WASHINGTON (CN) - Support for Israeli settlements has casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and several U.S. nonprofits, philanthropists and corporations facing an unprecedented $34.5 billion complaint by Palestinians.
Clocking in at a staggering 187 pages, the action filed Monday accuses the big-name defendants of having collectively supported Israeli settlement growth, to the tune of $1 billion funneled every year through U.S.-based nonprofits, to rid the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories of non-Jewish inhabitants.
In addition to Adelson, the 51 named defendants include former White House national security adviser Elliott Abrams, Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Daniel Gilbert, megachurch pastor John Hagee, five other individuals and dozens of corporations including Remax, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola and Volvo.
None of the aforementioned defendants have returned requests for comment. A research assistant for Abrams at the Council on Foreign Relations merely noted Wednesday that the senior fellow was out of the office.
The March 7 complaint accuses them of having channeled money to Israeli settlements under the guise of charitable donations made to U.S. tax-exempt entities, affording them maximum tax deductions for their contributions.
"These defendants, for close to 30 years, have violated at least eight federal criminal statutes ... including money laundering, and any number of applicable Treasury regulations governing tax-exempt entities," the complaint says.
In addition to civil conspiracy and allegations of money laundering and violations of Treasury regulations, the complaint charges the defendants with trespass, war crimes, crimes against humanity - including genocide and pillage - and racketeering, though not all of the charges are leveled against all of the defendants.
The lead plaintiff behind the lawsuit, Bassem al-Tamimi, says he was tortured as part of the promotion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, abbreviated in the complaint as OPT.
Along with Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa and 16 other individuals, two of whom represent killed Palestinians, five village councils joined the complaint as plaintiffs.
They characterize the alleged conspiracy as supporting, "encouraging and funding wholesale violence and arms trafficking abroad and comprehensive war crimes in order to advance their own political agenda - getting rid of all non-Jews in the OPT."
Discussing the complaint in an interview, an attorney for the plaintiffs said his team is prepared for the practical concern that could deal the case an early dismissal -namely, conventional wisdom about the conflict suggesting that Israel acts in self-defense from Palestinian terrorism.
"It's going to be very difficult for these guys to get out of the lawsuit," attorney Martin McMahon said.
"If you're going into court seeking $34 billion, you better have your ducks in a row. So I do think we have our ducks in a row," he added.
McMahon said he and W. Jameson Fox with Martin F. McMahon & Associates have "stockpiled" facts.
"We have tailored this case to meet tort statute requirements, which means that the activity you're complaining about touches American soil," McMahon said. "And we believe it really does."
The complaint says tax-deductible contributions from U.S. donors provided funding for a "foreign army whose members condoned, facilitated, and in some cases encouraged and participated in the commission of comprehensive war crimes."
"Thus, American taxpayers have been subsidizing a foreign army's ongoing pattern of war crimes activity," it continues.
More specifically, the complaint alleges that the conspiracy condones and facilitates "daily violent attacks on Palestinian homeowners and farmers by settlers armed with military hardware purchased with funds from U.S. tax-exempt entities."