Espanol / English

Middle East Near You

US dismisses $34bn lawsuit against pro-Israeli donors

Image of illegal settlements in the West Bank [Wisam Hashlamoun/Apaimages]
Image of illegal settlements in the West Bank [Wisam Hashlamoun/Apaimages]

A US Federal court has dismissed a lawsuit against pro-Israeli American donors accused of contributing to war crimes and ethnic cleansing in Palestine, on the grounds that it does not have the jurisdiction to pass judgement on the case.

District of Columbia Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled this week on the lawsuit filed in March 2016 by a group of American Palestinians who live in the occupied West Bank. Payment of damages of up to $34.5 billion was demanded from US businessmen, charities, companies and corporate profiteers who support the construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The claimant, including Bassem Al-Tamimi from the village of Nabi Salah, charged 49 pro-Israeli donors including multi billionaire Sheldon Adelson of supporting a network of tax-exempt entities in the US and financing activities that violate international laws.

In the document filed to the court by solicitors Martin F. McMahon, the claimants accused Adelson et al of having “financed, encouraged, and deliberately collaborated with settlement officials (including security coordinators) in the commission of wholesale violence, knowing that would result in massive ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population”.

Read: 3,455 settlements units built on private Palestinian land

In her opinion, which was seen by MEMO, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled that the issues raised by the plaintiffs were beyond the “limited jurisdiction” of the court. This was also one of the main arguments made by the defendants, that US federal courts did not possess the jurisdiction to pass a verdict on the issues raised by the group of American-Palestinians.

#LandGrab

While pointing out that the claims of genocide, trespass, war crimes could not be determined by US courts court, Judge Chutkan said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “quintessentially political” and therefore the court has no way of deciding “state sovereignty in foreign territories; the rights of private landowners in those territories; the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem; and whether the actions of Israeli soldiers and private settlers in the disputed territories constitute genocide and ethnic cleansing”.

The issues raised by the complaint had to be decided by political branches in Capitol Hill, concluded the judge. The concerns raised said the judge “are among the most difficult and complex in international affairs” and “in our constitutional system these matters are committed to the Legislature and the Executive, not the Judiciary.” The court refused to weigh in on an issue which the political branches are still grappling with, she added.

MEMO has contacted the lawyers to see if they will appeal the judgement and is still awaiting a response.

Categories
Asia & AmericasIsraelMiddle EastNewsPalestineUS
Register for the conference: Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on