A Federal District Court in Brooklyn trying a case by terror victims in Israel against the Jordan-based Arab Bank heard testimony Thursday from a victim of suicide bombing at the Mike’s Place bar in Tel Aviv in 2003.
Joshua Faudem worked at the bar, and on the day of the attack, he had finished his daytime shift, but was still there, accompanied by his girlfriend. He recalled that he had just said goodbye to a friend who was leaving for a trip to the US and another friend was on the stage singing.
“Then, the explosion,” he told the court, according to the New York Times. “The explosion. There was a bomb. I immediately jumped on my girlfriend; I threw her on the ground and covered her.”
American victims in two dozen attacks in Israel sued Arab Bank in 2004, accusing it of knowingly helping Hamas finance a “death and dismemberment benefit plan” for martyrs. Their lawyers on Thursday alleged that the Saudi Committee had used Arab Bank’s offices in Jordan and New York to convert donations into US currency before they were distributed to Hamas sympathizers.
The civil case is the first time a bank has faced a trial under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows victims of US-designated foreign terrorist organizations to seek compensation. The US State Department designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997.
Most of the case is expected to hinge on evidence of certain bank transfers and whether or not Arab Bank had sufficient measures in place to determine whether those transactions were linked to terrorism.
Last week, the plaintiffs used flat screens in the courtroom to display a record of an electronic transfer naming Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and a list from a bank file of people designated for $5,300 payments based on deaths from “martyr operations.” They also cited the confession of the mastermind of two attacks who claimed the money for weapons had been transferred through the United States and into his private Arab Bank account.
However Faudem and others have testified about specific terror attacks throughout the week because the plaintiffs must establish as fact that the attacks were committed by Hamas.
Faudem, 38, is an Israeli citizen born in Detroit who moved to Jerusalem with his family when he was eight-years-old. He moved to Tel Aviv in 2003 after the owner of Mike’s Place, a family friend, gave him a job and an apartment to rent.
On the night of the attack, Faudem said he finished working the daytime shift at around 8 p.m. and, after going home to shower and eat dinner, he returned to the bar at 10 p.m. with his camera to work on a documentary he was making about the bar.
At around 12:30 a.m. Faudem and his girlfriend walked back into the bar after saying goodbye to Jack Baxter, a victim injured in the blast who was helping Faudem with his movie and was about to leave on a trip to New York. Just afterwards, the bomb went off, killing three and wounding over 50, including Baxter who suffered from a brain contusion, hearing loss and burns. Faudem suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and hearing loss.
The bomber was identified as British citizen Asif Muhammad Hanif, 22. Faudem was able to pick him out of a picture of two men from a Hamas website. The other man in the picture was British citizen Omar Khan Sharif, 27, who was meant to detonate himself as well, but his explosives belt apparently failed. His body was later found washed ashore on a Tel Aviv beach near Mike’s Place. The circumstances behind his death are still unknown.