(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/02/Mahmoud_Abbas_Davos.jpg)A federal jury in Manhattan found the Palestinian Authority and its terrorist arm civilly liable yesterday for six terrorist attacks a decade ago that left 33 dead and more than 450 injured.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected the “international community to continue to punish those who support terrorism, just as the U.S. federal court has done, and to back the countries that are fighting terrorism.”
“Today as well we remember the families that lost their loved ones; our heart is with them and there is no justice that can console them.”
The jury determined that plaintiffs, numbered in the dozens, were entitled to an award of $218.5 million against both the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The federal Anti-Terrorism Act provides for the damages to be tripled which brings the total sum owed by the defendants to $655.5 million. The law allows U.S. citizens who are victims of international terrorism to seek redress in U.S. courts. Last fall a Brooklyn jury invoked the law when it found Arab Bank liable for supporting the terrorist activities of Hamas. A second trial to determine damages in the case has yet to take place.
The verdict is a public relations disaster for the Palestinian Authority which portrays itself as representing moderate, pragmatic Palestinians who want both peace with Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state. In reality the authority and PLO are just as devoted to terrorism and destroying Israel as its Hamas. The authority, which constantly promotes jihad on its social media and makes idols out of suicide bombers, reaffirmed its unending hostility to Israel last year by forming a unity government with Hamas.
The huge civil judgment also shines a light on the true nature of the Palestinian Authority which is the beneficiary of enormous cash injections courtesy of taxpayers in Israel and Western countries –including the U.S.– that treat the terrorist authority as a legitimate political entity.
Meanwhile, Kent A. Yalowitz, an attorney for the families, sang the praises of the Anti-Terrorism Act last week in closing arguments. “Money is oxygen for terrorism,” he said, adding that the statute “hits those who send terrorists where it hurts them most: in the wallet.”
The verdict came after more than six weeks of testimony from people who survived suicide bombings and other attacks in Jerusalem between 2002 and 2004.
One of the plaintiffs, Robert Coulter Sr., testified that he learned his 36-year-old daughter, who was in Israel on business, was killed in one of the terrorist attacks, a bombing of a cafeteria.
“They brought a body bag out on the TV station, right on it, and went right down to where she was laying and I knew it was a girl, had blond hair,” he recounted. “I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, that’s Janis.’”
Defense witness Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator and member of the PLO’s executive committee, said her group was blameless. “We tried to prevent violence from all sides,” she testified.
That the bloodthirsty Ashrawi would ever try to spare Israelis violence is difficult to believe. Ashrawi regards nearly all Palestinian attacks on Israelis as justifiable. For example, when Palestinian mobs tortured and killed two unarmed Israeli reserve soldiers in Ramallah in 2000, Ashrawi defended the attack.
But testimony and documentary evidence made a liar out of Ashrawi.
Many of the attackers were Palestinian Authority employees, payroll records demonstrated. It was also established that the authority paid salaries to terrorists jailed in Israel and sent martyr payments to suicide bombers’ relatives.
Defense attorney Mark J. Rochon, who argued his clients did not play a role in the attacks, told the jury last week that he didn’t want “the bad guys, the killers, the people who did this, to get away while the Palestinian Authority or the PLO pay for something they did not do.”
Perhaps Rochon plans to set up an O.J. Simpson-style toll-free number for anyone who knows who the real killers are to call.
Predictably, the PLO and the authority rejected the jury verdict, saying the allegations in the lawsuit were “baseless.”
Dr. Mahmoud Khalifa, the Palestinian Authority’s deputy information minister, said an appeal was forthcoming. “We are confident that we will prevail, as we have faith in the U.S. legal system and are certain about our common sense belief and our strong legal standing.”
Khalifa blamed Jews for the lawsuit. “This case is just the latest attempt by hard-line antipeace factions in Israel to use and abuse the U.S. legal system to advance their narrow political and ideological agenda.”
It needs to be pointed out that President Barack Obama has had PLO associations.
Obama was a frequent dinner companion of his friend Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American and former PLO spokesman. Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. When he lived in Chicago, Khalidi held a fundraiser for Obama’s ill-fated congressional bid in 2000.
In 2001 and 2002 while Obama served on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, the philanthropy issued $75,000 in grants to Khalidi’s organization, Arab American Action Network (AAAN). In November last year AAAN associate director and Palestinian terrorist Rasmea (also spelled Rasmieh) Odeh was convicted by a Detroit jury of immigration fraud. Prosecutors accused Odeh of killing Israelis in the Sixties and then lying about it in U.S. immigration papers.
In 2003 Obama attended a farewell party held for Khalidi as he prepared to leave the University of Chicago for Columbia University. The Los Angeles Times has video from the event but refuses to make it public. Also in the audience that night were Obama pals Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, the former Weather Underground terrorists.
If Obama were still a practicing attorney, it seems a safe bet that he wouldn’t have represented the victims of Palestinian terrorism in the case decided yesterday.
But as president he can still help the defendants escape their new financial obligations. Obama may yet act to make it difficult for the successful plaintiffs to collect their $655.5 million from the PLO and the perpetually cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.
After all, he has a pen and a phone.
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