Palestinians Appeal $655M Fine for Bombings

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A year after 10 families won a $655 million verdict for a spate of suicide bombings in Israel, the Palestinian Authority’s appeal of that award Tuesday swirled around the far less emotional issue of jurisdiction.
     Led by Mark Sokolow, the decade-old case marks the first to make the Palestinian government pay a hefty fine for the Second Intifada, from the Arabic word often translated as “shaking off” or “uprising.”
     B’Tselem, a human rights group based in Jerusalem, reported that 1,083 Israelis and 6,371 Palestinians were killed during this five-year conflict under Yasser Arafat’s rule.
     After the intifada ended in 2005, relatives of victims who died in Israel filed federal complaints in New York and Washington against Palestinian government entities. Only the New York cases proceeded to trial, where jurors heard emotional testimony from those whose families were burned, maimed and killed in the attacks.
     Mitch Berger, an attorney for the Palestinian Authority with the firm Squire Patton Boggs, told the Second Circuit this morning, however, that the New York case should have gone the way of its Washington analogue, which was dismissed before trial.
     Berger said this is the result dictated by the Supreme Court case Daimler AG v. Bauman, which sought to hold a German auto giant liable for Argentina’s Dirty War.
     Daimler requires that a plaintiff demonstrate the defendant is “essentially at home” in the United States.
     “The mere fact that Americans were killed in a horrific attack does not answer the question,” Berger said.
     Second Circuit Judge Christopher Droney asked how plaintiffs could take advantage of the Anti-Terrorism Act passed by Congress when they need to sue in Ramallah, referring to the West Bank’s most populous city.
     Berger countered that plaintiffs could use this law if they establish that the “brunt of the injury here.”
     An attorney for the families meanwhile started his arguments with an emotional appeal.
     “I rise to speak for 11 American families, some of whom are in the courtroom today,” Kent Yalowitz said.
     Only 10 of his clients won damages, and Yalowitz aims to revive the dismissed claims on cross-appeal.
     Alleging a plan to intimidate the United States, Yalowitz quoted a sermon broadcast on Palestinian Authority television before the Hebrew University bombing.
     “A divine blow will be dealt soon to the U.S. and Israel, by Allah’s will,” a Palestinian clergyman said, as quoted by Yalowitz.
     Berger countered that specific jurisdiction requires the plaintiffs to prove a “global campaign of terror directed at the United States.”
     He cited the plaintiffs’ own experts as saying that the campaign was directed in “opposition to the occupation of Palestine by Israel.”
     Circuit Judge Pierre Leval rounded out the panel along with U.S. District Judge John Koeltl, sitting by designation from the Southern District of New York. They reserved decision on the matter.
     If upheld, the verdict could carry profound implications for the Palestinian Authority and surrounding areas.
     Early last year, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the judge to “carefully consider” the size of the bond that he set, considering its possible effect on the “continued viability of the PA in light of evidence of its financial situation.”
     “Senior U.S. officials have made clear to other governments that if the PA were to collapse, we would be faced with a crisis that would not only impact the security of Israelis and Palestinians, but would potentially have ripple effects elsewhere in the region,” Blinken wrote.
     U.S. District Judge George Daniels imposed a one-time deposit of $10 million on Aug. 24, 2015, followed by payments of $1 million per month until the appeal has been resolved.

%d bloggers like this: