Monday, February 23, 2015
US court orders Palestinians to pay $218 mn to victims of attacks in Israel Palestinian Authority, PLO found liable after jury awards damages to American victims of six separate attacks
A US jury on Monday ordered Palestinian authorities to pay $218 million in damages to American victims of six separate attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004. Under US anti-terrorism laws, the amount could be tripled to $655.5 million.
The jury found the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) liable on 25 separate charges and awarded the damages after one day of deliberations in a New York court.
Eleven plaintiff families filed suit in federal court against both the PA and the PLO following the attacks that killed 33 people and injured more than 390 others.
The plaintiffs had pressed for the PA and the PLO to be held accountable for supporting the attacks carried out by members of the Islamist movement Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, some of whom were also on the entities' payroll.
But lawyers for the PA said last week it should not be held responsible for "crazy and terrible" attacks committed in Israel, insisting the subjects acted independently.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman welcomed the court's ruling, describing it as "primarily a moral victory for Israel and victims of terror."
"This decision should be wake-up call to the Palestinians themselves and those working for them to recognize that terrorism is an essential component of the PA," Lieberman said. "The glorification and veneration of terrorism and terrorists among the Palestinians - which the PA is responsible for - is an affliction that must be eradicated through re-education."
The $1 billion lawsuit was filed over a series of deadly attacks in or near Jerusalem that killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, a decade ago. The plaintiffs have turned to the US court because some of the victims were American citizens.
Although the cases are not directly linked, the ruling against the PA threatens to undermine Palestinian efforts to rally international support for a brewing battle at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
On Saturday, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Israel-based Shurat HaDin Law Center, a lawyer who is representing the victims' families, said "it will definitely have an impact" on the Palestinians' image, saying the case is "full of evidence" that Palestinian Authority security men helped plan or carry out the attacks.
"Those involved in the attacks still receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority and still get promoted in rank while in jail," she said. Families of suicide bombers receive monthly salaries from a Palestinian "martyr's foundation," she said.
She said a militant linked to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party drove a female suicide bomber to downtown Jerusalem, where she set off her explosives on a busy street in 2002, killing an 81-year-old man and wounding dozens. The driver is currently in Israeli prison, she said.
Members of a family from Long Island testified in early February about the attack. Rena Sokolow said the world seemed to be spinning "like I was in a washing machine," and blood flowed so quickly from a broken leg she thought she would die.
"I looked to my right and saw a severed head of a woman about three feet from me," she testified. Her daughter Jamie, then 12, suffered multiple facial wounds.
The female bomber, Wafa Idris, is widely regarded as a hero in the Palestinian territories, as are other militants who have carried out attacks.
Meshulam Perlman described to the court in January the aftermath of a Palestinian suicide bombing that targeted a crowded bus in Jerusalem.
"Bodies, corpses were flying. They were flying onto balconies and rooftops," said the 70-year-old flower shop owner. "People were severed in two, severed into pieces," he said.
The 2004 lawsuit was brought under the Anti-terrorism Act of 1991 and sought damages from the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The Israeli government said it had no official involvement in the case.
The case was delayed for years as lawyers for the Palestinians tried to challenge the American court's jurisdiction.