Palestine Averts Supreme Court Detour on Bombings

MANHATTAN (CN) — The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider reinstating a $655 million fine against the Palestinian government for a spate of suicide bombings in Israel.

Mark Sokolow, a lawyer who had also been in the World Trade Center on 9/11, brought the underlying complaint over a decade ago in the immediate wake of the Second Intifada.

Taking its name from the Arabic word for “uprising” or “shaking off,” the intifada raged in Israel from late 2000 to early 2005, toward the end of Yasser Arafat’s rule. The Jerusalem-based human rights group B’Tselem says the cycle of violence left 1,083 Israelis and 6,371 Palestinians dead.

Leading 11 families touched by the slaughter, Sokolow eventually brought his case to trial in New York in 2015.

Though a federal jury found Arafat’s government to blame for five attacks on Hebrew University, a bus and public streets, the Second Circuit waived the penalty entirely a year later, emphasizing that U.S. courts are the wrong venue for such justice.

“The terror machine gun attacks and suicide bombings that triggered this suit and victimized these plaintiffs were unquestionably horrific,” the 61-page ruling had said. “But the federal courts cannot exercise jurisdiction in a civil case beyond the limits prescribed by the due process clause of the Constitution, no matter how horrendous the underlying attacks or morally compelling the plaintiffs’ claims.”

Quoting precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court case Daimler AG v. Bauman, the Second Circuit’s ruling called offices that the Palestinian Authority maintains in Washington, D.C., insufficient to support jurisdiction.

Daimler, which let a German auto giant off the hook for Argentina’s Dirty War, requires that a plaintiff demonstrate a defendant sued for conduct abroad is “essentially at home” in the United States.

This is not the case for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the court found.

Sokolow and the other families are U.S. citizens, but their “own evidence establishes the random and fortuitous nature” of the attacks, the court found.

Monday’s order from the Supreme Court denying certiorari does not include any comment, as is the court’s custom.

Sokolow had been represented by Kent Yalowitz of Arnold & Porter.

Gassan Baloul represented the Palestinian bodies for the Washington-based firm Squire Patton Boggs.

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