ZOA Joins Court’s Criticism: Obama Admin. and Clinton’s State Dept. “Particularly Unhelpful” in American Terror Victim’s Lawsuit Against PA and PLO
December 31, 2009

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) concurs with a federal district court opinion issued on December 28, 2009, in which the judge criticized “the Executive Branch of the United States” as having been “particularly unhelpful,” and the State Department as “mealy-mouthed,” in a lawsuit brought by the family of an American victim of Palestinian Arab terrorism.  The victim, Esh Kodesh Gilmore, was killed on October 30, 2000, in a shooting in East Jerusalem that was allegedly carried out by the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s “Force 17” security unit and by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s “Tanzim” faction.  Mr. Gilmore was 25 years old, married, and the father of an infant daughter at the time of his murder.

After almost nine years of litigation in the case, which was brought in the District of Columbia, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler was considering a motion filed by the PA and the PLO to vacate the default that had been entered – for a second time – against them, for failing to file an answer to the plaintiffs’ complaint.  Judge Kessler asked Secretary of State Clinton’s State Department to file a Statement of Interest, so that the Court would “understand the international ramifications of any order it might enter, and to be apprised of our government’s position about such ramifications.”

In deciding to vacate the second default subject to the defendants’ posting of a one million dollar bond, Judge Kessler noted that the State Department had “declined” to file the Statement of Interest.  Instead, it filed what the Judge described as a “mealy-mouthed Notice,” which “for all practical purposes, said nothing and certainly provided no substantive guidance whatsoever to the Court regarding the Government’s position or concerns about any impact a decision might have on the delicate situation in the Middle East.”

Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, agreed with Judge Kessler’s assessment of the Executive Branch’s actions:  “Judge Kessler’s description of the State Department’s filing as ‘mealy-mouthed’ was completely appropriate.  The Notice of the United States says that the United States had decided ‘not to participate,’ and then goes on to shockingly state that ‘no inference should be drawn’ from that decision.

“Reasonable people can’t help but draw an inference from the State Department’s actions, and it is a troubling one:  It suggests a level of indifference to the consequences of international Islamist terrorism, which is a continuing and grave concern.  The State Department should have put it on the record that its foremost priority is American victims of terrorism such as Esh Kodesh Gilmore and his family.  Particularly where this family is enduring such a disgracefully long period to resolve their claims – apparently in large part due to the PA’s and PLO’s delaying actions – the State Department should have made it crystal clear that its commitment to fighting international Islamist terrorism, which remains a significant threat to all of us, includes ensuring that American victims like Esh Kodesh Gilmore and his family obtain justice as expeditiously as possible.

“We call on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to explain:  Why isn’t the United States fighting the war against terrorism on all fronts, by firmly and forcefully advocating for American victims seeking just compensation for their losses?  We share U.S. Judge Gladys Kessler’s concern; why is the Obama administration being ‘particularly unhelpful’ and the Clinton State Department being ‘mealy-mouthed’ in these critical anti-terrorism cases?”

  • Center for Law & Justice
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