The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) congratulates its national board member, attorney David Schoen, for Mr. Schoen’s vital pre-trial role in Sokolow v. PLO, a case brought in U.S. federal court in New York by innocent Americans civilians who were maimed and murdered in attacks sponsored by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Mr. Schoen successfully argued key pre-trial motions, and obtained critical documents and deposition testimony from convicted terrorists confirming the PA/PLO’s complicity – including evidence of PA/PLO payments to terrorists, and evidence that U.S. designated terrorist groups make PLO/PA decisions and policy while sitting on the PLO/PA Executive Committee.
The injured and murdered American plaintiffs in the Sokolow case were the victims of PA/PLO-sponsored terrorist bombings on Israeli buses and on a pedestrian-filled Jerusalem street, and machine gun attacks carried out by PA police officers on cars in Israel filled with innocent Jewish civilians.
Last week, a Manhattan jury held that the American victims of these heinous PA/PLO-sponsored terror attacks were entitled to $ 218.5 million in damages, which was trebled to $655.5 million under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S. Code § 2333.
Mr. Schoen’s involvement as lead counsel during parts of the pre-trial phase of the Sokolow case was impressive, especially considering the victories he achieved and what he was up against.
Mr. Schoen also served as lead counsel in another case against the PA/PLO, and is currently counsel in a related case against Syria on behalf of American victims of terrorism in Washington DC federal district court. These cases, entitled Shatsky, Thaler et al. v. PLO, PA and Shatsky, Thaler et al. v. The Republic of Syria, concern a PA/PLO-sponsored terrorist bombing of a pizzeria in Karnei Shomron, which murdered two American teenage girls and wounded other Americans. The bomber was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who was trained, financed and equipped by a PA security forces officer who had been released from an Israeli prison, and who, as the PA knew, was the leader of the PFLP’s Qalqiya office while serving as a PA security officer. The PA had hired this former prisoner as a PA security office because of his terrorist “credentials” and because he had killed another man in prison. PA officials admitted during depositions that Mr. Schoen took that the PA preferred to hire former prisoners and make them PA “security” officers! The PFLP also sits on the PLO Executive Committee – which makes the decisions for the PLO and PA. Syria was also culpable, because Syria hosts and gives material support to the PFLP.
These cases are a real “David and Goliath” struggle. Mr. Schoen had to work ’round the clock against powerful and apparently very-well-funded PLO/PA teams of attorneys.
Huge teams of prominent lawyers represent the PLO/PA. The PLO/PA attorneys repeatedly attempted to derail the Sokolow (and Shatsky) cases without giving the injured Americans their day in court. Despite the PLO/PA’s claims of “poverty” (when attempting to avoid paying their victims, or when seeking funds from the U.S. Congress), the PLO/PA appears to have spent millions of dollars on their non-stop aggressive, often questionable maneuvers.
In Sokolow, the PLO/PA had a team of about six lawyers during the pre-trial stage, including at least three partners. At least two partners traveled from Washington DC to New York for every single court conference. Postage on mailings alone cost tens of thousands of dollars. In the Shatsky case, the PLO/PA have a whole different additional team of at least five lawyers. All the members of both PLO/PA teams came to Israel and Jordan for the depositions.
(Incidentally, the PLO/PA is the client of Lebanese-American attorney Richard (Dick) Hibey, who brought the PLO/PA to his firm for the Sokolow and Shatsky cases and other terrorist cases. Interestingly, Hibey is the attorney who had ineffectively represented Jonathan Pollard. Hibey inexcusably missed the deadline for filing a one-page “notice of appeal.” Hibery thereby prevented Pollard from directly appealing his unduly harsh sentence.)
Many of the defenses raised and motions brought by the PLO/PA team in the Sokolow and Shatsky cases were rehashes of the PLO/PA’s failed motions in previous cases brought by victims of PLO/PA terrorist activities. However, this did not stop the PLO/PA from invoking the same arguments again – along with new variations.
For instance, the PA argued that the case against them should have been dismissed without a trial because they are protected by “sovereign immunity” – despite the fact that U.S. courts have repeatedly held that the PLO/PA is not a state entitled to such immunity. (One of the reasons motivating the PA’s unilateral demand for statehood is likely to avoid the legal consequences of its sponsorship of deadly terrorist attacks.)
The PA/PLO also argued that the case should have been dismissed without a trial because it involved non-justiciable “political questions” (matters that courts cannot determine) – despite the fact that courts have repeatedly held that claims by victims of terrorism are tort cases that U.S. judges and juries are well equipped to adjudicate.
The PA/PLO also argued that the claims against it should be dismissed under the “war exception” to the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. In other words, the PA/PLO was saying that bombing innocent Jews in buses or on the streets of Jerusalem was legitimate “warfare” – not terrorism. U.S. Courts have repeatedly held that the PA/PLO’s attacks on innocent civilians are indeed terrorism.
A few days after Mr. Schoen became lead counsel in the Sokolow case, he argued and successfully defeated another inventive PA/PLO motion to dismiss the case without giving the victims a trial. The PA/PLO’s Washington DC firm sent in a team of lawyers to argue the motion, including a partner who had recently argued and won an international law issue in the United States Supreme Court. The PA/PLO lawyers argued that the U.S. Court in New York had no jurisdiction over them, because they were unincorporated associations and not served as such (contradicting the PA/PLO’s previous, rejected argument that they were a state), and raised the novel argument that “Palestinian law” could apply to the victim’s claims. However, the PA/PLO had provided no evidence (such as membership lists) confirming that they were unincorporated associations. The victims had moreover been injured in Israel.
