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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

March 03, 2003

Sue the bastards

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner is hitting Arab terrorists where it hurts - their pocketbooks.

Since an Israeli army reservist was murdered by a mob in the West Bank town of Ramallah two years ago, she has launched about two dozen lawsuits against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Muslim states that funnel funds to groups such as Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. She has also sued the European Union, charging that its PA economic assistance program has inadvertently aided and abetted terrorism.

Darshan-Leitner, a petite, dynamic 28-year-old Israeli lawyer who represents more than 100 victims of terrorism through her Israel Law Center, was at Shaarei Shomayim Congregation recently to explain her work. The talk, Taking Terror to Court, was sponsored by Israel's consulate general and the Toronto Zionist Council. Edward Greenspan, the Toronto lawyer who introduced her, described Darshan-Leitner as "a voice for the victims of terrorism." He suggested that her "extraordinary pursuit for justice" has paid dividends.

Several weeks ago, Darshan-Leitner won a historic victory against the PA - a 64 million shekel ($13 million US) lien on its assets. The money, minus her fee, will go to the family of Vadim Nordizh, a Russian-born reservist who was fatally beaten by Palestinians on Oct. 12, 2000 in a PA police station in Ramallah. "There was almost nothing left of his body after he was killed and mutilated," she said angrily. "The PA was responsible for his murder, and had to pay." She believes that the case, filed in a Jerusalem district court, will benefit other Israeli families who have sued, or plan to sue, the PA.

It was a serious defeat for the PA. "Each bullet costs Palestinian terrorists one dollar. The lien we have placed on the PA's assets will deprive terrorists of 13 million bullets." Darshan-Leitner explained that the lien was placed on $500 million (US) worth of PA funds that Israel froze after the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000. Since then, she claimed, the majority of Palestinian terrorist attacks have been mounted by the Tanzim and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, both of which are supported financially by the PA. "If you can cut this funding, you can cut terrorism."

When the Israeli army stormed the West Bank last spring in Operation Defensive Shield, it found documents and bank cheques that Israel said proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the PA had channelled funds to terrorists, including Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. He was subsequently captured, and now faces terrorist charges. Darshan-Leitner has also hit Syria, Iraq and Iran with lawsuits. All three countries support and/or fund Palestinian organizations ranging from Hamas to Islamic Jihad. Taking her crusade one step further, Darshan-Leitner filed a 100 million shekel ($20 million US) suit in a Tel Aviv district court against the European Union last May. The plaintiffs are members of the Bloomberg family who were attacked in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank in August 2001 that killed a pregnant woman and severely wounded her husband and daughter.

The suit contends the EU - which has transferred more than $1.5 billion (US) to the PA since 1994 and continues to assist the PA to the tune of some $10 million a month - is an unintentional sponsor of terrorism. In its defence, the EU argues that it cannot be sued because of its so-called sovereign immunity. "I have urged the EU not to hide behind its immunity and to face the facts," she said. "I want to make sure that European taxpayers know how their tax money is spent." She added, "Don't take European visitors [in Israel] to Yad Vashem. Take them to cemeteries where terrorist victims are buried."

If her case is rejected by the Tel Aviv district court, she said, she will take it to Israel's Supreme Court and, if necessary, to the EU court in Brussels. Darshan-Leitner has also sued Abu Abbas, whose group, the Palestine Liberation Front, murdered American tourist Leon Klinghoffer aboard the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in October 1985. But Abbas, who currently resides in Baghdad, has not bothered to defend himself.

In addition, Darshan-Leitner has sued Mohammed Dahlan, a security advisor to PA President Yasser Arafat. She claims he planned an attack on a bus in the Gaza Strip that killed two Israeli teachers. The United States, she noted with bitterness, is grooming Dahlan as Arafat's successor. "He is nothing but a murderer, and the U.S. should not do business with a terrorist."

In closing, Darshan-Leitner declared that Israelis are "sick and tired" of attending the funerals of fellow citizens who have been gunned down or blown up by terrorists. On their behalf, she is fighting back. "We can win these cases. We're winning them already."