Israeli Terror Victims To Sue Arab Bank in America

By Marc Perelman

Published December 17, 2004, issue of December 17, 2004.
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More than 500 plaintiffs representing families of Israeli victims of terrorism are expected to file soon a multibillion dollar federal lawsuit in New York accusing the Arab Bank of Jordan of abetting Palestinian terrorist groups, the Forward has learned.

A high-profile team of American and Israeli lawyers, led by Ron Motley and Allan Gerson, are planning to file a federal lawsuit, perhaps as soon as next week, against the bank under the 215-year-old Alien Tort Claims Act, two sources close to the issue said. This would be the first time that the 1789 law, which allows foreigners to sue non-American entities in American courts, is invoked in a case related to terrorism in Israel. The statute, which was initially adopted to deal with international piracy on the high seas, has been invoked in recent court cases involving restitution for Holocaust victims, most famously in the successful fight to secure a $1.25 billion settlement from Swiss Banks.

The lawsuit against Arab Bank, to be filed in the District Court of Eastern New York, will also include some American plaintiffs and invoke American antiterrorism laws.

A similar lawsuit seeking some $875 million in damages from the Arab Bank was filed in the same court in July on behalf of a dozen American victims of Palestinian terror under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996. The earlier suit claims, based largely on documents seized by Israeli forces during raids in the Palestinian territories, that the Arab Bank willingly funneled millions of dollars to families of terrorists and terrorist-related entities in the West Bank and Gaza.

The bank has denied the charges, calling them “completely false and totally irresponsible.”

A person close to the case involving Israeli citizens said the new suit is expected to draw essentially on the same material as the one filed in July. However, the magnitude of the new lawsuit in terms of the number of plaintiffs and the billions of dollars sought in damages, which could not be precisely ascertained by press time, is certain to shine a brighter light on the issue of terrorist funding. Also, the new case is likely to attract more attention because of the Israeli involvement, as well as the high-profile status of Gerson and Motley, who grabbed headlines after filing a giant lawsuit against Al Qaeda and Saudi individuals and entities on behalf of families of victims of the September 11 attacks.

In addition to Gerson and Motley, the legal team will include Lee Wolosky, former director of transnational threats at the National Security Council under Bill Clinton and now a senior partner with Boies, Schiller & Flexner. The lead Israeli lawyer is David Mena, a former Likud Knesset member and head of the Israeli civil service, who now is at the helm of the organization representing Israeli victims of terror.

Gary Osen, the plaintiffs’ lawyer in the first case, confirmed that a new lawsuit would indeed be filed that same day. He claimed that while there was obviously no moral distinction between the American and Israeli victims of terror, the standards needed to invoke the Alien Torts Claims Act were far more stringent than the ones set out by U.S. antiterrorism laws.

The first lawsuit, Linde v. Arab Bank, accused the financial institution of providing services to terrorist organizations and charitable front groups in the furtherance of a murderous conspiracy to commit multiple acts of international terrorism. It also claimed that Saudi riyals raised through the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Intifada Al Quds, an official Saudi nonprofit organization, were converted to dollars at Arab Bank’s branch in Manhattan and then funneled to the West Bank and Gaza, where they were deposited into the personal accounts of terrorists and their families.

Sources close to the case said the judge in charge might decide to consolidate the suits.






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