The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) criticized the Obama administration today for aiding the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in a terrorism lawsuit pending in a federal court in New York, in which the jury found the PLO and PA liable for millions of dollars in damages for their role in several terrorist attacks in Israel that resulted in the murder and maiming of innocent American citizens. Late last Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice submitted to the Court a “Statement of Interest of the United States of America,” urging the Court to consider the harmful effect that a bond requirement would have on the PLO and the PA, after the PLO and PA claimed that they could not afford to post a bond while their appeal is pending.
Last February, after a seven-week trial, the jury in Sokolow v. PLO found the PLO and PA liable for planning, funding and carrying out six terrorist shootings and bombings in Israel in the early 2000’s, which killed and maimed dozens of innocent American citizens and others. The jury awarded the plaintiffs – American victims and their families – $218.5 million in damages which, under the Antiterrorism Act, were automatically tripled to more than $655 million. The plaintiffs asked the presiding judge to enter a judgment consistent with the jury’s verdict. The PLO and the PA moved to stay execution of the judgment and claimed that they could not afford to post any security while their appeal was pending, a claim the plaintiffs strongly contested.
ZOA Wrote to Attorney General
Last week, the media reported that the U.S. government was considering submitting a Statement of Interest in the case, to request that the judge consider the economic and national security impact that posting the bond and paying the damages could have on the PLO and the PA. On August 5, 2015, the ZOA wrote to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, urging the U.S. government not to intervene, and to “side with the victims of terrorism, not with the terrorists.”
In a slap in the face to the American victims and their families, the U.S. Justice Department filed a Statement of Interest with the Court on Monday, asking the Court to consider the impact that a bond would have on the PLO and the PA, two entities that promote and commit terror. Virtually the entire Statement of Interest focuses on “the harms that could arise if the Court were to impose a bond that severely compromised the PA’s ability to operate as a governmental authority” – despite the fact that the U.S. provides the PA with 600 million dollars per year, and Europe provides billions more per year.
In addition to shockingly siding with the terrorists rather than the victims who are American citizens, the Statement of Interest fails to make several crucial points. First, the Obama administration does not praise the fact that after the plaintiffs waited 10 years for their claims to be heard by a jury, justice was finally served and the sponsors of terrorism against American citizens were finally held accountable. Second, the Obama administration does not condemn the PLO and PA for funding and sponsoring terrorist attacks that resulted in the murder and maiming of innocent American citizens. Third, there is not one word about the steps the Obama administration is committed to taking to ensure that the victims and their families are in fact financially compensated by the PLO and the PA. Finally, while the Statement of Interest notes the billions of dollars in U.S. aid to the Palestinians, the Obama administration does not condemn the PA for using this money to support and glorify terrorism, nor does it threaten to stop funding the PA until it stops promoting terrorism. The PA pays pensions to families of terrorists and suicide bombers who were killed or are in prison; the more Jews they killed, the bigger the pension. The PA spends at least six million dollars per month on these pensions. Palestinian Media Watch recently reported that the PA has dedicated yet another city square to the memory of a terrorist murderer responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians in Israel. Yesterday, the media reported that authentic PA documents were leaked on line which show – as described by a columnist for the Palestinian al-Ayam newspaper – “rampant corruption, mismanagement and nepotism” in the PA government.
These were not inadvertent omissions by the Obama administration in the Statement it submitted to the Court. The Statement of Interest expressly states that “[t]he United States does not . . . express a view on . . . any issue in the case.” Yet that is not exactly true. The Obama administration is expressing a view by asking the judge to show consideration to the PLO and the PA, two terrorist entities that showed no consideration to their American victims and the victims’ families.
The Obama administration’s actions have deeply troubling implications beyond the Sokolow case. The media reported that according to a PLO official, the Palestinians have already signed an “agreement for all-out cooperation” with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Moreover, PA President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to visit the Islamic Republic in the next two months, to improve ties and increase cooperation between the PA and Iran, the largest supporter of Islamic terrorism around the world, arming Hamas and Hezbollah with funds to purchase missiles and build terror tunnels. It is horrifying and betrays every American principle and sense of justice for the Obama administration to have asked the Court to show financial leniency to the PLO and the PA when the PA is now working to build an alliance with the worst terrorist regime in the world, committed to America’s – and Israel’s – annihilation. “The Statement of Interest of the United States of America,” which was submitted by the Obama administration, actually takes a position that is against U.S. interests.
