Jury deliberations will begin today in a New York trial to determine whether the Palestinian Authority is responsible for a series of terrorist attacks in Israel in which US citizens were killed or injured.
The $1 billion lawsuit was filed under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990, which allows US victims of foreign terrorist attacks to sue in federal courts. The trial is focused on six shooting and bombing attacks that took place in Jerusalem from 2002-2004 during the Second Intifada.
These attacks, which killed 33 and wounded nearly 400, were carried out by employees of the Palestinian Authority. The plaintiffs, who are represented by Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center and Kent Yalowitz of Arnold & Porter, have argued that the PA and the PLO are directly responsible for these deaths and injuries.
The lawsuit was first filed in 2004 by lead plaintiff Mark Sokolow, an attorney from Cedarhurst, NY, who was injured in a 2002 suicide bombing. The full list of plaintiffs includes some 40 victims and relatives of victims of terrorist attacks. However, the trial only began in January 2015 due to attempts by the PA and PLO to get the trial thrown out by claiming that US courts do not have jurisdiction over them.
In his closing remarks, the lawyer for the defense, Mark Rochon argued that, although PA employees carried out the terrorist attacks, that does not make the PA or the PLO responsible for the attacks. “Sometimes people who do terrible things work for the government,” he said. He also noted that a State Department report from the period, known as the Palestine Liberation Organization Commitments Compliance Act, found that the PA was complying with its commitments to Israel and the US.
“What they did was despicable, selfish,” Rochon concluded. “But it was not the PA.”
PA Employees: Commit Terrorist Acts and Get Paid
Yalowitz responded in his closing remarks, “If you have a policy that says: ‘If you commit a terrorist act, you keep your job, get a promotion, and get paid while you’re in jail,’ that says something about who you are and what you believe in.”
Rochon accused Yalowitz of playing politics in January when he brought up the fact that the terrorists remained on the PA’s payroll, and requested a mistrial. The request was denied by the presiding judge, George Daniels.
Following the close of the trial, Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner commented, “As both sides have rested and the case is handed over to the jury, the terrorism victim families are optimistic that the defendants will be found guilty of the violent attacks that they perpetrated during the second intifada and which have devastated their lives.”
The US may soon see more terrorism trials in federal courts following a successful lawsuit in 2014 against Arab Bank PLC, the largest bank in Jordan, for providing assistance to Hamas. It was the first time a verdict was issued for a lawsuit under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990.