Monday, September 25, 2023
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Suit Over West Bank Terrorist Attack Tossed

WASHINGTON (CN) - The family of a man killed in a terrorist attack at a Jewish holy site in the West Bank cannot sue the Palestinian Authority, a federal judge ruled.

Ben-Yosef Livnat had been one of 17 people worshipping at Joseph's Tomb, outside of Nablus, on April 24, 2011, when Palestinian Authority security forces descended upon them with machine guns.

Livnat, shot in the neck while trying to escape, was the only casualty.

His family, including a brother present at the attack, sued filed two suits in Washington, against the Palestinian Authority under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

They claimed that the security forces later obscured evidence to make it appear as though the worshippers attacked them with rocks.

Alleging vicarious liability and aiding and abetting international terrorism against the nonsovereign government, Livnat's family claimed that the attack was part of a "policy and practice of encouraging acts of terror and using terrorism to influence U.S. public opinion and policy."

They said the attack aimed to influence Israeli and U.S. government policies regarding rights of Israelis to visit the West Bank, as well as influence peace negotiations between the governments and the Palestinian Authority.

In support of jurisdiction for their cases, Livnat's family pointed to an office the Palestinian Authority operates in the U.S. and said that the government receives hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from the U.S. each year.

The defendant countered that the office in question is an office of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a nationalist group that does not represent the government. As a non-sovereign government, the Palestine Authority is not allowed to have an official office abroad.

Though the plaintiffs argued that it would be consistent with U.S. laws for the U.S. to exercise jurisdictional power since the non-sovereign government is not subject to any other state court's jurisdiction, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly dismissed the case on Wednesday.

That argument relies on proving the Palestinian Authority has sufficient contacts with the U.S. to justify jurisdiction, showing that the Palestinian government is "essentially at home" in the U.S., according to the Feb. 11 opinion.

"It is common sense that the single ascertainable place where a government such at the Palestinian Authority should be amenable to suit for all purposes is the place where it governs," Kollar-Kotelly wrote. "Here, that place is the West Bank, not the United States."

Denying the motion by Livnat's family for jurisdictional discovery, Kollar-Kotelly said "the court cannot 'see what facts additional discovery could produce that would affect our jurisdictional analysis.'"

Kollar-Kotelly issued the opinion in separate but identical orders for both cases the family brought.

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