Israeli court holds PA liable for terror: ‘Our judges aren’t from UN’

Jpost – Israeli News

Shurat Hadin pursued the case for years on behalf of eight victims’ families relating to 17 complaints before the decision which could lead to damages as high as $1 billion.

Acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana speaks at a Shurat Hadin conference, Jerusalem, February 5, 2020  (photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
Acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana speaks at a Shurat Hadin conference, Jerusalem, February 5, 2020
(photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
Capping a major judgment by Shurat Hadin in a Jerusalem District Court against the Palestinian Authority, acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana said Tuesday, “Our judges are not from the UN.”

Speaking at a conference led by Shurat Hadin president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Ohana said Israeli judges are not from the UN or the International Criminal Court, but are rather “part of the foundation of the idea” that Israel “is not just another democracy, but the democracy that is the only national home of the Jewish people.”

Ohana was explaining what he saw as the context leading to the July 2019 court ruling holding the PA liable for terror attacks carried out mostly during the Second Intifada against victims represented by Shurat Hadin.

Shurat Hadin pursued the case for years on behalf of eight victims’ families relating to 17 complaints before the decision that could lead to damages as high as $1 billion.

The 17 complaints mostly come from the 2000-2002 period of the Second Intifada, including the infamous Ramallah lynch in 2000, but one claim also dated back to an attack at Joseph’s Tomb in 1996.

With liability decided against the PA, the court case moves to the next stage where the plaintiffs will need to prove their damages, which could add up to as much as NIS 1b.

Some of the attacks involve Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but in his July ruling, Judge Moshe Drori still held the PA liable based on official PA statements taking credit for all terror attacks during the Second Intifada.

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Drori added that the PA had also sometimes provided logistical or material support to other groups to carry out terror attacks.

More broadly, Drori held the PA liable not only on the basis of such logistical and material direct support to terrorists, but also on the basis of continued financial support of terrorist prisoners and their families.

Going even beyond financial support, Drori noted that the PA regularly dedicates street names and other landmarks to terrorists.

Despite those rulings, Drori denied arguments against the PA that said it had direct responsibility for certain specific attacks due to general statements of incitement.

The issue of the PA making “martyrs” payments to terrorists has led to significant public relations and legal fighting between Israel and the US on one hand, and the PA on the other hand.

Israel and the US have portrayed the payments as support for terror, and both countries recently passed laws to penalize the PA monetarily for continuing the payments.

The PA in response has sometimes foregone US and Israeli financial support, with some in the Israeli defense establishment concerned that the PA itself could collapse in the near future due to a lack of funds.

Groups in favor of penalizing the PA say it is grandstanding and is always able to find funds for wealthy top officials and high-end portions of the West Bank that the PA controls.

Ohana effused on Wednesday in his praise of Drori, who has since retired from the bench and was in attendance.

He said judges “do not need to be like robots… when there is blood, there are evildoers.”

Speaking at Tuesday’s conference, Darshan-Leitner said, “A persistent struggle that lasted 20 years culminated with the unprecedented judgment in favor of terror victims.”

“Carrying out justice does not end with sending terrorists to jail – as long as the PA makes sure to pay them for their time served, which then funds and encourages terror. The PA should know that it will pay a price for the blood that was spilled by its hand – a grave price,” she added.

With the dramatic decision handed down in July, the standard question arises about whether there will be any way to collect on any future potential judgment.

In January 2019, the same court placed a temporary lien on a plot of land in Jerusalem owned by the late PA leader Yasser Arafat after Shurat Hadin sought the land as collateral for the claims against the PA.

Darshan-Leitner had told the court that if they won the lawsuit, it would be difficult to collect the compensation from the Arafat estate, and as a result she requested a lien on the property.

The land in question is mainly situated near the Mount of Olives Cemetery, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem.

Also, on January 27, Ohana issued an order to Israel’s collections unit to seize NIS 4.2 million in PA assets to pay for compensation for terrorism victims.

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