Palestinian children celebrate Hamas founding 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)
United States Eastern District of New York Judge Nina Gershon sent to trial late
Wednesday a blockbuster terror financing case against major Jordanian financial
institution Arab Bank – the first such case in US history.
In addition to
setting major new binding precedents, the historic case could have a “meaningful
impact on banks” that finance terror groups “for profit because they are
indifferent [and treat these groups as] just another customer and don’t care,”
said lead litigator Gary Osen.
“It will increase the risk for funding
groups like Hamas and al-Qaida” and may change the conduct of “institutions and
banks” that do business in “gray areas,” he continued.
involve the transfer of large funds to Hamas leadership, institutions and
families of Hamas prisoners and “martyr”-suicide bombers via Saudi Arabia and
Hezbollah’s al-Shahid Foundation.
Arab Bank had tried summary judgment, a
last-ditch legal procedure, to avoid a trial, but the court largely rejected the
motion, removing the last obstacle that was preventing the case from going to
“For nine years, it’s been the stated goal of all of the
plaintiffs to have the opportunity to get their day in court,” Osen said. “This
is certainly not the end of the process, but it vindicates their right to
The lengthy list of attacks involved in the case, reading
like a horror reel of the worst terror moments from around 2001 to 2003 include
the Sbarro Pizza attack in Jerusalem; the Dolphinarium discotheque attack in Tel
Aviv; the multiple suicide bombings on Ben-Yehuda Street in Jerusalem in a
single Saturday night in 2002; the Café Moment and Café Hillel bombings in
Jerusalem; the Park Hotel Passover Seder bombing in Netanya; and the 2003
bombing at the Sheffield Club in Rishon Lezion, as well as bus bombings in
Jerusalem in June and August of that year.
Major judgments have been won
against terror entities and third party banks and entities that finance terror,
but they have all been by default, meaning the defendants did not attend the
trial or denied the court’s jurisdiction.
Default judgments do not set
binding precedents to the same extent that a case like this would be able
The trial will end the history of default judgments and, most
importantly, give an unprecedented and highly documented glimpse into how Hamas
and its leaders were funded over the past 10 years.
This is the first
case in which a bank has been ready to stand and fight to the end of the legal
The court’s decision was handed down orally from the bench
and delved deep into the details and legal principles of how much proof is
needed to win a counter-terror lawsuit.
Arab Bank succeeded in getting
the court to throw out some of the allegations against it, such as aiding and
abetting terrorist attacks, but the majority of charges were approved for
According to the decision, noted Osen, the victims’ families must
prove at trial that Arab Bank knowingly provided financial services to Hamas in
the tens of millions of dollars, and that the 24 attacks listed were a
foreseeable consequence of the bank’s conduct.
The lawsuit alleges that
Arab Bank laundered Saudi payments to the families of suicide bombers and other
funds intended for Palestinian terrorist groups through its Madison Avenue
branch in New York City, which is no longer in operation.
The Saudi funds
were then rerouted to local branches of Arab Bank in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, and paid out to the personal accounts of hundreds of terrorists and their
families, as well as Hamas front organizations and other Palestinian terrorist
The lawsuit also seeks damages for openly providing financial
services to terrorists through accounts held directly in the name of Hamas and
its many front groups.
The complaint describes the scheme by which Arab
Bank allegedly administered a comprehensive terrorist “insurance plan” by
distributing death and dismemberment benefits to families of suicide bombers and
The first suit filed was Linde v. Arab Bank, brought
forth by the widow of an ex-Marine who was killed while securing American
diplomats in Gaza, along with several other plaintiffs. Several subsequent
lawsuits have been filed.
The victims range from American tourists – such
as the Goldstein family, who came to Israel for a family wedding, and the
Sokolow family, who came for a vacation – to students studying abroad at Hebrew
University and Israeli-American dual citizens who boarded the wrong bus or
visited the wrong café.
Osen of Osen LLC is leading the pack and
delivered the oral argument, but there are more than half a dozen law firms
involved in the cases.
The ATA case, which relates to American victims of
terror, involves over 100 families, and the first trial contemplates covering 24
Hamas terror attacks.