More than 200 U.S. citizens, family members, and estates of deceased U.S. citizens are asking the Supreme Court to revive their lawsuit against a foreign bank for allegedly processing hundreds of transfers moving millions of dollars for terrorist group Hamas’s principal European fundraiser, Interpal, over a decade.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the petitioners in the case known as Weiss v. National Westminster Bank Plc, court file 21-381. Among those senators are Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).
The petitioners were injured or killed in terrorist attacks committed by Hamas in Israel during the Second Intifada.
The Second Intifada, a period of intense Palestinian terrorist violence, began in September 2000, and “was a defining event in Israel’s history, akin to the [Israeli] War of Independence and the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars,” according to The Jerusalem Post. This difficult period “fundamentally altered Israeli society because it impacted everyone. No one, regardless of their political opinions, level of religious observance, or ethnicity, was left unaffected.
“More civilians, about 70 percent of the total fatalities, were killed in the Second Intifada than in any campaign with the exception of the War of Independence, when 2,400 civilians were among the 6,400 Israeli dead.”
The petitioners originally brought their lawsuit in 2005 under the Antiterrorism Act, a U.S. statute, against respondent National Westminster Bank, which is part of Royal Bank of Scotland.
Although the transfers carried out by the bank “were nominally for charitable purposes, the evidence shows that NatWest knew that Interpal was closely linked with Hamas and that the transferees were controlled by … alter-egos of Hamas. These contributions swelled Hamas’s coffers, enabling its terrorist violence,” the petitioners state in their court filing.
U.S. law makes it a felony to knowingly provide any material support, including currency and financial services, to certain designated foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), including Hamas, and imposes civil liability and provides redress to victims of terrorist attacks.
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled in favor of the bank, because precedent in the circuit recognizes a humanitarian charity exception when it comes to liability for aiding and abetting. According to 2nd Circuit caselaw, knowingly providing support to an FTO isn’t enough to allow a jury to find a defendant aided and abetted the FTO’s attacks when, as is the case here, the transferor didn’t admit the funds were for a “terroristic purpose,” and the victims are unable to link the funds to attacks or terrorist recruiting, the petition for certiorari, or review, states.
The other circuit courts disavow that exception.
The secondary liability provision of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a U.S. law, “offers one of very few avenues to hold accountable both terrorist organizations and their aiders and abettors, and to deter their future illegal conduct,” Agudath Israel and other Jewish organizations stated in their friend-of-the-court brief.
The petitioners argue that the 2nd Circuit’s ruling “conflicts with the findings of every branch of our government, including [the Supreme Court].”
In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (2010), the Supreme Court accepted “the considered judgment of Congress and the Executive that providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization—even seemingly benign support—bolsters the terrorist activities of that organization.”
The high court found that this judgment was supported by “persuasive evidence,” which demonstrated it was “wholly foreseeable” that even peaceful support for designated FTOs would move these organizations’ violent agendas forward.
“Thus, people and entities that transferred money to Hamas ‘charities,’ even for purported humanitarian purposes, have been found civilly liable in the Seventh Circuit, and criminally culpable in the Fifth Circuit,” the petition stated.
Jonathan I. Blackman, the New York-based counsel of record for National Westminster Bank, didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.