By David J Puentes – A jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York found the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) liable to the estates of victims and to the victims of terrorist attacks that took place between 2001 and 2004. The terrorist attacks consisted of two shootings and five bombings.
The PLO “was formed in 1964 to centralize the leadership of various Palestinian groups that previously had operated as clandestine resistance movements.” “It came into prominence only after the Six-Day War of June 1967, however, and engaged in a protracted guerrilla war against Israel during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s….”
The PA is the “governing body of the emerging Palestinian autonomous regions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip established in 1994 as part of the peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).” Since its inception, the President of the PA has been the same individual who chaired the PLO.
The statute under which this suit was brought, the Anti-Terrorism Act, provides for “threefold the damages [the victim] sustains and the cost of the suit, including attorney’s fees.” This means that the amount decided upon by the jury, $218.5 million, could turn into $655.5 million in damages.
One of the concerns with this judgment is whether the plaintiffs will actually be able to collect. New York University law professor, Oscar Chase, expressed his concerns as to whether the amount would be collected on. Columbia University law professor, John Coffee, and the attorneys for the plaintiffs have expressed a belief that bank accounts and assets maintained by the PLO and PA in the U.S. and abroad could be targeted to enforce the judgment.
On two prior occasions, though many years ago, the PLO settled terrorism cases out of court. However, these incidents were many years ago, and the implications were smaller.
Since then there have been many talks between Israel and Palestine, as well as a great amount of armed conflict. Palestine has since, also taken steps towards recognized statehood and has even achieved its goal with Sweden.
Other potential ramifications of this ruling, aside from setting a precedent for jurisdiction, which the PLO and PA arduously attempted to challenge, include the financial aid that the United States provides Palestine.
The United States has used its foreign aid to Palestine as a way to attempt to influence PA decisions in the past, and having such large amounts of money being paid out due to court decisions regarding terrorism could also potentially affect that aid.