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Mural of Yasser Arafat painted on Wall near Ramallah, Qalandia checkpoint Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Terror victims: When will U.S. stand with us? ( US Appeals Court overturns $655 Million judgement against the PA and PLO by Families of Victims of Terror)

by Stephen M. Flatow Oct 6, 2016

(Stephen M. Flatow is a New Jersey attorney.)


Terror victims and their advocates suffered a major setback Aug. 31, when a U.S. appeals court overturned a $655 million judgment that had been obtained by Mark Sokolow and 10 other families against the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization. Families who had won a hard-fought courtroom victory 18 months earlier tasted the bitterness of defeat. I have had the same thing happen to me.


Factually and procedurally our cases are different, but the role of the U.S. government in our cases is the same — instead of supporting American terror victims, the government weighs in on the side of terrorists.


The Sokolow case was filed in 2004 following a series of terror attacks in Israel in which Americans were murdered or injured. Relying on the Antiterrorism Act of 1992, the victims and their families went to court in Manhattan against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. They proved in court that the terrorists who carried out the attacks were PA employees. They showed how the PA recruited known terrorists into its police and so-called “security” forces, gave them weapons, and, using the PA controlled media, urged them to kill Jews. This all resulted in the terror war that came to be known as the “Al-Aqsa Intifada.”


Our case, which we brought after my daughter, Alisa, was murdered in Israel in 1995 when a suicide bomber drove his car into the bus she was riding, came under the provisions of the Antiterrorism Act of 1996. We were able to pursue Iran because it had been named a “state sponsor” of terrorism. That designation stripped away the “sovereign immunity” that any foreign country would normally enjoy in a U.S. court. We proved to the court that Iran committed terror through proxies such as Islamic Jihad, who murdered Alisa, and we were awarded $250 million in damages.


We collected approximately $22 million of that award through a law passed during the Clinton administration. That money was paid from the U.S. Treasury and was to be reimbursed from $400 million that Iran had on deposit in the Foreign Military Sales Act account. We now know that neither the Clinton, Bush, nor Obama administrations took money out of that account to reimburse Treasury. In fact, the Obama administration has released the money in that account to Iran.


The Sokolow case did not depend on any type of terrorism designation. The 1992 law allows any American citizen injured “by reason of an act of international terrorism” to sue and obtain treble damages in “any appropriate district court of the United States.” It doesn’t distinguish between individual actors and states or similar governmental entities.


Eleven years after filing their case and winning many courtroom battles, the Sokolow plaintiffs proved to a jury that the PLO and PA bore responsibility for the attacks. The jury awarded them $218.5 million in damages that, when trebled under the law, became $655.5 million.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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