Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Second Palestinian Uprising Case Goes to Trial

MANHATTAN (CN) - With a new terrorist attack in Jerusalem spurring talk of a third intifada, Israeli families still grieving from the second one just gained the right to take the Palestinian government to trial in January.

Victims of the wave of suicide bombings on Israeli shops, restaurants, buses and other landmarks in the early 2000s, known as the second intifada or al-Aqsa intifada, first filed a New York federal lawsuit in 2004.

Arabic for "shaking off," the original intifada began in 1987 as a Palestinian uprising as massive protests against Israeli military presence in the occupied West Bank.

Throughout the media, that intifada came to be symbolized by stone- and Molotov cocktail-throwing youth, while the second one came to be associated with suicide bombers.

Reports have speculated a third intifada is imminent, taking the form of random car collisions against Israeli civilians, and most recently the haphazard butchery of civilian worshippers in Jerusalem that was praised by Hamas.

Led by Mark Sokolow, a lawyer who survived a bombing in Jerusalem shortly after escaping the south tower of the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the lawsuit went through several procedural challenges and extensive discovery over a decade.

As the New York case inched forward, former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in his compound in Ramallah. Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice urged new leader Mahmoud Abbas to settle the case, only to leave her post with resolution no closer. And several new conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians broke out, ended and flared up again.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge George Daniels removed the final hurdle on the road to trial with an order denying the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization's attempt to throw out the suit that accuses them of having "funded, planned and carried out" seven attacks, before it saw a jury.

Daniels ruled that there was enough evidence to bring the case to trial on Jan. 12, 2015.

The families' lead trial counsel, Kent Yalowitz of Arnold & Porter, said in a phone interview that his clients were "looking forward to their day in court."

"We've seen ebbs and flows in the terror apparatus directed at civilians in Israel," Yalowitz commented. "We're at a time when those terror attacks are increasing. In the past six months, we've had eight or ten Americans murdered in Israel in terror attacks."

This new wave of violence comes at a time when Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are increasingly considered a dead letter, and shortly after Israel pummeled Gaza this summer in attacks on Hamas that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

Eerily echoing history a decade ago, Abbas, like Arafat before him, inveighed against Jews visiting a site known in Judaism as the Temple Mount and in Islam as the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Historians sometimes refer to the second intifada as the al-Aqsa intifada because it followed ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to the holy site, a move that upset many Palestinians.

Yalowitz called the continuing violence "just heartbreaking."

"Living in a case like this, you really see the toll it takes on families," he added. "It just tears them apart."

Yalowitz predicted that evidence of Arafat's alleged complicity in the attacks, including more information surrounding a letter - the meaning of which is disputed by the two parties - that will be unsealed before trial next year.

The plaintiffs in the case want $1 billion in damages, which is roughly a tenth of the GDP of the Palestinian Territories.

Lawyers for the Palestinian Authority did not respond to a request for comment before press time.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.