Plaintiffs say they beat last obstacle to first trial against PA for terror

One challenge the plaintiffs will have to overcome is using Israeli military court convictions as direct evidence.

Lt. Eitan, Presiden Rivlin pay respects to Goldin family (photo credit: GPO)
Lt. Eitan, Presiden Rivlin pay respects to Goldin family
(photo credit: GPO)
The plaintiffs in a possible billion-dollar US anti-terrorism civil-damages case against the Palestinian Authority said Thursday they beat most of a summary judgment motion, paving the way for a possible first full trial against the PA.
The claims of eight of nine victims’ families evaded the PA’s motion to throw out the case pretrial on vicarious liability arguments under the US Anti-terrorism Act and claims for direct federal liability to the PA got by, as well.
One of the nine families had its case thrown out and claims for direct state liability against the PA also were thrown out but the overall outcome meant the trial will go forward after years of litigation and attacks dating back over a decade unless the PA tries to settle the case.
A hearing also was set for late Thursday in which a US Federal court in New York likely will set down a schedule for moving toward trial.
“This historic decision allows these American terror victims and their families to present to a New York jury their overwhelming evidence of the support of the Palestinian Authority for murderous terrorist operations in Israel,” said Nitsana Darshan- Leitner, director of the NGO Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center.
The heart of the case, brought by Shurat Hadin and Kent Yalowitz of Arnold & Porter LLP on behalf of 11 victims’ families, is suing the PA for the alleged involvement of its personnel in seven terror attacks from 2001-2004 during the second intifada.
According to the plaintiffs, several of the PA operatives already have been criminally convicted in Israeli courts for involvement in the terrorist incidents, some with multiple convictions.
They said every attack had at least one PA employee involved and that the PA kept the workers on their payroll, in some cases promoting and even lionizing and glorifying them, even after they were convicted.
On the basis of the PA’s alleged connection to the approximately 30 perpetrators, the plaintiffs argue that the PA has vicarious liability for the actions of its employees.
On September 23, a Brooklyn jury handed down the first major terror financing verdict following a full trial against a major financial institution – Arab Bank.
If this case goes to trial, it would be of similar stature and could be the first of its kind against the PA, which usually has refused to engage and had default judgments entered against it, or settled quietly out of court.
The case has included the rare event of the PA producing its internal personnel files, including “martyrs” files and intelligence dossiers.
Because of that development, some court documents contain extended sections that are blacked out because the identities of many of the PA personnel remain under seal for the knowledge of the court, but not the general public, despite such protections being rare in civil cases.
A group of reporters is seeking to have the gag order lifted, but their motion has not yet been ruled on and the judge previously rejected the plaintiffs’ motion to do so.
The plaintiffs said evidence against the PA and their employees includes convictions and confessions against the employees; internal PA records showing payments and promotions of the convicted terrorists while in jail; and statements in PA publications reflecting incitement and approval of the attacks (which they say reveal the PA’s state of mind.) In one instance, the plaintiffs say the PA provided Hamas support, personnel and bomb-making equipment as retaliation for Israel’s targeted killing of a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader.
One challenge the plaintiffs will have to overcome is using Israeli military court convictions as direct evidence.
While there is no equivalent case, plaintiffs believe they will succeed on this since US courts have recognized Israeli military court convictions in immigration- deportation cases and they were used in the recent Arab Bank case.