A judge in the Supreme Court of the State of New York ruled Friday that a
lawsuit filed by a group of 84 Israeli terror victims against the Bank of China
The plaintiffs, who include family members of victims of
terrorist bombings and rocket attacks carried out by Palestinian Islamic Jihad
and Hamas in 2006 and 2007, are claiming that the Bank of China facilitated the
attacks by providing wire transfer services to both terror groups.
Israel Law Center sues firm for flotilla communications
Israeli NGO: Try Hamas for war crimes
group lawsuit, known as the “Almaliakh action” after Emil Almaliakh, an Eilat
resident killed in a suicide bombing in 2007, has been filed with the assistance
of the Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) and New York attorney Robert
Attorney Nitsana Darshan- Leitner of the Israel Law Center told
The Jerusalem Post that Friday’s ruling is a “huge precedent” for Israeli
victims of terror.
“Usually, US citizens have the right to file lawsuits
in the US courts against terror organizations and organizations that sponsor
terror,” said Leitner.
“In this suit, we made use of old laws that allow
non-US citizens to also sue [in the US courts] in the case of
The US has designated both Islamic Jihad and Hamas as
“Foreign Terrorist Organizations” since 1997 and as “Specially Designated Global
Terrorists” since 2001. As such, both groups are subject to strict economic
sanctions intended to prevent them from conducting banking activities which help
them finance their attacks.
Those named in the lawsuit claim that the
Bank of China aided and abetted Hamas and Islamic Jihad since 2003 by providing
wire transfer services to operatives of the two groups via a bank account in
They allege that Hamas operatives received money to the account
from Hamas’s headquarters in Syria and then transferred it to
Between that date and January 2007, the Bank of China carried out
dozens of wire transfers for the two terror organizations, totaling several
Most of the transfers, which were initiated by the two
organizations’ leaderships including in Iran and Syria, were made to a single
account in Guangzhou, China, belonging to Said al-Shurafa, whom the plaintiffs
claim is a senior operative and agent of both Hamas and Islamic
According to information provided by the plaintiffs, Shurafa then
transferred the funds from his account to the Islamic Jihad and Hamas coffers in
the West Bank and Gaza “for the purpose of planning, preparing for and executing
terrorist attacks.” The plaintiffs additionally claim that when officials of the
counterterrorism division of the Prime Minister’s Office warned the Bank of
China in April 2005 that the funds were being used to finance terror attacks,
and asked that they prevent further transfers, the Bank of China ignored the
“The Bank of China responded that Hamas is not considered a
terrorist organization in China,” added Darshan-Leitner.
also claim that the Bank of China should have known the funds were being used
illegally even before the Israeli government warning, because the transfers were
made in cash, mostly in the range of $100,000, and withdrawn
The plaintiffs are suing the Bank of China because they
claim that the bank’s assistance with the wire transfers is the proximate cause
of their injuries.
According to Darshan-Leitner, the Bank of China argued
aggressively in court for the immediate dismissal of the lawsuit.
the bank’s claims for dismissal was that the case should be tried in China, not
However, Friday’s ruling overturned an attempt by the Bank of
China to dismiss the suit, paving the way for the case to proceed to the
discovery and trial stage.
In her report, Judge Barbara R. Kapnick of the
New York District Supreme Court wrote that to dismiss the action in favor of it
being tried in a Chinese court would “only increase the hardship” of the
The next step for the Israeli plaintiffs will be to demand
detailed information from the Bank of China.
“The Bank of China will now
have to provide us with details of all bank transactions, basically everything
that went through the accounts,” noted Darshan-Leitner.
She says that the
Israel Law Center is confident that the plaintiffs can win the
“We have all the evidence that the money came from Syria and was
transferred to Hamas,” she noted. “We will be able to convince the jury that the
Bank of China aided and abetted terrorist organizations, that they were
negligent and that they will have to compensate the victims.”
If the case
is successful, Darshan- Leitner believes it will lead to similar suits from
other Israeli victims of terror.
“It will open the door for other
Israelis to file lawsuits in the US,” she concluded.
The next hearing in
the case is set to be heard in the New York District Supreme Court on September