Global Affairs

PLO Trial Opens in New York as Terror Victims Seek $1B in Damages

A trial to determine the civil liability of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) in terror attacks in Israel between 2001 and 2004 opened in New York on Wednesday.

According to the New York Post:

The PLO and PA are accused of plotting and funding seven terrorism attacks in Israel in the early 2000s that left 33 people dead and 450 injured.

“These terrorist attacks were violent and dangerous . . . the purpose was to intimidate, coerce people of Israel,” lawyer Kent Yalowitz, who represents 10 US families who are suing, said in opening arguments. “If you want to intimidate a government . . . killing random civilians is pretty effective.”

The plaintiffs are seeking $1 billion in damages. The trial could take up to three months.

The two organizations are being sued under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act of 1990. The Wall Street Journal explains further (Google link):

The decade-old lawsuit was filed under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990, a federal law that gives U.S. victims of international terrorism recourse in federal court. In the suit, more than 40 U.S. victims and relatives of those who perished in the attacks accused the PA and the PLO, the governing authority and political representative of Palestinians, of directing the attacks. The plaintiffs are seeking $1 billion in damages. If the PA and PLO were to lose, any damages would automatically be tripled, because the claims involved an act of terrorism.

During proceedings on Thursday, IDF Lt.-Col. (res.) Alon Eviatar testified that the PA supported attacks by the terror organization Hamas during that time. The Jerusalem Post reported:

The former intelligence officer talked about the relationships between the PLO, the PA, Fatah, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, and most important, between the PA and Hamas.

The defense raised strident objections to the plaintiff’s expert witness explaining the joint obligations of Israel and the PA to provide security set forth in the Oslo Accords.

“I move for a mistrial,” said defense counsel Mark Rochon.

He said he assumed the plaintiffs were going to introduce political issues into a personal injury trial.

US District Judge George G. Daniels overruled the defense’s objections, waving off the movement for a mistrial and explaining that the Oslo Accords were already in evidence.

A centerpiece of the plaintiffs’ case is that the PA supported Hamas terrorist attacks not only ideologically but also by providing weapons, money and logistical support.

In a paper published two years ago by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jonathan D. Halevi documented how the violence of that time was directed by the PA.

Last year, the Jordan-based Arab Bank was found liable by a New York court for its role in financing Hamas during the same time frame. Damages in that case have not yet been determined.

The trial comes at the same time that the PA is trying to get Israel prosecuted for war crimes in the International Criminal Court (ICC). A former prosecutor of the court advised the PA not to join the ICC, as that could open the PA up to prosecution.

[Photo: Eric E. Johnson / Flickr ]