As the AP reported, a three judge panel for the U.S. 2nd District Court of Appeals tossed out a $654 million jury verdict for damages against the Palestinian Authority and the PLO today for terrorist attacks it coordinated and sponsored in Israel that killed or wounded Americans.
The court’s ruling was based on a very curious interpretation of the law involved, the U.S. Anti Terrorism Act, which allows American victims of foreign terrorist attacks to sue state sponsors of terrorism in U.S. courts for damages.
The original verdict was the result of a case called Sokolow v. PLO that was tried by jury in the Federal District Court in Manhattan and was brought by American victims and survivors of six terrorist attacks in Israel between 2001 and 2004. The evidence showed clearly that not only had the PLO under Yasser Arafat planned, financed, and executed the attacks but that it continued to pay generous stipends to the perpetrators and their families.
The 2nd Circuit refused to allow any of the evidence linking the Palestinian Authority and the PLO to the attacks and the attackers to be heard, although as a sop, they admitted the attacks occurred and were ‘horrendous’. What they based their ruling on is that Palestine is not a state and therefore, the Federal District Court lacked jurisdiction to rule against them!
Now, the PLO and the Palestinian authority have always said that they’re a sovereign state ever since Oslo and have always successfully insisted in being treated as one by the U.S. and other entities. They have their own flag, a national anthem, their own military, a presidential compound, a capitol, they belong to international organizations and institutions like UNESCO and the International Red Crescent whose rules prohibit non-states from joining, and they have what passes for a parliament, courts and laws.
In America, they have diplomatic missions in New York and Washington and lobbyists working on their behalf, they have bank accounts in America, and they receive huge amounts of foreign aid from the Obama Administration both directly and through a UN entity, UNRWA. But Judge John G. Koeltl, the Obama appointee who wrote the opinion on the case said the panel found that Palestine, when it comes to being sued is not a state, that the attacks didn’t specifically target Americans and were ‘fortuitous’ (a very curious use of that word, by the way) and that according to the judges on this panel there was no link between the PLO’s activities in America and their activities in the Middle East even though Arafat ruled both groups and appointed and hired their representatives in America. Or as the judges put it, there’s no evidence showing the attacks “resulted from their actions that did occur in the United States.”
Apparently these judges also believe that if a customer is shot and killed during a bank robbery or a motorist is killed by a drunk driver’s negligence, the victim’s family have no right to a civil suit for damages. It was just ‘fortuitous.’
That judgment also ignored extensive evidence that shows that at least part of the funding for the attacks and stipends for convicted killers and their families came from money siphoned off from American aid obtained through the efforts of PLO, Palestinian personnel and lobbyists here in America…which the panel refused to hear.
Even more interesting, Judge Koeltl wrote in his decision: “The overwhelming evidence shows that the defendants are ‘at home’ in Palestine, where they govern. Palestine is the central seat of government for the PA and PLO. The PA’s authority is limited to the West Bank and Gaza, and it has no independently operated offices anywhere else. All PA governmental ministries, the Palestinian president, the Parliament, and the Palestinian security services reside in Palestine,” the ruling said.
Aside from the gaffe about the PLO having authority in Gaza (they don’t) doesn’t this sound like a description of a sovereign state to you? Don’t a country’s leader, its security forces and its parliament and its governing bodies normally reside in its own territory? And can you think of any government that has independently operated offices in any foreign country? Aren’t embassies and foreign offices abroad run by the sovereign state they represent?
So one one hand, the judges based their ruling on Palestine not being a state, which the PLO and PA obviously consider that it is on every occasion except being responsible for terrorism committed on its behalf. And on the other hand, they go out of their way to describe it exactly as one would describe a sovereign state!
Actually, this isn’t so hard to figure out if you dig a little. The panel consisted of Judges John G. Koeltl (Obama appointee), Pierre N. Leval (Clinton appointee), and and Christopher F. Droney (Obama appointee) all of them left wing Democrats. And the Obama Administration went out of its way here to do whatever they could to get the original verdict tossed and and protect Abbas and the PA from having to pay a dime to the Americans they murdered and maimed.