ZOA National Board Member David Schoen, Esq. was lead counsel during parts of the pre-trial phase of the Sokolow case. (He is lead counsel in several other terrorism cases, including one against Syria.) Mr. Schoen argued key pre-trial motions and obtained critical documents and deposition testimony from convicted terrorists, which confirmed the PA and PLO’s complicity in these heinous terrorist attacks.
Mr. Schoen called the Obama administration’s Statement of Interest in the Sokolow case “absolutely outrageous,” stating, “What is perhaps the most offensive part of the government’s submission is that it is advising the Court that it does not express a view about any issue in the case. That is not just irresponsible; it is unconscionable. After years of litigation and a full and fair trial, a jury found that the PLO and PA supported, funded and were directly involved in horrific terrorist acts that killed and maimed Americans. These are the same entities that are supported by hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars every year. How can it be that the Obama administration expresses no view on the merits of any issue in the case, including the conduct of the terrorist regimes that murdered and maimed our own citizens? Why isn’t our government monitoring how U.S. taxpayer money is being spent, and why are we continuing to support regimes that sponsor and glorify terrorism?
“If the PLO and PA were so concerned about their finances, then why did they spend millions of dollars on expensive lawyers who obstructed justice for years until this case finally came to trial 10 years after it was filed? The PLO and the PA could have avoided a large jury verdict by settling with the plaintiffs a long time ago, on terms more favorable to the PLO and the PA. At the same time, these innocent American citizens would have been spared the additional pain of the trial and now the appeal. Instead, the PLO and PA have spent, and are continuing to spend, millions of dollars to pay expensive teams of lawyers who have engaged in obstructionist tactics since this case was filed.”
Morton A. Klein, ZOA National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, called the U.S. government’s Statement of Interest “disgraceful and frightening,” noting that “the Obama administration didn’t even condemn the murders that were litigated.
“The ZOA initiated the bill that became the Koby Mandell Act, which created a new office in the Department of Justice to capture all foreign nationals, including Palestinian Arabs, who have killed or harmed Americans overseas. The ZOA supported the bill to help rectify the U.S. government’s conspicuous failure to go after Palestinian Arab terrorist killers of Americans. Unfortunately, the law has not changed our government’s response to Palestinian Arab terrorism: The Department of Justice has never once prosecuted a single Palestinian killer of Americans. This Statement of Interest again shows our government’s shameful failure to crack down on Palestinian Arab terrorism in the way that it must.
“The ZOA respectfully urges Judge Daniels to ensure that justice is finally served in the Sokolow case. Please enter a judgment against the PLO and the PA that is consistent with the jury’s verdict. If the PLO and the PA continue to refuse to take responsibility for their heinous actions and proceed with an appeal, then please require them to post the full appeal bond, based on the payment schedule suggested by the American victims themselves. Please make it clear that the courts will show no mercy to sponsors of Palestinian Arab terrorism against American citizens, whether the Obama administration agrees or not.
ZOA Urges Congressional Hearings
“The ZOA also urges Congress to hold hearings on whether the Obama administration is truly supporting the rights of victims of terrorism, as it claims. Why then is the administration intervening in the Sokolow case? Were U.S. taxpayer dollars used to lobby the U.S. government to intervene on the side of the sponsors of terrorism? What steps will the administration be taking to ensure the judgment is collected, and will the U.S. government be intervening in the appeal? Why has the Obama administration done nothing in response to the PA’s continuing incitement of murder in every aspect of their culture, naming schools, streets and sports teams after terrorist killers, and having parades glorifying terrorists after they die? And why has the Justice Department failed to pursue Palestinian Arab terrorists and bring them to justice? All American citizens, including the victims of terrorism and their families in the Sokolow case, deserve answers to these questions.”