16 August '15..
Last February, a jury in a Federal Court in New York gave American victims of terrorism a measure of justice. The verdict in the case, which had been brought by Shurat HaDin — The Israel Law Center — held the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority responsible acts of terrorism during the Second Intifada in which several Americans were killed and wounded. The fact that the group that the U.S. government considers to be the “moderates” among the Palestinian political factions was found to have blood on their hands is in and of itself disturbing. But far more troubling was the reaction of the Obama administration to the ruling. Rather than take some satisfaction that the U.S. judicial system was providing some satisfaction to the victims and their families after so much suffering, the Obama administration is weighing in on the case in order to ensure that the perpetrators get away with it. The Justice Department, as well as the State Department, have asked the presiding judge not to require the PA to post, as the law requires, a significant bond, in order to appeal the judgment. In doing so, the government is intervening in such a way as to help the guilty party evade their responsibility in the hope that the higher courts will let them off the hook. This is not only a terrible injustice to the victims. It also bodes ill for any future cases against Iranian-backed killers as well as the future of an American foreign policy that seems to have gone soft on terrorists.
The facts of the case against the PA and the PLO are clear. Fatah terrorists acting under the orders and with the funding of the PA and its leader Yasir Arafat carried out a serious of atrocities that killed and wounded not only Israelis but also many American citizens. The instances under question involved suicide bombings at the cafeteria of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as well as on a crowded bus stop, on a bus and in a street. Under the authority of the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows American citizens to sue those responsible for terror in American courts, the Israel Law Center and its American legal partners hauled the PA into court where a jury not only correctly found it responsible for the murder of four Americans and injuries inflicted on others but awarded the plaintiffs $218.5 million. Under the provision of the law that triples damages when terrorism is involved, that amounts to a judgment requiring the PA to hand over $655.5 million to the victims or their estates.
But the Obama administration isn’t happy about this. They are worried that forcing the PA to pay for its crimes will harm its financial standing and even cause it to go bankrupt. As the New York Times reports:
The filing also included a declaration by Antony J. Blinken, the deputy secretary of state, elaborating on the government’s concerns about the impact of requiring a high bond. Depriving the Palestinian Authority of “a significant portion of its revenues would likely severely compromise the P.A.’s ability to operate as a governmental authority,” he wrote.
“A PA insolvency and collapse would harm current and future U.S.-led efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he added.
The filing went on to state that the government supports the right of victims to sue for compensation and that it wasn’t taking a position on the case. But that is utterly disingenuous. By intervening in this manner, the administration is seeking to influence both the trial judge and the appellate courts. Given the leeway that the courts have shown themselves prepared to grant the executive branch when it comes to issues relating to foreign policy, this is an ominous development that may result in a denial of justice to the victims.
Is the administration’s argument about PA insolvency valid?
It can’t be denied that the PA seems always to be running out of money. That stems in part from the fact that Fatah-run kleptocracy functions in the same way a crime organization operates, spreading subsidies via no-work and no-show jobs to a large percentage of the Palestinian population. But at the root of this deficit is a vicious form of corruption that not only drains the PA coffers and siphons it into the hands of Fatah officials and its families. It also results in stifling of any economic development that might improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians.
If the PA can’t afford to pay for its crimes, it actually has an easy remedy. It can require its leaders and their relations to remit to it the billions in foreign aid (including from the United States) it has received in the last two decades and which are now in foreign bank accounts or sunk into corrupt enterprises that soak the Palestinian people.
While keeping the PA afloat is integral to hopes of a two-state solution, that peace plan or even a better life for Palestinians will never come about until a sea change occurs in their political culture. That means renouncing terror once and for all (as Fatah has refused to do) and creating a genuine democratic government dedicated to serving the Palestinian people rather than exploiting them.
For the past two decades, the U.S. has been so committed to the fiction of Palestinian moderation that it has turned a blind eye and continued to funnel massive amounts of taxpayer dollars to Fatah. But at this point, does anyone really think subsidizing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the 11th year of the four-year term to which he was elected will bring peace? Will it be helped or protecting Abbas and his minions from the consequences of their criminal actions?
Just as important, despite the lip service the administration gives to the cause of justice for terror victims, it’s likely that those who try to sue Iran for its role in terrorist killing of Americans will also find themselves facing obstacles placed in their path by the government. The Iran nuclear deal rewarded Tehran with a massive influx of cash but provided no accountability about its stance as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
That presents us with a straight line of U.S. policy that seems to give a pass to governments that sponsor terror, so long as President Obama likes them. That’s reason enough for the courts to ignore administration requests and to start forcing killers to pay up.