The High Court of Justice on Monday adopted the general narrative of Shurat Hadin–Israel Law Center over that of the state in the ongoing Bank of China terror-financing dispute.
The dispute arose from a case filed by the NGO on behalf of some two dozen families of terror victims in two US federal courts (one in New York, one in Washington) against the Bank of China for allegedly allowing Palestinian groups to launder funds for terror operations from 2003 to 2008.
Originally, the state supported the litigation, providing Shurat Hadin with significant access to classified documents, data and government agents. However, in mid-November 2013 it blocked a key witness, former government agent Uzi Shaya, from testifying.
The state said its reasons involved a variety of factors, including national security.
Shurat Hadin said the state was afraid of alienating China economically and geopolitically, and thus reneged on promises to help the families.
Monday’s hearing was an attempt by the NGO to gain access to government documents that the state had not yet given it. Its tactic was to ask the court merely to have the state respond to a document request by the US courts, saying the issue of Shaya’s testimony was unrelated.
At the start of the hearing, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said the state “has fallen into one or another kind of embarrassing situation,” having promised certain evidence to the terror victims’ families but later “deciding to shift its stance toward the direction” desired by China, which “does not like the proceedings very much.” With this statement he essentially adopted Shurat Hadin’s narrative, mentioning geopolitical motivations but not national security.
The High Court gave the state until June 10 to further address the issue of documents sought by the NGO, but did not appear to show a serious appetite for twisting its arm. The back and forth between the parties suggested that it would not force the state to produce documents it did not wish to, especially when it granted the state’s request to make some of its arguments on the documents behind closed doors without representatives of the NGO being present.