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Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, received an award Tuesday night for her role in fighting terrorism through international courts and defending the civil rights of Israeli terror victims.
Darshan-Leitner accepted the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism’s Lion of Zion Award at Jerusalem’s City of David, along with Dr. Yitzhak Glick, Chairman of the Efrat Emergency Medical Center, and Zvi Slonim, a founder of Gush Emunim and the Ariel University Center of Samaria.
Shurat HaDin, established in 2003, says its goal is “to bankrupt terror groups and grind their criminal activities to a halt – one lawsuit at a time.” The legal powerhouse works with western intelligence agencies and volunteer attorneys around the world who file legal actions on behalf of victims of terror.
But they just don’t file – they win. To date, Shurat HaDin has succeeded in winning more than $1 billion in judgments, freezing more than $600 million in terrorist assets, and collecting $120 million in payments to victims and their families.
Darshan-Leitner, who has been leading the struggle against Palestinian and Islamic terrorist organizations in the courtroom since 1997, represents hundreds of terror victims in lawsuits and actions not just against terror organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PLO, and Hizbullah, but against governments such as the Iran, Syria, Egypt, North Korea, and the quasi-government Palestinian Authority.
On May 14, the US district court for Washington, DC handed down a decision in the amount of $332 million against the government of Syria for its role in an April 2006 Passover-time suicide bombing which killed 11 civilians near the Old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, including Floridian student Daniel Wultz, who succumbed to wounds after a 27-day battle for his life. Darshan-Leitner helped his family file suit in US civil court against the Syrian Arab Republic and other parties alleging that Damascus had allowed the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which carried out the attack, to be headquartered in Syria, as well as providing them with material support. The Wultz family was represented by Darshan-Leitner, as well as NY attorney Robert Tolchin.
On May 14, 2012, the 6th anniversary of Daniel’s death, the district court awarded the Wultzes $332 million in compensatory and punitive damages against the Syrian defendants, finding that the defendants acted intentionally in a nature and to an extent “among the most heinous the Court can fathom,” and that they did so without “any semblance of remorse”.
The judgment represented the first time the Syrian government had ever been found liable in US court for supporting Islamic terror organizations targeting civilians in Israel.
Most recently, she has taken on some of the world’s largest banks, who have knowingly done business with organizations associated with Islamic terror, including UBS, The Arab Bank, Bank of China, and LCB.
A lawsuit has been filed in New York against the Bank of China for providing financial services to the PIJ prior to the 2006 bombing which killed Daniel Wultz.
According to Darshan-Leitner, who spoke with the Jewish Press’ Yishai Fleisher, thanks to the efforts of Shurat HaDin, banks have, for the most part, been scared away from dealing with terror organizations and terrorists, for fear of being sued in civil court. This has become significant for Islamic jihadists, who rely on the ability to transfer large amounts of funds in order to maintain their terror networks.
“Terror organizations need a lot of money to operate,” Darshan-Leitner told Fleisher. “We may think they need it for the bullets or for the gun or for the missile, that’s wrong – they need it to support the population, they need to provide the population with free food, free education, free medical services, in order to gain their loyalty, in order to continue firing missiles towards Israel from their backyards.”
“Terror organizations have a military, they have soldiers – not wearing uniforms – but they are soldiers that get paid month after month after month until they are called to carry out terror attacks inside Israel. And to maintain this army, the Hamas or Hizbullah need a lot of money,” Darshan-Leitner said. “So by obstructing them from getting so much money, you are obstructing them from carrying out terror attacks. I regularly meet with intelligence agents in Israel, and they all tell me the same thing – if you stop the money, you can stop the terrorism. If you stop the flow of the money, you can stop the flow of the terrorism.”
In the case of the Bank of China, Darshan-Leitner said the bank refused to close down the account of a known Hamas terrorist who had an account at their bank, through which he received money from Syria, and transferred it to his brother, another Hamas terrorist. This despite the fact that senior Israeli government officials and banking leaders met with their counterparts in China, warning them that the Bank of China’s actions were providing support to terror activity.
In light of their refusal to close the account, Shurat HaDin filed a case in New York civil court against the bank, on behalf of the Wultz family and other Israeli terror victims. “The Bank of China went crazy – it was right before the Olympic Games, they sent us warning letters, warning us not to talk about the lawsuit, they told us we are connecting their name to terror financing, we are destroying their reputation, we are ruining their name,” Darshan-Leitner said. “They told us they would file a libel suit against us in China and will criminally prosecute us in China – that’s why none of us are going to China any day soon, but we kept up this lawsuit.”
Despite several motions filed by the Bank of China, the New York court allowed the case to go forward in New York, and it is in its beginning phases.
Though Shurat HaDin has a high level of success – having won over $1 billion in judgments, it will be difficult for plaintiffs to collect, due to refusal of parties such as the Syrian government to pay up. So Shurat HaDin spends part of its time locating the assets of convicted parties internationally – especially in the United States – so they can be frozen and used to pay off the judgments.
When Darshan-Leitner is not in court or appearing on the BBC, CNN, Voice of Israel, and other media outlets, she is mother to six children, including a set of triplets. In her Lion of Zion acceptance speech, Darshan-Leitner thanked her parents for their support and their role in caring for her children, so that they could have a normal life – and so that she could fight for the normal lives of others.
About the Author: Malkah Fleisher is a graduate of Cardozo Law School in New York City. She is an editor/staff writer at JewishPress.com and co-hosts a weekly Israeli FM radio show. Malkah lives with her husband and two children on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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