US Supreme Court.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Following three weeks of historic and gripping proceedings against Arab Bank, the 297 plaintiffs suing it for billions in damages relating to allegations of funding terrorism were due to rest their case on Wednesday with an ex-IDF official explaining the alleged bank-terror connections in-depth.
The “evidence today showed that the ‘who’s who’ of Hamas were customers of Arab Bank,” plaintiffs’ counsel Mark Werbner said while summing up the proceedings in Manhattan US District Court late on Tuesday.
The case involves allegations by the plaintiffs that Arab Bank, practically Jordan’s sovereign bank and one of the largest in the Middle East with branches in 30 countries, facilitated massive transfer of funds to Hamas leaders and institutions, as well as to the families of imprisoned Hamas members and suicide bombers, via Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah’s al-Shahid Foundation, mostly between 1998 and 2004 (though evidence has focused on 2001-2004.) The plaintiffs allege Arab Bank knew the money related to terrorists and terrorist groups, and is thus civilly liable for wrongful death damages relating to the killing of their family members resulting from attacks perpetrated using the transferred funds.
Arab Bank has said there is a lack of proof that the funds contributed sufficiently to terrorist attacks and that the bank knew of an terrorist connection.
The last few weeks have had a range of dramatic highlights.
On multiple days last week, top Hamas expert, veteran journalist and former Israeli intelligence officer Ronni Shaked testified that Hamas was responsible for each of the 24 attacks at issue in the trial.
Possibly one of the key moments in swaying the jury on the issue of whether the bank knew that any of its clients were terrorists, centers around now-deceased Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
In a potentially damaging deposition played for the court of Arab Bank’s compliance officer for Ramallah Tayseer Sadeq, he admits that Yassin, then a client, is “known throughout the world through the mass media, that he is the – that he is the head of the Hamas organization in the Palestinian Territories, and this is no secret.”
Supporting this line of attack, another major Hamas expert, the former head of the IDF COGAT’s Palestinian Affairs Department, Arieh Dan Spitzen, said that 18 Hamas individuals were known public figures by Gaza bank officials and that they had, “with a high degree of probability,” received thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars via Arab Bank transfers.
Next, to show how openly some of the bank’s clients defined as “charities” associated with hamas, Spitzen testified that one charity, Al Tadamun Charitable Society, opened its facility as places of mourning for suicide bombers’ families.
Spitzen and the plaintiffs’ counsel hammered the bank for not producing the full account records for the Hamas leaders for their review.
Both in this and other instances, the bank has expressed frustration that it is unable to mention that it did not supply the banking records in question to comply with Jordanian and Lebanese bank secrecy laws.
The bank complains there is a double standard in the case since it says the plaintiffs have used foreign law, Israeli law and evidence, such as that some terrorist-bank clients were on Israel’s watch list even as they were not on the US list, to attack the bank without allowing the bank to use foreign law to defend itself.
It is unclear what the Supreme Court would rule on such an attempt to compare using Jordanian- Lebanese law on defense and using Israeli law on attack.
The bank also appears to be preparing a line of other objections it could use to appeal a judgment if it loses the case, including attacking Judge Brian Cogan’s impartiality.
It formally complained to the court of an instance in which Cogan out loud acted as if one of its objections was ridiculous, but then quietly ruled in favor of the objection without explaining it to the jury.
Another objection the bank has made is that plaintiffs’ evidence of Hamas claiming credit for attacks is hearsay and inadmissible in court, though the court rejected this objection.