More than a decade after a series of shootings and bombings in the Jerusalem area, a trial in New York this week is slated to determine whether the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority should pay up to $1 billion in compensation to victims.
Palestinian soldiers lower the Palestinian flags to half mast at the Muqataa Compound in Ramallah on July 20, 2014, to honor the people killed in the Gaza Strip during Israel’s Operation Dove. – Photo: AFP
Jury selection begins on Jan. 13 for the civil trial, which is expected to last 12 weeks and adds a new dimension to the long-running Middle East conflict and tensions among Palestinians, Israel and their respective allies.
“The political considerations are extremely complex,” said Bruce Zagaris, a partner at Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe in Washington, D.C., specializing in international law.
The case concerns seven terrorist shootings and bombings from 2001 to 2004 that killed 33 people and wounded more than 450.
Victims and their families claim that the defendants helped carry out and finance the attacks, in part through support for Hamas and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which the U.S. government has labeled terrorist organizations.
The PLO and the Palestinian Authority have denied the allegations, including that they violated the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.
Mark Rochon, a partner at Miller & Chevalier representing the defendants, declined to comment via a spokeswoman. Kent Yalowitz, a partner at Arnold & Porter representing the plaintiffs, was unavailable to comment.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan will oversee the trial. Last September, a federal jury in Brooklyn found Arab Bank liable under the anti-terrorism law for having provided material support to Hamas.
“Palestine” has since 2012 been a United Nations “observer state,” and Palestinians this month moved to join the International Criminal Court, which they have stated they will try to use to press legal action against Israel.
Last month, Daniels rejected the PLO’s bid to throw out the lawsuit seeking $1 billion — a sum the plaintiffs want tripled — on the grounds that he lacked jurisdiction.
He distinguished the case from last January’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that German automaker Daimler AG could not be sued in California over alleged illegal conduct outside the country merely because it had a subsidiary in the state.
Peter Margulies, a professor at Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, Rhode Island, said Daniels may have been “too hasty,” given that higher courts might ultimately extend the Daimler reasoning to organizations such as the PLO.
“You don’t want everyone in the world to be hauled into court when the contacts may be thin,” he said. “That’s a plausible reading of what the Supreme Court said.”
Another issue is that if it loses, the PLO could drag out appeals for years, or be unable to pay a big judgment to begin with.
“The Palestinians are broke,” said Zagaris.
Plaintiffs in similar prior cases, including against Iran, have also struggled to recover big awards because the defendants have few or no U.S. assets, and “most foreign jurisdictions will not enforce these types of U.S. judgments,” he said.
The plaintiffs say the Palestinians have plenty of money to pay any judgment.
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=22729