Although the U.S. Supreme Court refused this week to set aside a $116 million judgment against the Palestine Liberation Organization for its role in the murder of a Jewish couple near the West Bank in 1996, the lawyer representing the couple’s children said the PLO continues to ignore the order.
"They are continuing to act like terrorists who refuse to comply with U.S. law, and they have said that very clearly," said attorney David Strachman of Providence, R.I.Strachman said he will have to collect the judgment by obtaining court orders to seize PLO and PA property in the U.S. He said both groups have more than enough in assets here to pay it.
He filed the suit in March 2000 against Hamas; the PLO; its governmental entity, the Palestinian Authority, and its president, Yasir Arafat, in behalf of the estate of Yaron Ungar, an American citizen, and his Israeli wife, Efrat.
The couple were driving home from a wedding with their infant child when their car came under fire from members of the terrorist group Hamas. Only the child survived.
Efrat Ungar’s claims were dismissed because she was not an American citizen, but a U.S. district court in Providence permitted the suit to be brought.
A spokeswoman for the Ungar estate said the family was pleased by the Supreme Court decision Monday, which was without comment, not to act.
Judith Dasberg said the family hoped that "this case will have the intended effect of hurting terrorist groups by taking away their resources, so as to make it difficult for them to continue attacking civilians like Yaron and Effie."
The suit claimed that the Palestinian Authority and the PLO "repeatedly praised Hamas and its operatives, who engaged in terrorist activities and violent acts against Jewish civilians and Israeli targets." It also alleged that the PLO and the PA "praised, advocated, encouraged, solicited and incited" the terrorist acts, one of which killed the Ungars.
Although the PA claimed that its failure to prevent terrorist activities "does not amount to acts of ‘international terrorism,’" the authority relied on the argument that it could not be sued because it had sovereign immunity.
The district court did not agree, writing: "These defendants have chosen not to challenge the merits of plaintiffs’ case and decided instead to place all of their eggs in one basket. Unfortunately for defendants … that basket is porous."
The PA also failed to respond to requests for depositions from Arafat and others.
A default judgment was issued in July 2004 for the $116 million, plus attorney fees and court costs.
"One of the things that is important is that after all these years of litigation and after two appeals to the 1st Circuit [Court of Appeals], an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and eight written decisions from two different judges in the district court, they are still refusing to comply with the order to pay," Strachman said. "Their lawyers in Washington, in Rhode Island and in New York in three major firms have all said that they will not pay the judgment."
Strachman noted that there are several similar cases involving the PLO and PA pending in American courts.
"In light of the fact that they come to Washington and have investments in the U.S., have offices and employees [here], take advantage of U.S. law to operate here, and have gone to the administration and asked for financial support, they are denying the legitimacy of the courts," he said.
Strachman added that the defendants "are refusing to comply with court directives, and they are refusing to comply with the very laws that Congress enacted … to help victims of Palestinian terror."
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, pointed out that in the last decade the Palestinian Authority has received more than $1 billion in U.S. aid.
He called it the "height of chutzpah for the PA to now refuse to pay a U.S. citizen when a U.S. court has ordered that for their role in this murder.
"But it is even more unconscionable for the U.S. to continue giving funds to and negotiate with a PA that has done virtually nothing about the 52 Americans (including three CIA agents) murdered by Palestinians since Oslo began [in 1993]," Klein said. "America refuses to acknowledge that [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas, like Arafat, is an emperor without clothes."