In the original trial, President Obama had his Justice Department lean successfully on the judge in the case, George B. Daniels, to substantially lower the bond the Palestinians would have to post in order to appeal, normally 111 per cent of the judgement in these cases. The Justice Department filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief that claimed that a high bond would negate millions of dollars spent to promote Democracy and a Two State solution, and the judge complied over the objections of the victim’s attorneys.
That same Obama Justice Department brief was allowed to be introduced as evidence by the defense, and given that there were two Obama appointees on the panel, there’s no doubt that it carried a great deal of weight in this skewed judgment.
The Anti-Terrorism Act which allows United States citizens who are the victims of international terrorism to sue in the federal courts was passed some years after the 1985 murder of Leon Klinghoffer in the Palestinian hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro. It was designed to provide American citizens with redress and such judgments have already been made against state sponsors of terrorism against American like Syria and Iran, even though Iran has no offices or diplomats here in the U.S. Notably, such outstanding judgments were ignored by the Obama Administration during negotiations over the Iran deal and during the recent $400 million dollar ransom paid Iran for American hostages.
Kent A. Yalowitz, a lawyer for the families in the case, said in a statement that the law had been passed by Congress “to protect Americans wherever in the world they traveled.”
“The very terrorists who prompted the law have now hidden behind the U.S. Constitution to avoid responsibility for their crimes,” Mr. Yalowitz said. “This cruel decision must be corrected so that these families may receive justice.”
Mr.Yalowitz is entirely correct, and frankly, I think the fact that most if not all of the victims were American Jews who were attacked in Israel also plays into this. This president’s animus towards Israel is well known.
But aside from the possibility of an appeal to correct this, there’s a bright side.
If Palestine isn’t a state according to the Obama Administration, than the Israelis can declare Oslo and the Road Map null and void (the Palestinians already have) and proceed accordingly. They can cancel any and all agreements signed with the Palestinian Authority and the PLO since they were signed as agreements between two sovereign entities. Even the areas of sovereignty and control were clearly defined. But if Palestine isn’t a state, then the Obama administration has no moral or legal right to treat it as one at any time, not just when it’s convenient for the President’s agenda. That ‘non-state’ status applies across the board.
If Palestine isn’t a state, then Judea and Samaria (AKA The West Bank) belongs entirely to Israel, since the only state that ever physically controlled any part of it in recent times aside from Israel was Jordan, who illegally invaded it in 1948, were driven out in 1967 after they attacked Israel and have since relinquished all claims to the area. If Palestine isn’t a state,there is no ‘occupation’ (not that there ever was) and Israel can annex it as sovereign territory. Moreover, since many of the ‘Palestinians’ including Mohammad Abbas hold Jordanian citizenship and Israel and Jordan have no dual citizenship agreement, Israel can legally remove these non-Israeli citizens from its new borders and repatriate them to Jordan. Israel can also insist that all UNWRA camps in this region be located elsewhere.
Since Palestine isn’t a state, Israel can also avoid repatriating the tax monies it collects on the PLO’s behalf, deposit it in a fund, and allow Israelis and American Jews and their families to sue in Israeli courts and collect damages accordingly.
The Obama Administration and its minions can make the decision to treat Palestine as a state in every respect except the basic one of responsibility for its actions. That’s pretty much been the president’s policy since he took office, and not just when it comes to Palestine. Essentially, it’s an endorsement of the same old BDS horse manure that ‘resistance to occupation is not terrorism.’ At least when it comes to Israel, the Jew among nations.
But aside from being brutally immoral in terms of what America has always stood for, this action opens up a whole new door. If Palestine isn’t a state, then the Obama Administration doesn’t have a leg to stand on when talking about ‘Palestinian land,’ ‘occupation,’ or demanding further Israeli concessions.
Authored By J O S H U A P U N D I T