Shurat HaDin victory: Palestinian Authority and PLO found liable in NY court for supporting terror attacks

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat HaDin, Israel Law Center

The Israeli NGO Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center, won a huge victory this week in a New York court as the PA and the PLO were both found liable for supporting a string of terror attacks in Israel in which several US citizens were killed or maimed for life.

One would think that such a claim would have been obvious; after all the Palestinians have made no secret of their hatred of Israel and Jews, and assorted organizations have repeatedly claimed responsibility for countless terror attacks, But somehow, whenever Israel has demanded an apology, compensation or a condemnation from them and from the international community, the PA somehow manages to weasel out of responsibility, claiming it was an “armed wing”, with “no connection to us”, or maybe it was a lone wolf.  That’s why this victory is such a huge morale boost for Israel and her supporters.

From the NYT link above:

The Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization were found liable on Monday by a jury in Manhattan for their role in knowingly supporting six terrorist attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004 in which Americans were killed and injured.

The damages are to be $655.5 million, under a special terrorism law that provides for tripling the $218.5 million awarded by the jury in Federal District Court.

The verdict ended a decade-long legal battle to hold the Palestinian organizations responsible for the terrorist acts, an effort that encompassed fights over jurisdiction, merit and even practicality: History has shown that it is difficult for victims of international terrorism to bring their civil cases to trial, let alone to recover damages.

While the decision on Monday was a huge victory for the dozens of plaintiffs, it could also serve to strengthen Israel’s claim that the supposedly more moderate Palestinian forces were directly linked to terrorism.

The verdict came in the seventh week of a civil trial during which the jury heard emotional testimony from survivors of suicide bombings and other attacks in Jerusalem, in which a total of 33 people were killed and more than 450 were injured.

“Money is oxygen for terrorism,” Kent A. Yalowitz, a lawyer for the families, said in a closing argument on Thursday, adding that the antiterrorism law “hits those who send terrorists where it hurts them most: in the wallet.”

The case was brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows American citizens who are victims of international terrorism to sue in the United States courts. The law was used in September by a Brooklyn jury to find Arab Bank liable for supporting terrorism by Hamas. Damages in that case, filed by about 300 victims of 24 terrorist attacks, are to be decided in a second trial, which has not yet been held.

In the Palestinian case, Judge George B. Daniels rejected repeated defense arguments to dismiss the case in the years before trial. The plaintiffs included 10 families, comprising about three dozen members, eight of whom were physically injured in the attacks while the others were left with deep psychological scars, testimony showed.

The plaintiffs also included the estates of four victims who had been killed in the attacks, which occurred on the street and at a crowded bus stop, inside a bus, and in a cafeteria on the campus of Hebrew University.

The defense had argued that their clients had nothing to do with the attacks. Mark J. Rochon, a defense lawyer, told the jury on Thursday that he did not want “the bad guys, the killers, the people who did this to get away while the Palestinian Authority or the P.L.O. pay for something they did not do.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the P.L.O.’s executive committee who testified for the defense, told the jury, “We tried to prevent violence from all sides.”

But citing testimony, payroll records and other documents, the plaintiffs showed that many of those involved in the planning and carrying out of the attacks had been employees of the Palestinian Authority, and that the authority had paid salaries to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and had made martyr payments to the families of suicide bombers.

The Times of Israel brings us the stories behind the names of each of the victims, the details terror attack in which they were killed or injured, and the dreadful impact these attacks had on surviving family members.

The 11 families that brought the case against the Palestinian Authority and PLO to a New York court, which on Monday ruled that the Palestinian leadership was responsible for six terror attacks during the Second Intifada, included the four parents of US citizens murdered in the Hebrew University cafeteria bombing, the family of a man killed in a Jerusalem suicide attack on his way to work, and several others whose lives were irreparably damaged by injuries sustained during terror attacks over a decade ago.

Read the whole story to understand the dreadful impact these terror attacks had on the families as well as on the victims themselves.

Here is the story of one American teenager who was saved davka by an Arab doctor:

Here is one victim’s family member testifying:

Beyond the financial victory for the plaintiffs and the moral victory for Israel, the verdict spells trouble for PA President-for-life Mahmoud Abbas at the International Criminal Court (ICC):

From JPost:

One cannot underestimate the impact of yesterday’s $655.5 million US terrorism trial verdict against the Palestinian Authority on its hopes to convince the International Criminal Court prosecutor to indict Israeli soldiers and leaders for alleged war crimes in last summer’s Gaza war.

Why would a US ruling on whether the PA was involved in terrorism in 2004, matter in 2015? Because until now, despite Israeli allegations of Yasser Arafat’s involvement in the second intifada violence, the PA has said Hamas performed all the terrorism and that it has been clean since the mid-1990s Oslo Accords.

If it emerges in the verdict that the PA was involved in terrorism from the top down, suddenly the PA is not coming with clean hands, but with hands awash in the war crimes that it accuses Israel of.

If the ICC prosecutor is on the fence, a major decision like this – and maybe more like it following – could push the narrative far enough in Israel’s favor that the prosecutor could be concerned about being viewed as having indirectly assisted terrorists.

