Palestinian Authority sued by American terror victims

Host: A Manhattan jury will decide if the Palestinian Authority is liable for six attacks during the Second Intifada in Israel more than a decade ago. American victims of the violence in the Intifada and their families have sued the Palestinian government, asking for close to $1 billion in damages. Chava Gourarie reports that this case is one of several in which Middle East conflicts are being played out in American courtrooms.

 

In 2002, New Yorker Mark Sokolow was shoe shopping with his wife and 12-year-old daughter on Jaffa Street in Jeursalem. They suddenly heard a blast. Wafa Idris, a 28 year old Palestinian from Ramallah, detonated a suicide bomb she was carrying in a backpack, killing one other peson, and injuring over one hundred.

 

Sokolow is the lead plaintiff in the case that is being tried in the federal court in Manhattan. The rest of the plaintiffs, about 30 in all, have similar stories, about ordinary lives changed in an instant.

 

At the heart of the court case is whether these acts of violence were committed by individuals acting of their own volition, or were part of a policy sanctioned by the Palestinian governing bodies.

 

It isn’t disputed that the Palestinian Authority makes payments to families of prisoners in Israeli prisons. The plaintiffs’ lawyers call these ‘martyr payments’ and say they prove that the Palestinian Authority actively encourages terror. The defendants says the payments are part of a social welfare program and not related specifically to acts of violence against Israelis.

 

In his closing argument, Mark Rochon, the lawyer for the Palestinian Authority said, “Nobody killed themselves so their family will get paid 600 shekel. Nobody.”

 

Robert Tolchin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, says the case sends a message to the sponsors of terrorism internationally.

 

Tolchin: And countries around the world give the Palestinian Authority money thinking that they’re funding nation building. And if the Palestinian authority goes and instead of nation building conducts terrorism and as a result has to pay for the consequences of the terrorism, then the sources of money that funded the terrorism in the first place are going to dry up.

 

George Bisharat is a Palestinian-American professor of law.

 

Bisharat: In the USA, Israeli supporters have been pretty successful in US courts in getting favorable verdicts and Palestinians have had a much harder time.
He said that these cases are not a deterrent of terrorism, and there need to be other solutions that address the underlying issues.

 

The jury began deliberating Friday and deliberations will continue into next week.

 

Chava Gourarie, Columbia Radio News

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