36. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner

Bankrupting terrorists – and taking their boats

Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. (photo credit: ISRAEL LAW CENTER)
Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.
(photo credit: ISRAEL LAW CENTER)
Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner scored a range of new legal victories this past year in her judicial exploits in Israel and the US.
She obtained an unusual Israeli court order to seize a flotilla trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza – in order to provide financial assistance to terrorist victims, even though those boats had not yet been captured by the IDF.
The interim court order meant that the ships, the Karstein and Freedom, worth between €75,000 and €150,000, would be designated to be sold, with proceeds going to benefit the victims of Hamas terrorism, should the IDF capture them while they are trying to break the blockade.
In another arena, Darshan-Leitner has not yet won, but succeeded again in raising awareness of the use or abuse of social media by terrorists. In the spring, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg told the US Congress that Facebook is responsible for the content on its platform. This was a position that Shurat Hadin – representing terrorism victims, Jewish issues and Israeli causes – and many others had been trying to push for some years, but which Facebook, at least in court, had always denied.
Following Zuckerberg’s glaring admission, Shurat Hadin filed a legal brief to use his own statement to hold Facebook responsible for the content posted by terrorists on its platform, which the NGO alleges has led to the murders of five Americans. At press time, the motion was still pending, but once again focused public attention on the misuse of social media platforms.
After the new legal initiatives, Darshan-Leitner’s crowning achievement this year had more to do with finally sharing a fuller story about her and her group’s past work, independent of but also alongside, the Mossad.
Last fall, former government sources told The Jerusalem Post that Israel’s Operation Harpoon, carried out by a range of Mossad, Shin Bet and other operatives, was revolutionary in that it was “not just about following the money, but about destroying terrorists’ money networks.”
The development and achievements of Harpoon against financing terrorism, including work by groups of lawyers like Shurat Hadin, captured the headlines as Darshan-Leitner’s new book about the operations and the lawsuits was released.
Though Harpoon had been previously revealed in its general outlines, Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters by Darshan-Leitner and Samuel Katz, broke new ground on several fronts.
The other major development for Shurat Hadin this past year was actually its most high-profile defeat.
In April, the US Supreme Court tossed out Darshan-Leitner’s judgment against the Palestinian Authority for hundreds of millions of dollars for inciting, supporting and orchestrating several acts of terrorism in Israel between 2000 and 2004 that injured or killed American citizens. The February 2015 US District Court judgment in favor of Shurat Hadin and against the PA had been a historic victory until it was overturned.
But still, even if Shurat Hadin only collects judgments in some of its cases, the public spectacle and trial of the PA in New York brought far more attention to the role of the PA in terrorism during the Second Intifada than there had been to date.