Israel or Israel-supporters could even try to use the US decision, though it is a civil damages case, to push the ICC to intervene against the PA, dating back to the second intifada.

Until now, PA President Mahmoud Abbas had no personal risk going to the ICC, as the Gaza war at most, put Israel and Hamas at risk.

Investigating the second intifada could put him and his inner circle at legal risk – producing a situation where the ICC would be reliant on Abbas providing evidence against Israel, which in turn could present equally damaging testimony against him.

That day can’t come quickly enough for my liking.

Kol hakavod to Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Shurat HaDin for their persistence, steadfastness, and ultimately for their victory.  Huge kudos too to the New York District Court for not submitting to pressure or political correctness and finding for the plaintiffs – finding for justice.

May this be the first of many.

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6 Responses to Shurat HaDin victory: Palestinian Authority and PLO found liable in NY court for supporting terror attacks

  1. Earl says:

    And, as I have been advocating for more than a decade, the estate of the late (American) David Berger (RIP) should proscecute a USD1 billion wrongful death action in a NY civil court against the PLO and the PA. This Shurat HaDin lawsuit “might” initiate the coup de grace against these vipers, and bring some justice to the Berger family.

  2. Pete says:

    ANNE – the decision against the Palestinian authorities in New York is interesting. But I am not sure that anyone will be able to collect any money – since the jurisdiction of the Court does not extend beyond American soil. What seems more likely, is that Palestinian officials will not be able to visit the USA without being arrested and told to stand before the court system. That could happen – in principle.

    Returning to our own sideboard discussion – Bibi’s upcoming speech in Washington. It is interesting that suddenly all kids of news articles are hitting the press, when everything was quiet a month ago :-). AS you noted, the “disclosure” by an inte source from S. Africa implies that Mossad does not support Bibi. But your own clarifications actually show that is not true – at least as far as the sanctions and negotiations ago. Whether Israel’s agencies would support a strike on Iran, is not clear at all.

    What is interesting now, is the appearance of this article.;_ylt=A0SO8yB8Ne5UycAA7ahXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEzMm1zcnEyBGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMyBHZ0aWQDVklQMzA0XzEEc2VjA3Ny

    Since this story comes from an Iranian opposition group, it is also fair to say that they have an “axe to grind”. So the disclosure is not objective. It may, or may not, be true. It is certainly a concern if it’s accurate. Although I would have to say that it would hardly be a surprise. Once again, the general public is simply left watching the diplomatic tit-for-tat in the media, but with no way to verify any of these claims.

    I have NO IDEA what Bibi’s approval rating is in the USA. I can tell you, from watching recent Yahoo news coverage about the upcoming speech, that many readers’ comments are unfavorable. They are “unfavorable” in the sense that US readers see this speech as an attempt by Israel to meddle in US policy. It is conceivable that if public reaction is widespread along these lines, that Bibi’s speech could backfire (increasing support for Pres. Obama, who would be seen as not yielding to Bibi’s pressure tactics). These terms are not my opinion, but they often show up in the reader comments. HOWEVER, I am dubious about the Yahoo reader comments. There are a number of people who seem to be frequent trolls. And on top of that, I am starting to suspect that there may even be “paid trolls” who exist to belittle other readers whose views do not support some agenda. It’s certainly conceivable. So we really don’t know a true estimate for PM Netanyahu’s status in the eyes of US citizens.

    It is unfortunate that the Iran issue is getting kicked around as a political football. What the world needs badly – is some clarity.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Oops, sorry Pete, your comment got flagged as spam for no apparent reason. Lucky I checked!

      The win against the PLO is as much a moral win as a financial one as you say. It’s better than a kick in the teeth, that’s for sure!

      Re Bibi, I would most definitely pay no attention at all to newspaper commenters and “talkbackers” as they are called in Hebrew.

      To be honest it doesn’t really matter how much support Bibi has in the US – it matters only how much support he has in Congress. He obviously feels he has no choice.

      As for partisanship, it was Obama who turned it into a partisan issue. If he had welcomed Bibi and only demanded the right of reply, it would have been a minor affair. But Obama has managed to blow the whole thing up and given Bibi the best media attention he could ever have prayed for.

  3. Earl says:

    IMO, it is not the monetary damages that is the real story here- although anything to cripple the PLO/PA is a Good Thing and damages to the families of the victims is a positive. Rather, it is that an American court has clearly correlated the PLO/PA/Hamas with terror, and it makes any attempt by Abbas to take Israel to the ICJ highly problematic- he can hardly seek equity with clean hands. I would also hope (OK, here is some comic relief) that Abbas is hereinafter denied entry to any Western state as the (nominal) head of a terror group.

    • anneinpt says:

      Agreed 100%. The PA were already claiming this week that they have no money to pay for the damages. Boo hoo. I wonder where all those billions in EU aid disappeared to. Certainly not to pay the salaries of their terrorists, oops, I mean, civil servants. They’re demanding that Israel give them their withheld tax payments to pay those. Not to mention their electric and water bills to Israeli utility companies.

      Oh, don’t let me go on, I shall rant on here forever!

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