During the Third Intifada between 2002 and 2004, six terrorist attacks killed 33 people and injured 450 in Jerusalem. In a civil suit brought by ten families affected by the attacks, a jury decided on Monday to award $218.5 million in damages. Because the case was brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act, that amount will be tripled to $655.5 million.
“This historic verdict against the defendants will not bring back these families’ loved ones nor heal the physical and psychological wounds inflicted upon them but it truly is an important measure of justice and closure for them after their long years of tragic suffering and pain,” Israel-based law office Shurat HaDin said in a statement, following the verdict.
“Money is oxygen for terrorism,” attorney Kent A. Yalowitz said in a closing argument on Thursday.
At one point, Yalowitz showed the jury a photo of Yasser Arafat, saying the late Palestinian leader had incited violence.
“The big dog was Yasser Arafat,” he said. “Yasser Arafat was in charge.”
That money will have to come from the Palestinian Authority and PLO, which the prosecution was able to link to the attacks. Through testimony and payroll records, plaintiffs connected several of those involved with the attacks to Palestinian organizations.
“We tried to prevent violence from all sides,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s executive committee testified for the defense. Mark J. Rochon, attorney for the defendants, argued that his clients were not involved in the attacks, saying that he did not want “the bad guys, the killers, the people who did this, to get away while the Palestinian Authority or the PLO pay for something they did not do.”
“It is not the right thing to hold the government liable for some people doing crazy and terrible things,” Rochan said.
Both organizations say they will appeal the jury’s decision.
The verdict is already prompting questions about future trials that may be brought against moderate Palestinian groups.
It is also unclear just how either group is expected to pay such a large sum. The Palestinian Authority is already losing $100 million per month, as Israel refuses to hand over tax revenue in retaliation for their December bid to join the International Criminal Court. Yalowitz has vowed to collect the money from Palestinian Authority and PLO bank accounts, as well as by seizing any real estate in the US, Israel, and elsewhere, the AP reports.
The case recalls one from last September, in which a Brooklyn jury found Arab Bank liable for financially supporting Hamas suicide bombings. Also brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act, this case will move to a second trial in May.