A view of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The plaintiffs in the historic, first-ever US terrorism trial against the Palestinian Authority concluded presenting their evidence on Friday, saying they had proved that the PA “erased entire families and left a river of blood and fear.”
The PA began presenting its defense Monday in the wrongful death civil damages case, which could carry a billion-dollar price tag.
While the plaintiffs’ case, with some highly graphic and emotional moments, has lasted around a month, some central points have crystallized in framing the narrative.
They said that the convicted terrorists, many convicted in Israel’s military West Bank courts, continue to get salaries and stipends from the PA, despite the fact that they are sitting in Israeli jails for murder, attempted murder and membership in terrorist organizations.
Next, they presented evidence that these convicted terrorists receive regular promotions in rank from the PA throughout their incarceration.
In addition, they brought evidence that the PA pays “martyr” payments to the families of suicide bombers and other terrorists who are killed in terrorist attacks.
One example the plaintiffs discussed was the case of Abdullah Barghouti, the Hamas mastermind engineer who manufactured the bombs for the July 31, 2002, Hebrew University cafeteria attack and other heinous assaults.
According to the plaintiffs, Barghouti was being held by the PA and was released from prison in the wake of an Israeli targeted killing on another terrorist.
They said that the PA “was angry at Israel, and they released Barghouti to allow him to perpetrate other, additional attacks against Israel as revenge for the IDF’s actions.”
Further, they said that “Barghouti was given a safe house and carried out the Hebrew University attack shortly afterwards.”
The plaintiffs said the PA was also involved in terrorism, as its officials “provided transportation to suicide bombers to enter Jerusalem, including Wafa Idris, who perpetrated the suicide bombing on Jaffa Road that badly injured the Mark Sokolow family on January 27, 2002.”
They said Idris, a paramedic and the first PA female suicide bomber, used a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance to arrive.
After presenting all of this evidence, the plaintiffs still needed to connect the dots, lest the PA argue that in each case its higher- level decision-makers were uninvolved and did not know about the attacks, or that aspects of the evidence could be interpreted as justifiable liberation-movement-style resistance, not terrorism.
The plaintiffs believe they have proved that “providing material support and resources” should be interpreted as providing inducement payments to families of the “martyrs” after the attack has been carried out.
Next, the plaintiffs say they have proven that the PA, the PLO and the Aksa Martyrs Brigade are all interrelated and that each can be held vicariously liable for the conduct of the other.
This would mean the PA could not avoid liability for actions by a member of the brigade by claiming it is a separate organization.
A key interim win for the plaintiffs was convincing New York federal Judge George B. Daniels to accept into evidence IDF military court convictions as legitimate evidence in the case.
The court rejected the PA’s argument that the IDF military courts are “courts of occupation and are unjust and biased against the Palestinian defendants,” in the PA’s attempt to invalidate the convictions as evidence.
Another key moment in the case was when Chana Goldberg, daughter of Scott Goldberg, murdered in the No. 19 bus 2004 suicide bombing testified. Chana gave heart-wrenching testimony about evidence of the impact of losing her father had on her, including “how her life collapsed and her family life disintegrated” with no parent “to watch over her and guide her six siblings.”
Shurat Hadin said that, “Jurors left the courtroom openly crying. There was not a dry eye in the house. Even the PLO representatives at the trial were tearing up.”
Responding, the PA’s lawyers demanded a mistrial arguing that her testimony did not pertain to the legal questions of proving PA responsibility for the attacks only to her suffering from the attacks and unduly prejudiced the jury against the PA.
Shurat Hadin said that the “court said he has had jurors crying before in his court,” and rejected the mistrial argument. The NGO’s Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner summed up the plaintiffs' side of the trial saying, “we are confident that Palestinians will be held liable for this policy of intentional and directed terror which was designed to intimidate Israelis to accept their extremist goals when the Palestinians' diplomatic efforts stalled out."