Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Americans have understood: Palestinian Authority=terrorism
A precedent-setting verdict was handed down Monday at the Federal Court House in Manhattan. This ruling and the line it draws between the Palestinian Authority and terrorism merits deeper scrutiny.
The jury decided that the Palestinian Authority and the PLO are liable for damages of $655.5 million to victims of terrorism. The plaintiffs, families of the dead and injured in a series of terror attacks that took place in Israel between 2001 and 2004, claimed the attacks were carried out with the support and encouragement of the PA. The jury accepted this position of the petitioners, who were represented by the Israeli NGO Shurat Hadin Law Center.
A similar verdict was handed down by a court in the District of Columbia two years ago. It ordered the Syrian government to pay damages of $332 million to an American-Jewish family that lost its son in a Tel Aviv terror attack carried out by an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber. At the time, the Shurat Hadin Law Center succeeded in proving that Syria and Iran trained and supported the Islamic Jihad. Now, this same unambiguous link has been proven between terrorism and the PA.
Sadly, this connection was made somewhere far away from our holy land. It took a New York jury, whose members were carefully screened to ensure they have no affinity for Israel, to forcefully lay down a clear equation: the Palestinian Authority equals terrorism. In Israel, on the other hand, people continue to squirm in discomfort at such claims, at best, or, what's worse, to shut their eyes.
Some 15 years have gone by since Shurat Hadin started filing lawsuits against the Palestinian Authority on behalf of terror victims, but the wheels of justice spin slowly in Israeli courts. Too slowly. Fifty such suits are winding their way slowly through various appeal levels, desperately awaiting a courageous ruling, one that looks reality in the eye.
But there are some who, instead of encouraging such suits, actually try to undermine them. Last January, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed the Jerusalem District Court that he wishes to appear in two of the court cases to explain why senior defense officials should not be allowed to testify. The terror victims wanted to subpoena former security chiefs, such as the retired head of military intelligence Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, and the one-time head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, Avi Dichter, to testify about documents seized during Operation Defensive Shield. They argued that the documents prove the PA's involvement in the terror attacks in which their loved ones had lost their lives. The attorney general of the State of Israel took the wrong side, the one that defends the terrorists, and demanded that the testimony be precluded for all sorts of vague reasons, such as "the diplomatic and security sensitivity and the possible consequences." In plain words, concern that this testimony could damage diplomatic moves vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority.
In Talmudic Hebrew, the word "blood" has a double meaning – blood and money. It's very hard to sever the tie between blood and terror, but terror can and must be cut off from the funding sources that drive it. This is true for the Islamic State, which will not be vanquished unless it is cut off from the oil wells which it has taken over. It is true for the state of Hamas-stan, whose economy is based on terrorist smuggling tunnels, and for the Palestinian Authority, as well.
As long as the PA continues to pay generous benefits to terrorists and their families, it itself is terror incarnate. Diplomatic moves vis-à-vis the Authority can only take place on the day that it internalizes that terrorism does not pay. Until then the Israeli legal system should encourage measures that will make the PA pay a price for its deeds, and not the other way around.
Yifat Erlich is an Israeli journalist on Channel Two's documentary program "Hamaarechet" and an opinion writer for the daily Yediot Aharonot.