Mr. Schoen described what occurred, revealing his how much his heart and soul were dedicated to this case:
“U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels (who tried the case) as always, listened intently to both sides and asked probing questions. When I described the facts and the victims, and the impact that the terrorist attacks had on the victims’ lives, I began to cry. Judge Daniels clearly was quite moved and took a pause in the proceedings. After listening to all the arguments, Judge Daniels ruled against the PLO/PA and decided that the case must be permitted to go forward. This was a critical juncture in the case that eventually allowed it to go to trial. I am very proud that I was able to get up to speed sufficiently to present the winning arguments.”
Mr. Schoen also took the depositions of some of the arch terrorists behind a great deal of the terrorism that has plagued Israeli civilians before, during and after the Second Intifada, including top leaders of the PFLP. The U.S. State Department designates the PFLP as a foreign terrorist organization.
For example, Mr. Schoen also deposed the PFLP’s second in command, Abdul Rahim Malouh, who walked out of the deposition at one point. Mr. Schoen’s deposition of Malouh shed light on the role that the outlawed PFLP plays while sitting on the PLO’s Executive Committee. The PLO/PA pays PFLP leaders’ rent, pays for a chauffeured Mercedes limousine, etc. and enables PFLP leaders to help determine PA/PLO policy.
Mr. Schoen stated:
“It is most concerning that our American dollars fund the PLO and PA, while outlawed terrorist organizations make PA/PLO policy through the PLO/PA Executive Committee.”
Mr. Schoen also deposed Ahmed Sadaat, the imprisoned leader of the PFLP, responsible for hijackings, many murders and kidnappings, and for the assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001. Saadat refused to testify, accusing Mr. Schoen of having blood on his hands. When Sadaat continued to refuse an Israeli judge’s orders to testify, this opened the door for the victims to use all of Sadaat’s writings in the PFLP’s magazine, lauding the bombings which injured the victims in this case as well as the broader use of terrorism to further the PFLP agenda.
Some of the key facts in the case were the PLO/PA’s promotion of terrorist attacks by paying “martyr” money to imprisoned terrorists and their families, giving promotions to Palestinian “security” officers who were convicted of terrorism, and naming monuments, stadiums, etc. after convicted terrorists. Mr. Schoen learned that the PA/PLO has an official office dedicated to the support of terrorist “martyrs” and their families, headed by a woman named Intissar al-Wazir, the cousin and widow of arch terrorist Abu Jihad. In her role as head of the PA/PLO martyrdom program, al-Wazir had helped a doctoral student write a dissertation glorifying terrorists as martyrs, by providing the student with a complete list of Palestinians Arabs who were officially considered to be martyrs based on their acts of terrorism – a veritable “Who’s Who of Terrorists.” The list was most interesting.
A great deal of Mr. Schoen’s time in Sokolow was spent in bitter fights and hearings to obtain documents that the PLO/PA’s lawyers attempted to conceal. Mr. Schoen was often pitted against whole teams of PLO/PA lawyers with much greater resources. Fortunately, Mr. Schoen was eventually able to obtain a lot of the discovery sought, documents which really proved the case in many instances.
In addition to having to fight with the PLO/PA’s teams of lawyers, Mr. Schoen had to fight with the BBC’s high-powered law firm, which tried to block the victims from obtaining critically important evidence: a video tape and outtakes from a program that the BBC had aired. Mr. Schoen explained:
“The PLO/PA lawyers had absurdly refused to admit any connection between Arafat, Fatah, and Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades. We knew, of course, that they were all connected and all acting on Arafat’s orders when engaging in terrorism. The BBC had aired a documentary in which two leaders admitted that Arafat, Fatah and Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades were all one. The BBC moved to block us from subpoenaing their documentary and outtakes, claiming that if they cooperated with us, it would inhibit their ability to get interviews. I had to fight them in motion papers and then in oral argument before Judge Daniels – an argument in which the PLO/PA tried to intervene to convince the judge to prevent us from getting the evidence. Ultimately, the Judge indicated that he was inclined to rule in our favor and he directed the BBC to find a way to comply with our requests. We resolved it and got what we needed.”
Mr. Schoen stated:
“I must say that the evidence developed in this case provides full support for the position that ZOA President Mort Klein and the ZOA have been preaching all along. For many years, the ZOA has emphasized the PLO/PA’s direct involvement in inciting, supporting and ratifying terrorism. ZOA and Mr. Klien are 100% right. And now an impartial jury has found the same thing. The indisputable fact that the PA/PLO incites and supports terrorism against U.S. citizens and interests is a message that must be presented over and over, and is directly relevant to the question of whether the U.S. should continue funding these organizations.”
After Mr. Schoen discontinued his involvement with the Sokolow case, he helped find subsequent counsel Arnold and Porter, which successfully handled the trial.
Mr. Schoen stated:
“There were many highlights of the case. Most of all, I just felt honored to represent the families of these victims and to lead part of the fight for them to get some justice. I am so pleased that the case was brought to a successful conclusion at trial. There are hurdles ahead in terms of a possibly lengthy appeal process, well financed by the PLO/PA, notwithstanding their false claims of poverty, and then collection efforts.”
The ZOA thanks Mr. Schoen for his vital involvement in this important case against PLO/PA.