The California Courier Online, November 23, 2023

The California
Courier Online, November 23, 2023


1-         NYC Mayor
Attended 80 Events

            In 8 Years
Related to Turkey

            By Harut

The California


2-         COMMENTARY: The
Armenian Community In Jerusalem

            Faces An
Existential Threat

3-         Class Action
Lawsuit Filed Against Citibank

Discriminating Against Armenians

4-         NYPL renames
Center for Research in the Humanities to honor Vartan Gregorian




1-         NYC Mayor
Attended 80 Events

            In 8 Years
Related to Turkey

            By Harut

The California



Three weeks ago, when I first wrote about FBI’s
investigation of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign links to Turkey, I
did not realize that this will be the opening of Pandora’s box.

Last week, Adams created a
defense fund to raise money to pay the legal expenses for the expanding federal
probe into his 2021 election campaign. The law permits Adams
to receive donations up to $5,000. However, he must disclose the names and
addresses of all donors.

According to the New York Post, “Federal authorities are
investigating whether the Turkish government or Turkish citizens illegally
funneled donations to Adams’ campaign by using ‘straw donors’—a scheme where
contributors listed in official records aren’t the actual source of funding—and
whether Adams did quid-pro-quo favors.”

Multiple sources told the New York Post: “the Adams administration staffer who was found to have
allegedly ‘acted improperly’ amid the federal corruption probe into his campaign
fundraising worked in the city’s Office for International Affairs before
abruptly being placed on leave.” The Mayor’s office confirmed the information.

That person is Rana Abbasova who was the Mayor’s Director of
Protocol. Originally from Azerbaijan,
she performed advanced planning and logistics for mayoral events and traveled
with him. Her annual salary is $80,651. The Post was told that she lied to
federal investigators.

Abbasova previously served as community coordinator and
advisor to Adams when he was Brooklyn borough
President. Her biography states that: “She was responsible for international
relations and maintaining relationships between the Borough President and
stakeholders, including the Middle East and
Central Asian countries, Muslim and Russian-speaking communities, and
Non-profit organizations. She also worked with Embassies and Consulates to
build relationships between countries and the Office of the Brooklyn Borough
President to help overcome language barriers and cultural differences. She also
organized Turkic Heritage events and assisted with Sister Cities agreements.
Abbasova was also an administrative assistant for Adams’
One Brooklyn Fund, Inc. when he was still borough President.”

The City news website reported that in April 2017, Abbasova
arranged a meeting between borough President Adams and the Turken Foundation,
founded by Pres. Erdogan’s son, Bilal. Three of Turken’s board members
contributed a total of $6,000 to the Mayor’s campaign. His schedule shows that
he attended four Turken events. Turken is registered as a foreign agent with
the Department of Justice.

Abbasova arranged for Adams at least three “meetings and
events related to Turkey
when he was borough president, a review of his schedule shows. Among them was a
2015 grand opening celebration for a Turkish restaurant in Brooklyn,
which she marked as ‘important.’”

POLITICO reported that as Brooklyn borough President, Adams
“attended nearly 80 events over eight years celebrating Turkey—including
a flag-raising in 2015, a charity ball in 2018 and a Zoom meeting with the
Turkish consul in 2020.”

After reviewing thousands of Adams’ public schedules and
many social media posts, POLITICO revealed his “unusually strong relationship
with Turkey,
which has drawn scrutiny from federal investigators.” In 2019, as Adams “was
embarking on a run for New York City mayor, he joined Martha Stewart at a gala
celebrating Turkish Airlines — a company now caught up in an ongoing FBI probe
into Adams’ campaign finances. At the event, Adams
was photographed holding hands with two company officials over a sheet cake;
after winning the mayor’s race, he appointed one of those officials — Cenk
Ocal — to his transition team.” The CNN reported that on Nov. 2, the home of a
Turkish Airlines executive was among the locations raided by the FBI.

