A group of 24 Americans living in Israel, some of them victims of terror, on Tuesday filed a civil action lawsuit against the United States government over what they claim is its funding of Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The plaintiffs were being represented by the Tel Aviv-based Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, a legal advocacy group that combats terror organizations.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Washington, DC, contends that the State Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored Congressional safeguards and transparency requirements attached to US aid to the Palestinian Authority, thus allowing for the funneling of funds to Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Palestine Liberation Front. It also accuses the White House of not complying with the regulations and reporting obligations governing presidential waivers which facilitate emergency funding to the Palestinians.
“I just want justice,” said Stuart Hersh, one of the plaintiffs, an elderly Jerusalem resident and victim of a terror attack on Ben Yehuda Street in the same city in 1997, which caused him brain damage and left him partially disabled. “I am against the American government indirectly financing Hamas — the very people who try to kill me,” Hersh said by telephone, adding that he differentiates between “humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people and supporting political agendas.”
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the Tel Aviv-based director of Shurat HaDin, told The Times of Israel that the State Department and USAID were particularly “lax” in requiring the Palestinians to “utilize bank accounts and other transfer methods that ensure transparency.” US funds have been flowing to the terror groups as a result of this noncompliance, Darshan-Leitner added.
“USAID’s funding of the PA, for example, is partially distributed to Gaza, where Hamas employees are paid, or Fatah, which still has anti-Israel elements in its charter,” Darshan-Leitner said. “The American people are opposed to terror and do not want to fund it via their taxes.”
Karen Bell Eisenberg, an American-Israeli who lives outside Bethlehem in the West Bank, put it this way: “I don’t begrudge Palestinian aid money. But I’m tired of my tax money [she works for an American company and pays taxes in the US] being used to fund the very people who are trying to kill me.”
The State Department, under the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, is prohibited from providing “material support” to banned terrorist groups. Under that law, the State Department is required to certify that the Palestinian government is committed to peace and coexistence with Israel before distributing funds.
According to the advocacy group’s estimates, since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the State Department, via USAID, has given over $4 billion to Palestinians, with portions of that funding illegally falling into the hands of terrorists. Over the last four fiscal years, the average aid package has been roughly $600 million per year, compounded by the $200 million or so given annually to the United Nations Refugee Worker’s Administration (UNRWA).
The suit asks the federal court to review the conduct of the State Department and the safeguards on funds being distributed by USAID, and seeks to suspend future American aid to the PA and UNRWA until all the Congressional regulations and reporting requirements are fully complied with.