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Lawsuits & Litigation

Court Brings Back Palestinians’ $1b Lawsuit Against Sheldon Adelson

— February 21, 2019

Discarding arguments about sovereignty and politics, a U.S. appeals court will let Palestinians continue a lawsuit against billionaire developer Sheldon Adelson and the U.S. government.

A U.S. appeals court unanimously voted to revive a $1 billion lawsuit brought against American businessmen by Palestinian activists.

At the forefront of the accused is billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a real estate developer and business magnate. Thirty others are named as plaintiffs alongside Adelson, each accused of war crimes and contributing to the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Reuters reports that the 3-0 decision was made Tuesday, reversing a federal judge’s dictate that the case raised political questions outside the purview of American courts.

The plaintiffs—18 Palestinians, Palestinian-Americans and a Palestinian village council—claim Adelson and his colleagues helped engineer a strategy to expel non-Jews from disputed territories. They say their tactics contribute genocide and could be classified as war crimes.

The Middle-East Monitor quotes U.S. Circuit Court Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, who opines that questions over sovereignty and jurisdiction are irrelevant if genocide is in fact being abetted by Americans.

“A legal determination that [illegal] Israeli settlers commit genocide in the disputed territory would not decide ownership of the disputed territory and thus would not directly contradict any [U.S.] foreign policy choice,” Henderson said.

An Israeli settlement near Jerico. Settlements have generally been condemned as illegal by the international community. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user: Daniel Case. (CCA-BY-3.0)+GNU Free Documentation License, versions 1.2 and higher.

Since genocide violates international law, Henderson ruled that the case could be heard under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign citizens to seek justice for human rights violations committed by Americans overseas.

Her ruling authorizes courts to evaluate whether Adelson and his cohorts conspired to expel non-Jews “without touching the sovereignty question, if it included that Israeli settlers are committing genocide.”

According to Reuters’ coverage, other defendants include billionaire Larry Ellison, Bank Leumi BM and Bank Hapoalim BM, and construction and support companies like Hewlett Packard and Volvo.

Also accused are a bevy of nonprofit organizations and the United States government.

Collectively, the many defendants allegedly partook in the commission of war crimes including the murder of 14 members of a single family, the beating and handicapping of a Palestinian man, as well as extrajudicial shootings.

While the decision may elate plaintiffs, there’s still a significant chance the case could be dismissed before it ever reaches trial.

The Jerusalem Post suggests that there is ‘speculation’ as to whether the defendants might appeal to a broader panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. They may also petition the Supreme Court and attempt to have the case junked on jurisdictional grounds.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat Hidin, said the lawsuit should be considered harassment.

“It’s unfortunate the court’s technical ruling rejected the political question doctrine finding and reinstated what is obviously a frivolous harassment suit brought by Palestinians and affiliated with the radical groups against largely Jewish and Israeli parties, said Darshan-Leitner, who has defended pro-Israeli entities in similar lawsuits.




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