Israeli terror victims sue Arab Bank for NIS 20 billion for financing attacks

In first case filed in Israel, 1,132 plaintiffs claim Jordan-based bank played an active role in funding and encouraging terrorism that killed hundreds in 1995-2005

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli soldiers checking for explosives at Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem after a Palestinian suicide bombing that killed 15 people, August 9, 2001. (Courtney Kealy/Getty Images/JTA)
Israeli soldiers checking for explosives at Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem after a Palestinian suicide bombing that killed 15 people, August 9, 2001. (Courtney Kealy/Getty Images/JTA)

Over a thousand Israeli victims of Palestinian terror attacks filed a massive NIS 20 billion ($5.8 billion) compensation suit Monday against Arab Bank PLC, claiming it knowingly supported and financed terror groups that carried out attacks that claimed hundreds of lives.

It is the first time a compensation lawsuit against a bank over alleged involvement in terror has been filed in Israel, where previous such lawsuits have targeted the Palestinian Authority or terror groups. The Arab Bank was previously sued in the US by victims of Palestinian terror with American citizenship, eventually leading to a settlement that reportedly involved a $1 billion payout.

Monday’s suit, filed by 1,132 Israeli terror victims and their families at the Jerusalem District Court, accuses the bank of cooperating with terror groups as well as offering support, assistance, and finances, the Israel Hayom daily reported.

The plaintiffs, via their team of four attorneys, claim the Arab Bank was directly involved in financing terror activities that Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah’s armed wing and other groups carried out inside Israel.

The Jordan-based bank has 600 branches all over the world. The lawsuit claims the bank, its workers and directors were an inseparable part of the terror activities, and that they deliberately, knowingly, and systematically assisted in financing terrorist activities and Palestinian terror groups that launched attacks.

Plaintiffs also accuse the bank of playing an active role in raising donations around the world on behalf of families of suicide bombers and Palestinians imprisoned in Israel on terror charges.

All the plaintiffs are Israeli civilians, victims or family members of victims of terror attacks carried out in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip between 1995 and 2005. During that period hundreds of Israelis were killed and thousands were injured in suicide bombings and shooting attacks. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Among the incidents listed in the lawsuit are a 1996 attack at Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv, which killed 13; a 2001 attack on the Dolphinarium discotheque in Tel Aviv, which killed 21 and injured 120; the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem, which killed 15 and injured over 100; and the Passover Seder night bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002, which killed 30 and injured over 160.

Medics attend to those injured after a
Palestinian suicide bomber exploded himself in the Park Hotel in Netanya, in the middle of the passover dinner, March 27 2002. (Flash90)

In August 2015 Arab Bank reached a settlement in the US over claims it shared responsibility for a wave of Hamas-sanctioned suicide bombings in Israel in the early 2000s that left several Americans dead or wounded. That followed a 2014 jury verdict holding it responsible for the attacks.

A federal appeals court in 2018 rejected the earlier culpability decision. The ruling by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals found a lower-court judge gave faulty instructions to the jury and normally would have set the stage for a retrial, but the litigants had negotiated the settlement of the case under terms dictated by how the appeals court ruled.

Details of the deal between more than 300 US plaintiffs and Arab Bank weren’t disclosed, though Hebrew media has reported the settlement was for $1 billion.

The US lawsuit filed did not include terror victims who only have Israeli citizenship, and in 2018 the US Supreme Court ruled that foreign businesses cannot be sued in US courts by foreign victims of human rights abuses and extremist attacks.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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