 days, and 0.1% led to convictions for violent crime. It also found that there had been a “sharp uptick” in litigation costs for the city due to the cost of defending the NYPD from lawsuits.

Schneiderman said the stop-and-frisk report had “broad implications for law enforcement” in New York City and across the state. “It’s our hope that this report – the first of its kind – will advance the discussion about how to fight crime without overburdening our institutions or violating equal justice under the law,” Schneiderman said in a statement accompanying the report.

“The vast amount of data we analyzed over four years should serve as a helpful guide to municipalities and law enforcement officials around the state, where stop and frisk practices are used to varying degrees.”

To make a stop, police must have reasonable suspicion that a crime is about to occur or has occurred – a standard lower than the probable cause needed to justify an arrest. The report showed that around 6% of the...


Rejected musician shoots band mates dead


A musician kicked out of his own indie rock band has shot dead his three band mates before taking his own life at their townhouse in New York.

Police said gunman Raefe Ahkhbar stormed the home in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with a .308-caliber semi-automatic military-style rifle just after midnight on Monday.

Ahkhbar, also known as Aliakbar, was recently kicked out of the band for selling band equipment without the other group members' knowledge, but it was still unclear if that was the motivation for the shooting.

He opened fire first on a 22-year-old man standing outside the townhouse, wounding him in the arm, before heading inside and firing a number of shots.

Police arrived on the scene and discovered spent casings throughout the three-storey home.

Ahkbar first allegedly killed the 27-year-old guitarist Soroush Farazmand, who was found face-up in a second-floor bedroom with a gunshot wound to the chest.

He then allegedly moved to the third floor, shooting dead the band's 35-year-old singer Ali Eskandarian in a living room and drummer Arash Farazmand in a bedroom.

The gunman then fatally shot himself on the roof of the building, police said.

The young man wounded outside was taken to hospital in a stable condition.

The band, called The Yellow Dogs, was made up of Iranians which formed in Tehran in 2006 but moved to the US a few years ago, seeking more musical freedom.

The group had played recent gigs in the New York indie rock scene at popular local venues.

A 63-year-old neighbour said he would see the band members coming and going with their instruments.

"They seemed really nice, not violent or anything, just your typical guys," he told ABC News.

"They never caused any trouble. I see them almost every day, it's really a shock."

Iranian band Yellow Dogs targeted in New York gun rampage by fellow musician


The brutal gun deaths of four Iranian musicians in New York has revealed a dramatic tale of persecution, defiance, ambition, envy - and ultimately, tragedy.

Three were shot dead by another musician, Ali Akbar Mohammadi Rafie, 29, who then killed himself.

Two belonged to the Yellow Dogs, a band hailed as counter-cultural heroes in Iran who had risked the wrath of the authorities for their American-style sound and had fled to the US.

The other was an unfortunate fellow musician who lived in the same house in Brooklyn, but on the floor above.

Rafie climbed to the house across adjacent roofs. On one, investigators found an empty guitar case, which they believe was used to carry the assault rifle he used in his attack.

He found his way to a third-floor landing of the home. There, he fired once through a window into a living room, striking and killing Ali Eskandarian, 35, an Iranian-American songwriter who lived in the apartment above the Yellow Dogs.

Rafie then climbed inside, found Arash Farazmand, 28, the Yellow Dogs' drummer, and opened fire, killing him.

His brother, Soroush Farazmand, 27, the band's guitarist, was in his second-floor bedroom. Rafie shot him in the chest.

Shots also appeared to have been fired down a hallway and into a second-floor room, wounding Sasan Sadeghpourosko, 22, another resident, in the shoulder and elbow.

On the third floor was Pooya Hosseini, another Iranian musician from a band called the Free Keys, of which Rafie was a former member.

Rafie kicked in the door, and he and Hosseini struggled over the rifle. Several shots went off.

Unhurt, Hosseini fled, and Rafie headed to the roof, where he shot himself in the head. The other members of the Yellow Dogs - Koory Mirzaei, the bassist, and Siavash Karampour, the lead singer, known as Obash - were not in the house at the time.