POLITICO’s analysis of Adams’
Brooklyn Borough schedules turned up three mentions of the Turkish airlines:
Two planned banquets celebrating the carrier in 2019 and 2020, and a cryptic
entry on Oct. 2, 2015 that simply read: “Reschedule 4 p.m. Turkish airline.
Rana [Abbasova] my gifts.”

Daniel Nigro, then New York City Fire Commissioner, was
pressured by Adams to permit, despite safety
concerns, the opening of a high-rise building that housed the Turkish
consulate, just in time for the arrival of Pres. Erdogan. Nigro received a
grand jury subpoena and spoke to FBI agents.

After becoming Mayor last year, Adams made virtual remarks
at a real estate conference in Istanbul,
which was attended by two top city officials. However, the Mayor’s
participation was left out of his daily public schedule and not reported.

In addition to the home of the fundraiser for the Mayor’s
campaign, the FBI raided or conducted interviews at a dozen locations as part
of its investigations of campaign contributions from Turkish sources, CNN

In 2022, “Adams took two trips to Turkey—one in August funded by
multiple entities including the Turkish consulate, according to a financial
disclosure obtained by POLITICO. Local news outlet THE CITY recently reported
Turkish Airlines also chipped in for that trip, but that was omitted from the
required annual disclosure. Four months later, the financial disclosure shows,
an organization called the Association of Young Tourism Leaders funded another
trip to Turkey for Adams. The junkets were among a half-dozen trips the
mayor has said he made to the country, including a 2017 sojourn with his son, Jordan,”
according to POLITICO.

While visiting Turkey
as Brooklyn Borough President, Adams said that he was interested in buying a
house in Istanbul,
according to the Turkish Sabah newspaper. Adams also said that he is so
satisfied with Turkish Airlines that he not only uses that carrier to fly to Turkey, but also to other parts of the world,
like India.


2-         COMMENTARY: The Armenian
Community In Jerusalem

            Faces An
Existential Threat


By Mary Hoogasian and

Bedross Der Matossian


The situation gripping the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem is
more than distressing—it is an urgent call to safeguard cultural heritage and
defend the rights of the Armenian community within the Holy
Land. The ongoing destruction using bulldozers within the Cows Garden
in the Armenian Quarter not only wounds the local fabric, but also strikes at
the heart of global heritage.

The demolition of this property, steeped in centuries of
history and the use of force against those protecting it, sends shockwaves. The
Armenian Quarter falls under the UNESCO World Heritage Site status of the Old City,
thus demanding an immediate and thorough investigation into the motives behind
this grievous act—especially when the entire region is currently embroiled in a
major conflict. It is non-negotiable that the rights of the Armenian community
be not just acknowledged but fiercely defended.

The Armenian Quarter, representing 1/6 of the Old City,
has been inhabited by Armenians since the 4th century during the inception of
Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem,
adding to its historical and cultural richness. Preserving such heritage is not
just a matter of local importance; it holds global significance, contributing
to the collective history of humanity. The situation demands a thorough
investigation into the motivations behind this illegal destruction and a
respectful acknowledgment of the Armenians’ rightful connection to this
invaluable piece of history.

On November 4, 2023, Armenian residents peacefully protested
illegal construction within their Quarter. Things turned confrontational when
armed settlers arrived, prompting police intervention. The next day, Xana
Gardens Ltd, linked to the controversial deal, showed up with Danny Rothman
(aka Danny Rubenstein)—the Australian owner of Xana Gardens Ltd and allegedly
demanded the Armenians’ expulsion.

Reports suggest Rothman aimed to purchase 13% of the
Armenian Quarter for a luxury hotel, endangering many Armenian homes. However,
after intense scrutiny by the members of the Armenian community of Jerusalem, the clergy, and Armenian-American lawyers, and
Armenian lawyers from the United
States, the deal was found riddled with
discrepancies and declared invalid in Summer 2023.

