MANHATTAN (CN) – A group of injured or bereaved American, Canadian and Israeli citizens who sued Al Jazeera failed to show the news organization aided the 2006 Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel, a federal judge found.
Between July 12 and Aug. 14, 2006, Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets and missiles at civilians in northern Israel, killing at least 43 and injuring hundreds of others. Dozens of plaintiffs, who were either injured or lost family members in those attacks, say that Hezbollah had no internal guidance system for its rockets, and relied on Al Jazeera’s broadcasts to report where their previous rockets had landed.
They sued the network for alleged violations of the Antiterrorism Act, aiding and abetting terrorism, Alien Tort Statute and Israeli Law claims for negligence.
Their complaint for a reported $1.2 billion alleges that Al Jazeera “repeatedly and intentionally recorded and transmitted to Al Jazeera’s broadcast facilities real-time audiovisual footage … describing and depicting the precise impact locations in Israel of rockets fired by Hezbollah” to help “Hezbollah to more accurately aim its rockets, and thereby inflict more and greater harm” on Israel and the United States.
In a 16-page order tossing the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood said the plaintiffs failed to support that claim with evidence.
Instead, the plaintiffs tried to show that Al Jazeera has an official “anti-American and anti-Israel organizational policy,” citing eight statements and three actions other individuals and institutions have made about the network, Wood wrote.
Their evidence included a diplomatic cable complaining that an Al Jazeera reporter referred to a Palestinian suicide bomber as a “martyr,” and a New York Times editorial accusing the network’s coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as presenting “the Taliban point of view.”
Even if accurately quoted, these statements by others would not implicate Al Jazeera in the Hezbollah rocket attacks, Wood wrote.
“Only three of Plaintiffs’ eleven citations even refer to Hezbollah,” Wood wrote.
“Only one of those three citations asserts that Defendant has any bias in favor of Hezbollah specifically-and even that says nothing about any ‘official organization policy’ that Defendant may have had, let alone any intention Defendant may have had to aid Hezbollah,” she added.
In the complaint, the plaintiffs darkly suggested an Al Jazeera spokesman declared common cause with Islamic radicalism by saying “[m]oney is not of paramount importance. We believe we have a mission.”
The judge agreed with Al Jazeera that this statement could simply refer to “a news organization’s ‘mission’ to accurately report the news.”
In a footnote, Wood added that major news outlets worldwide broadcast Hezbollah’s rocket attacks.
“Plaintiffs do not appear to dispute the fact that the Hezbollah rocket attacks were covered by all three of the major United States news networks, as well as CNN, Fox News, and multiple international news organizations,” the order states.
To support their case, the plaintiffs cited Boim v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, in which the former largest Islamic charity in the United States, now-defunct, was found liable for the death of an American citizen after it was discovered that it supported Hamas.
Wood found that this precedent “strains credulity.”
“Plaintiffs have offered no facts suggesting that Defendant even knew that it was providing anything to Hezbollah,” Wood wrote. “This is a far cry from donating money to a terrorist organization.”
Wood dismissed all of the claims without prejudice, allowing the plaintiff to refile within the next two weeks.
An attorney for Al Jazeera declined to comment, and the voicemail of the plaintiffs’ lead attorney indicated that the office was closed due to a religious holiday. The Jewish holiday of Shavuot ends Thursday evening.
Al Jazeera press office, based in Doha, Qatar, could not immediately respond to an email request for comment.