The four bandmates had belonged to Tehran's "small but crazy" underground club scene, according to a State Department cable from 2009 which was later released by WikiLeaks.

Growing up together in Tehran, they had found a sound - part punk, part garage rock, part their own invention.

They practised their American-style rock in makeshift, soundproof studios and performed it in underground clubs and parking lots, despite the threat of arrest and detention.

Then, in 2009, they appeared in a documentary about Iran's underground music scene that garnered international attention.

The following year, they left for the US, finding their way...


Urban League moving to Harlem, businesses ousted

NEW YORK (WABC) -- An organization whose mission is to help protect the rights of minorities is giving several minority businesses the boot.

The Urban League is moving its national headquarters to a spot in Harlem.

But the problem is that several longstanding businesses are getting kicked out in the process.

Tounkara Massamakam started his African importing business two decades ago.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with my life, I just need help," Massamakam said.

A few years later, Ron Walton gambled on a Caribbean restaurant franchise.

"When I came down here, people thought I was crazy coming to Harlem," Walton said.

And it's been six years since Joseph Benbow took over his family's fish restaurant.

"You're trying to build a future, you're finding out your future is no longer there," Benbow said.

This time next year, none of them will be there. They're among five mom and pop business owners getting the boot from the city. The city owns their building and plans a mixed use development including retail and apartments on this now booming stretch of 125th Street.

"The tourists don't come here for Starbucks. They come here for Golden Krust," said State Sen. Bill Perkins, (D) Harlem.

But when it comes to gentrification, State Senator Bill Perkins says he can't get over the irony.

At the root of the development will sit the National Urban League, which plans to open a civil rights museum at the site, down the block from the iconic Apollo Theater.

"The National Urban League is coming back home to Harlem and clearly we welcome them back home! But no in a way that violates entrepreneurs that didn't leave, in fact stayed to create a better day," State Sen. Perkins said.

"These people pulled themselves up from their bootstraps," said Terell Tripp, a neighborhood resident, "And now they're telling them they can't do business here or there's bigger business than they're able to provide, and I think that's unfair."

‘Grandstanding’ Harlem pol Bill Perkins may have killed neighborhood’s National Urban League project


The plan calls for a $225 million headquarters and museum built by the National Urban League, currently based in the Wall Street area, to rise on W.125th St. in Harlem — but opposition by state Sen. Bill Perkins (below) may put the kibosh on it.

Uptown resistance may have killed Harlem’s chance of hosting a new headquarters for a famed civil rights group and a national museum of black history, sources told The Daily News.

Two state officials said Thursday they might now move the National Urban League’s $225 million retail, office and museum project to Brooklyn, thanks to opposition from local businesses and state Sen. Bill Perkins.

“Right now we're looking away from Harlem,” one official told The News.

“If Perkins is so against any kind of smart development that would bring jobs and economic activity up there, the Urban League will go elsewhere. They've asked to look other locations and we're looking at Brooklyn.”

The Urban League, located in Lower Manhattan, was looking to move to D.C. but the state convinced it to stay in the city and build a 400,000-square-foot headquarters and civil rights museum on Harlem’s 125th St. — the Main Street of Black America.


“We argued that Harlem would be a good location and on what is currently state property up there," the official said.

The Urban League project has the backing of Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg, too.

The state was prepared to give up to $250,000 to the local businesses that would have to relocate as a result of the project or allow them to remain part of the new building if they opted to do that.

“The issue of local businesses is very important to us,” the source said.

The two officials accused Perkins of “grandstanding” on the issue.


“If you can't bring the Urban League to Harlem, you can't bring anything to Harlem as long as Bill Perkins is standing in the way,” the first official said.

Asked if the threat of relocating the project was designed to get Harlem leader to relent, the source insisted the warning is real.

“Keeping the Urban League is a great win for New York,” the state source said. “It's really a positive thing, but they want to be where they are wanted. When the message to a national organization or business is, 'We don't want you.' It's hard to...