The presence of armed settlers in the Armenian Quarter,
owned by the Armenian Patriarchate, intensifies tensions between local Armenian
community of Jerusalem
and Xana Gardens Ltd. Despite the Armenian Patriarchate nullifying the lease on
October 26, 2023 in writing, Xana Gardens Ltd is resorting to aggressive
tactics, including property destruction, hiring armed agents and other
provocations, leading to recent widespread destruction in the Quarter,
including demolishing a stone wall. Already five members from the Armenian
community have been arrested and put in house arrest.

In a November 13 communiqué, the Armenian Patriarchate of
Jerusalem said that it “is under possibly the greatest existential threat of
its 16-century history. This existential-territorial threat fully extends to
all the Christian communities of Jerusalem.”

The Patriarchate said that after cancelling the contract
“tainted with false representation, undue influence, and unlawful benefits” the
developers have “completely disregarded the legal posture of the Patriarchate
toward this issue, and instead have elected for provocation, aggression, and
other harassing, incendiary tactics including destruction of property, the
hiring of heavily armed provocateurs, and other instigation.”

“In recent days, the vast destruction and removal of asphalt
on the grounds of the Armenian Quarter has been done without the presentation
of permits from the municipality by neither the developer nor the police.

Despite this fact, the police have chosen in the last few
days to demand that all members of the Armenian Community vacate the premises.
We plead with the entirety of the Christian communities of Jerusalem
to stand with the Armenian Patriarchate in these unprecedented times as this is
another clear step taken toward the endangerment of the Christian presence in Jerusalem and the Holy Land,”
said the Armenian Patriarchate statement.

We call upon the international community and the media to
shed light upon and intervene in this ongoing conflict that is endangering the
physical as well as the spiritual presence of the Armenian Patriarchate and the
Armenian Community of Jerusalem, one of the oldest communities in the Holy Land. Failure to take such actions will have severe
repercussions on the beleaguered Armenian community of Jerusalem who is standing on its last

Mary Hoogasian, an author specializing in young adult
fantasy fiction, also contributes to health-related articles. Presently based
in Italy,
she is editing her third novel while hosting writing and health retreats. In
2008 she co-founded the nonprofit Save the ArQ™, which is committed to
preserving the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem.

Bedross Der Matossian, born and raised in the Old City of
Jerusalem, was also the co-founder of the non-profit organization Save the
ArQ™. He is professor of Modern Middle East history and the Hymen Rosenberg
Professor in Judaic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


3-         Class Action Lawsuit Filed
Against Citibank

Discriminating Against Armenians


Calif.—A class-action suit filed
filed last week in federal court accuses Citibank of routinely and illegally
denying credit for nearly a decade to Californians whose last names appeared to
indicate they were of Armenian descent.

Citibank instituted this “redlining” policy in 2015 with an
unfounded assumption that automatically considered people of Armenian heritage
as likely to commit fraud, said attorney Ara Jabagchourian the lead attorney
for the plaintiff.

The bank’s secret statewide policy resulted in the rejection
of credit card applications, rejection of requests for increased credit lines,
and outright cancellation of accounts in good standing solely on the basis of
perceived national origin, in violation of equal credit laws.

The lead plaintiff, Marine Grigorian, in the case is an
Armenian woman from Granada Hills,
California, who had held a
Costco-branded credit card underwritten by Citibank for several years in good
standing. When she applied for an increase in credit limits earlier this year,
the request was denied by Citibank.

Evidence was later uncovered, however, that Citibank had
enacted a policy where credit decisions for anyone with a last name that
appeared Armenian were routed to a special unit for manual review where their
applications were subjected to discriminatory scrutiny.

Employees in the unit would be reprimanded or punished by
Citibank managers if they refused to go along with the policy of routine
denials and cancellations. Applicants were given false, invented reasons for
being denied credit, with some individuals referred to the bank’s fraud
prevention units simply for having an Armenian surname. Agents were trained and
instructed not to discuss the policy in writing or on recorded phone lines.

