The Lawfare Project has recently reported that U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman dismissed a lawsuit, Ahmad v. Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, brought by thirteen Palestinian residents of the West Bank (“Plaintiffs”) against five U.S.-based charitable organizations (“Defendants”). The suit alleged that Defendants funded attacks against Palestinians, committed by Israeli citizens living in the West Bank, and sought money damages from the charities. Excerpts below:
Ahmad is a prime example of lawfare litigation, an inherently illegitimate suit that fails as a matter of law due to Plaintiffs’ inability to meet the required elements of the claims asserted, as detailed below. Lawfare proponents have routinely filed such actions for purposes of intimidation and to advance political ideologies.
More than 500,000 Israeli citizens reside in the portion of the West Bank that Plaintiffs argue is “within the internationally recognized borders of the future Palestinian state.” Rather than filing suit against (or even identifying) any individuals who purportedly carried out violent acts, the Plaintiffs claimed that the five defendant charities — Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, the Hebron Fund, Inc., the Central Fund of Israel, the One Israel Fund, and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim — were liable for providing financial support to West Bank communities to “build and maintain the illegal settlements, illegally take land in Occupied Palestine, to support the attacks by the settlers on Palestinians living in Occupied Palestine, and to support the terrorist acts of the settlers against Palestinians and other persons in Occupied Palestine.” This provision of financial support, according to Plaintiffs, was intended to enable and assist acts of terrorism in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act (“ATA”),and the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”).
The claims brought under the ATA required a showing that Defendants intended or knew that the funds provided would be used to support terrorism. The ATS claims required that Defendants possessed “purpose rather than knowledge alone” that their funds would be used in this manner.
Judge Furman found that Plaintiffs’ allegations were “entirely conclusory” and failed to suggest that Defendants “were aware — or even deliberately indifferent to the possibility — that the financial support they provided…would be used to support any violent activity.” Plaintiffs “do not (and cannot) allege that the [Israeli] settlers are a designated terrorist organization,” Judge Furman wrote, “Nor do they allege that the settlers have publicly stated terrorist goals or are associates of established terrorist organizations.”
Further, Plaintiffs failed to show a proximate causal relationship between the provision of financial support and any alleged attacks, a requisite element of all ATA claims. As the holding notes, “Essentially, the Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants transferred funds to an unorganized group of approximately five hundred thousand people, and that some people in that group committed attacks against the American Plaintiffs.”
The court denied Plaintiffs’ ATS claims based on similar reasoning: having found their allegations insufficient to establish that Defendants even knew the funds provided would be used to aid terrorist activity, “it follows a fortiori that the allegations are insufficient to establish that Defendants intended for their funds to be used in such a manner.” Moreover, the court cited established and binding precedent that claims against corporations fall beyond the ATS’s jurisdiction. Because all Defendants were “corporations or corporate-type entities,” the ATS claims were necessarily dismissed.