It’s “unthinkable” to blame children on their way home from school for their own deaths, declared Racheli Frenkel, one of the victims’ mothers.
A US Judge told the parents of Naftali Frenkel, who was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists together with two other Israeli teens in the summer of 2014, that they were partially to blame for his death because they chose to send him to a school in an area supposedly prone to terror attacks, and the fact that the teenager was targeted as a Jew and an Israeli and not as an American should reduce the level of damages awarded by a US court.
The three Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel were kidnapped and shortly thereafter murdered by Hamas terrorists in the summer of 2014 in the Gush Etzion area. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave three weeks later on the way the Hebron. In September, Israeli Special Forces tracked down and killed the terrorists.
In 2015, Racheli Frenkel, Naftali’s mother and a US citizen, filed a lawsuit against Iran and Syria in a federal court in Washington hold them accountable for her son’s murder.
During the proceedings, Frenkel recounted the devastating night of her son’s abduction and the subsequent torturous weeks.
Federal Judge Rosemary Mayers Collyer accepted the family’s claims but chose to award them a very small amount in compensation, arguing that the family had taken its chances and endangered itself when it chose to live in Judea and Samaria, according to the ruling obtained by Israel’s Ynet news and published on Tuesday.
‘This is Unthinkable’
Collyer conceded that Frenkel’s murder “was a tragic event for which money can never compensate his family.”
She was convinced that Iran and Syria did provide material support and resources to Hamas in Israel, which contributed to the hostage-taking and murder of Naftali Frenkel, but ordered the defendants to pay only $1 million for Naftali’s pain and suffering, $50 million in punitive damages, and $4.1 million to his family in “solatium damages,” a term for the mental anguish suffered. The family sought damages of $340 million.
The Frenkel family appealed the sum awarded, but Collyer refused to reconsider her decision, stating that the plaintiffs had assumed the risk of living beyond the Green Line in Israel and sending Naftali Frenkel to a school in Gush Etzion.
Explaining the decision to award the family a significantly reduced small, Collyer noted that Frenkel was kidnapped and murdered for being Jewish and Israeli, not because he was an American citizen. This affects what the family is entitled to in civil damages, she asserted.
Racheli was shocked by the judge’s comment. “This is unthinkable,” she said. “The children were on their way home from school. How can the teens be responsible for their own death?”
The family members appealed the ruling through attorneys Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Robert Tolchin of the Shurat Hadin Israel Law Center, arguing that the court exceeded its authority and considered improper factors in its decision.
Last month, a court reversed Collyer’s decision and ruled that the Frenkel family is entitled to a higher level of damages than was awarded by the earlier judgment, handing the case back to the judge and clarifying that no guilt should be ascribed to the victim.
The court also said that it found “no legal basis” to limit damages based on being “targeted for his affiliation with Israel, rather than the US.”
Collyer is expected to rule on the matter soon.
‘Expect to be Murdered’?
“We filed the claim to ‘irritate the bad guys,’” Racheli Frenkel explained, according to Ynet. “There are many ways to fight terror, and in this case we are trying to put financial obstacles in their way. Even if a large sum of money is awarded, no one will enforce the ruling. We don’t actually expect to receive the money.”
Frenkel referred to the original ruling as “outrageous,” adding that “the boys were on their way home from school. Does that make it okay to kill them?”
Meir Katz of the Berkman Law Office, who is one of the attorneys representing the Frenkels, welcomed the reversal.
“This is a very big win,” he told Hamodia.
“This district court ruling could have been very damaging as it essentially said that you can be an American citizen, but if you are attacked for being Jewish you are somehow worthless in the eyes of the law, or that living in a certain place [implies] an acceptance that you might be attacked. Fortunately, that is now off the books.”
Darshan-Leitner elaborated, “We are glad that the court of appeals ruled that Naftali shouldn’t have ‘expected to be murdered’ by Palestinian terrorists because he studied beyond the Green Line. The statement that the Frenkel family took the risk of being kidnapped and murdered because of their place of residence justifies terrorism and violence against innocent civilians. Moreover, when such a statement is issued by a court—alongside a financial reward to Palestinian terrorists—it may encourage further acts of terror, in Israel and worldwide.”
Iran will not pay the amounts for which it has been found liable, but the Frenkels may receive payments through the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund. The fund is financed with fines paid by entities that engage in business with countries in violation of US law.