“Redlining is a disgusting form of racial and ethnic
discrimination by banks that the law has prohibited for decades, yet we find it
is still being practiced by Citibank, one of the largest financial institutions
in America,” said attorney Jabagchourian. “Labelling credit applicants as ‘bad
guys’ on the basis of having Armenian last names is reprehensible, immoral and

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central
District of California seeks to cover all individuals who suffered
discrimination because of this policy. It seeks unspecified monetary damages
from Citibank as well as a prohibition of the redlining policy.

“This lawsuit will ensure that Citibank ends this practice
and is punished for its wanton disregard of the law,” Jabagchourian added.



4-         NYPL renames
Center for Research in the Humanities to honor Vartan Gregorian


The trustees of The New York Public Library voted to rename
the Center for Research in the Humanities to the Vartan Gregorian
Center for Research in
the Humanities. The change recognizes the profound contribution of Vartan
Gregorian, NYPL president between 1981–89, who is credited with restoring and
revitalizing the Library—structurally, fiscally, and reputationally as an
essential civic and educational center.

Born in 1934 in Tabriz,
Iran to
Armenian parents, he learned the value of reading and libraries in his youth.
At age 11, he began working part-time as a page at the Armenian library. In his
memoir, The Road to Home: My Life and Times, he recounted that the library
“proved to be a great oasis of privacy, peace, and occasional solitude. I loved
to read, and I read everything…the library opened up a new world.”

In his 20s, he moved to the U.S. to attend Stanford, graduating
with a degree in history and humanities and then completing his Ph.D. in
history. After teaching stints at colleges in California
and Texas, he moved east to join the faculty
at the University
of Pennsylvania where he
would go on to become the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and
provost. Had the trustees chosen him to become the next president of UPenn as
he desired, the fate of NYPL may have been very different.

Passed over at UPenn, Dr. Gregorian instead took the top job
at The New York Public Library in 1981. Along with other public services, NYPL
had suffered wrenching budget cuts during the City’s fiscal crisis the preceding
decade. The institution he arrived at was financially deprived, operating at a
bare minimum, and with a dispirited staff and decaying facilities.

Dr. Gregorian set about learning the ins and outs of the
vast library ecosystem by talking to staff, visiting branches, and even putting
in shifts answering phones at the information desk which he described to the
New Yorker as “a terrifying experience.” With the trustees, he created a
wishlist—facilities improvements, staffing, computerization, and more—and
announced an ambitious $307 million capital fund campaign.

Over the next five years, Dr. Gregorian used his charm,
drive, and natural salesmanship to present a compelling case for the Library
and attract the private and public support to not just meet but exceed the
funding goal.

In doing so, he created a model for the future—a coalition
of politicians, business leaders, social figures, and scholars to act as allies
and champions of the Library’s essentialness to the people of New York and to
the city’s civic and intellectual life.

Under Gregorian’s leadership, branch and research library
hours were expanded, the flagship 42nd street location was restored, air
conditioning and humidity controls were added to the bookstacks, a large-scale
computerization project was begun, the collections were strengthened with a
focus on multilingual and multicultural materials, and education and literacy
offerings increased. Importantly, he turned the Library into more than a
depository of physical items, but into a premier host for cultural and literary

Speaking at NYPL in 2006 with author and historian (and 2023
Library Lion inductee) David Nasaw about the transformative philanthropy of
Andrew Carneige toward public libraries in the early 1900s, Dr. Gregorian

“People are craving for immortality one way or another and
there is no institution in my opinion on earth that can give
immortality—earthly immortality, that is—other than a library…All the buildings
change, the names change, it’s the library that keeps the memory,
accomplishments of everybody.”

“The New York Public Library’s renaming of the Center for
Research in the Humanities to the Vartan Gregorian Center for Research in the
Humanities is one way we hold the memory and legacy of his contribution and
express our gratitude for not just rescuing and restoring our Library, but
championing the value and importance of libraries everywhere,” stated the
library’s leadership.



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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS