Shurat HaDin head to receive Zionism prize (JERUSALEM POST) By JOANNA PARASZCZUK 05/22/12)
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Though Israelis are aware of the role the IDF and the security
services play in the fight against terrorism, one Tel Aviv attorney
wants to show how lawyers, too, can help secure the Jewish state.
Attorney Nitsana Darshan- Leitner, director of civil rights nonprofit
organization Shurat HaDin (The Israel Law Center), will receive the
Moskowitz Prize for Zionism, awarded annually to three Israelis
deemed to best personify modern Zionism in Israel, for her work in
taking Israel’s fight against terrorism to the courtroom.
Emergency medicine innovator Dr. Yitzhak Glick and Zvi Slonim,
founder and leader of the Gush Emunim movement, will also receive the
The prizes will be awarded on Tuesday evening in a ceremony in the
City of David.
Since Darshan-Leitner established Shurat HaDin in 2003, it has won
more than $1 billion in judgments against terrorist groups and those
who fund them – including state sponsors of terror Iran, Syria and
The nonprofit has also pioneered the previously unheard of concept of
suing terrorist organizations in civil court.
“When the second intifada started in late 2000, we thought we would
try to help terror victims, and also make the perpetrators of terror
attacks pay,” Darshan-Leitner told The Jerusalem Post in an interview
on Monday. “At that time, suing terror groups was a completely new
When initial success in the courtroom opened the floodgates for
requests from dozens of victims seeking to make their voices heard in
court, Darshan-Leitner said she decided to set up a nonprofit group
and make bankrupting terror a full-time career.
In its civil suits in the US, Shurat HaDin makes use of strict US
anti-terror legislation, which allows American victims and their
families to file civil suits against foreign state terror sponsors
and terrorist organizations, including regarding attacks that did not
take place on US soil.
Yet over and above helping victims, Shurat HaDin’s lawsuits have
exposed the extent to which Iran supports Palestinian terrorism, and
how it and other state sponsors of terror assist and enable their
terrorist proxies, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, to
carry out attacks against Israel.
Evidence presented in Shurat HaDin’s most recent victory, known as
Wultz v. Iran and Syria, showed how those two regimes gave Islamic
Jihad substantial logistical, financial and technical support to
conduct a deadly suicide bombing at the Rosh Ha’ir shwarma restaurant
in Tel Aviv.
Last week, the US District Court judge ruling on the case awarded
$332 million in damages from Iran and Syria to the family of 16-year-
old Daniel Wultz of Weston, Florida, who died from horrific injuries
in that attack along with 10 others. Seventy civilians were wounded.
Another lawsuit, Kaplan v.Hezbollah, is pending in the US District
Court in Washington, DC, and has done much to expose North Korea’s
close relationship with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and how Pyongyang
has helped Hezbollah create extensive underground military bunkers in
Plaintiffs in that case are 30 American Israelis wounded by Hezbollah
rockets during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Expert testimony showed how, before the war, North Korea sent missile
components to Iran, where they were assembled and then shipped to
Hezbollah’s leaders in southern Lebanon, specifically for use against
Israeli civilian targets.
Kim Jung-il’s regime also helped the Lebanese terrorist group build
an extensive network of underground military installations, bunkers,
tunnels and storage facilities in south Lebanon, under the auspices
of a front company, the Korea Mining Development Corporation, and
gave Hezbollah leaders weapons and intelligence training to improve
attacks against Israel.
Significantly, Kaplan v. Hezbollah names 10 “John Does” – anonymous
North Korean agents who Shurat HaDin argues helped Hezbollah in its
fight against Israel.
Even after the Second Lebanon War, North Korea has continued to
supply Hezbollah with weapons via Tehran, including M-600 rockets
that would allow the group to strike targets in central Israel,
Shurat HaDin previously sued North Korea for $378m. in US federal
court in Puerto Rico for its involvement in the 1972 Lod Airport
massacre, in which three members of the Japanese Red Army killed 26
people and wounded some 80 others.
Shurat HaDin’s lawsuits have also exposed the terror-funding fronts
used by organizations such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, and
revealed how these groups move illicit monies through international
Darshan-Leitner notes the organization has filed suits against
several international banking institutions, who have allegedly
provided services to terrorist groups.
“We can hurt terror groups and stop terror by preventing the flow of
money reaching them,” she said.
