Late Monday, a New York jury in federal court ruled that the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority partially liable for six terrorist attacks in Israel. The families and survivors receive $218.5 million in damages. This decision filed in Manhattan federal court follows a lengthy battle stemming from a 2004 lawsuit filed under the U.S. Antiterrorism Act. The law, allows U.S. victims of international terrorism to seek justice in federal court.
The ruling comes as the Palestinian Authority problems continue to mount. They are closing in on an economic crisis started an Israeli decision to freeze millions in tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Authority. The sanction came in response to a move by the Authority to join the International Criminal Court in the Hague, where it wants to bring war-crimes trials against Israel over its occupation of the West Bank. Israel has argued the Palestinian Authority is guilty of war crimes itself, and the federal verdict could be used by Israel to bolster that argument.
After two days of deliberation, the jury decided both the PLO and PA knowingly aided in facilitating a wave of mass shootings and bombings in Israel, 13 years ago. The attacks killed 33 people and wounded more than 400 hundred others. The plaintiffs were families affected by a handful of attacks, including the 2002 bombing of a Hebrew University cafeteria and a 2004 suicide bombing on a Jerusalem public bus. The Palestinian Authority, continue to deny they had any involvement in the attacks and continue to argue that they shouldn’t be responsible for the actions of a group of extremists. Legal experts believe it will be nearly impossible for the plaintiffs to receive their damages. “The problem is not getting the judgment, the problem is collecting,” New York University law professor Oscar Chase said. “I’m not going to say they can’t or won’t recover the money or some of it. I am going to say it’s difficult.” PLO lawyers have not made any comments in regards to this decision by the New York federal court.
This decision by the jury comes just a few months after a Brooklyn federal jury decided that Arab Bank PLC liable for supporting terrorism in and around Israel. The recent verdicts could pave the way for more lawsuits against organizations, including global banks that allegedly facilitate or fund terrorist acts. The lawyers can target bank accounts or other assets the Palestinian groups maintain in the U.S. if they can prove which assets belong to the groups. Arab Bank has hotly denied responsibility for the financial operations of Hamas operatives involved in the attacks, claiming that it was the duty of governments to intervene rather than the bank itself. Israeli officials have denied any “official” involvement in the lawsuit. A joint statement by the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) described the charges as “baseless” and said they were disappointed by the ruling. The victims had requested more than $350m. The US Anti-Terrorism Act could yet allow for the fine to be tripled.