In one lawsuit, Ammanbased Arab Bank is accused of aiding and
abetting terrorism by providing banking services for organizations
that paid suicide bombers’ families, including the Saudi Committee,
which allegedly raised more than $100m. for Palestinian terrorist
The Beirut-based Lebanese- Canadian Bank allegedly held money for
However, Shurat HaDin has not only targeted Middle Eastern banks.
Darshan-Leitner said the organization has also filed cases against
Swiss global financial services company UBS, which allegedly
deliberately concealed transfers of hundreds of millions of dollars
to Iran between 1996 and 2004.
When US federal investigators asked UBS why it failed to report its
dollar transfers to Iran, the Swiss bank said the transactions were
an “innocent mistake,” according to the lawsuit.
However, in the lawsuit, filed in the New York District Court on
behalf of 43 people wounded in a series of terrorist attacks by
Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, Shurat HaDin alleges that UBS
facilitated the attacks by its dollar transfers to the terrorists
groups’ sponsor, Iran.
A further lawsuit against Bank of China alleges that the bank aided
and abetted Hamas and Islamic Jihad by providing them with dozens of
wire transfers totaling several million dollars via a bank account in
The lawsuit, which names 84 plaintiffs including victims of Islamic
Jihad and Hamas bombings and rocket attacks, contends Bank of China
facilitated the terrorist attacks.
Allegedly, in 2006 and 2007, Hamas operatives received money in the
account from Hamas’s headquarters in Syria and then transferred it to
Most of the transfers, allegedly initiated by the two organizations’
leaderships including in Iran and Syria, were made to a single
account in Guangzhou, China, belonging to Said al-Shurafa, who the
plaintiffs claim is a senior operative and agent of both Hamas and
Shurafa is alleged to have then transferred the funds from his
account to Islamic Jihad and Hamas coffers in the West Bank and the
Gaza Strip, “for the purpose of planning, preparing for and executing
Though Bank of China moved to have the lawsuit dismissed, in July the
New York Supreme Court handed down what Darshan-Leitner said was
a “monumental” ruling, holding that the case can go ahead in US court.
As a result of these and other lawsuits, Darshan-Leitner said
international banks have closed accounts with alleged terror links
and become more careful about vetting clients.
However, Darshan-Leitner said, getting a court judgement against
terrorist groups and their state sponsors is not the final stage in
the legal battle against them.
“When we get a judgement [for damages], we have to move to enforce
it,” she said.
In the lawsuits against Iran, enforcing judgments has meant searching
creative ways to attach Iranian funds in the US and asking courts to
allow them to be used to pay courtawarded damages.
To collect $423.5m. in damages awarded from Iran to victims of a 1997
Hamas suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem’s Ben-Yehuda pedestrian
mall, lawyers targeted a house purchased by the late shah of Iran for
his son in Lubbock, Texas.
Another possible source of Iranian funds, Darshan-Leitner said, is a
collection of 2,500- year-old clay tablets from Persepolis in Iran.
Though the tablets are held by the University of Chicago, the Islamic
Republic claims ownership of them.
Though Iran has never answered a single lawsuit filed against it, the
Islamic Republic did take notice of the request to sell the
Persepolis Tablets to pay the suicide bombing victims, calling the
move “indecent” and appointing a US lawyer.
Darshan-Leitner dubbed the lawsuits “fighting back” against
terrorism, but added that Shurat HaDin also battles against anyone
who seeks to harm Israel and Israelis.
“We’re also fighting back against campaigns of US campus anti-
Semitism, we’re fighting back against BDS [Boycott, divestment and
sanctions] campaigns, we’re fighting back against the flotillas,” she
said, referring to legal warnings the organization sent to leading
maritime insurance companies last summer, causing them to cancel
their insurance of protest ships headed for the Gaza Strip.
“Really, we’re fighting back against the delegitimization of Israel,”
Darshan-Leitner said she was “delighted” to receive the Moskowitz
Prize for Zionism, which aims to honor those who put Zionism into
action in Israeli society but who do not always receive public
“Receiving the prize will help boost the idea that private citizens
can also make a difference in Israel’s fight against terror,” Darshan-
Former public security minister Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avigdor Kahalani, a
member of the judging committee, said Darshan-Leitner had made an
impression “with her dedication, day in and day out, to preserving
the honor of Israel and to pressing the legal case against those who
seek to harm it and its citizens.”
Kahalani praised Darshan- Leitner’s “tenacity and professionalism,”
which he said had achieved results. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post
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