When I went back to pick up my son on King George Street after a Palestinian policeman had detonated a five-kilogram bomb strapped to his body, I did not know if our boy was still alive. He wasn’t moving. He was face-down on the sidewalk and surrounded by smoke and destruction. One of the three Israelis killed that late afternoon just stared out from his blackened face. I thought that he was the terrorist, so I started cursing this charred thing; turns out that the terrorist’s head had been blown clear of his body (you can find the picture online); had I known, I would have kicked it like a soccer ball.
In March, we will recognize 17 years since the attack in which a young couple, she pregnant with twins, was murdered along with the fellow with the eyes staring out to nowhere. Outwardly, we have recovered. Our son is in a yeshiva learning and I am the chief scientist of an Israeli startup. Internally, the wounds never heal. The memory is still fresh. And one reason is that we can’t find closure. Like Groundhog Day, each day is the same thing. Every time we try to put the bombing behind us, it comes back and rears its ugly head.
In 2004, we joined ten other families to file the lawsuit known as Sokolow v. PLO under the relatively new Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). Our case moved like molasses through the Federal court system, but lo and behold, in early 2015 we had our day in court—and won. A $655.5 million judgment was entered against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the PLO. They were found guilty by a New York jury on 24 counts in less than two days of deliberations.
But John Kerry, the only human being with more hair outside than firing neurons inside, could not sit still. The idea of the PA having to pay a massive sum and pretend that it would be forced to go out of business (and Hamas would take over! Or worse, the Israelis would take over!) was too much for his palpitating blue-blooded heart. So, he came in on the side of proven terrorists and begged the court to allow the murderers to pay a token appeals fee; the court was equally terrified of Palestinian insolvency (amazing how they bought a $55 million private plane for their president at the same time), that it agreed. Our venue moved over a couple of streets to the Second Circuit where the appeals court said that the Palestinians were not “at home” in the US and thus could not be sued. I am always happy when terrorists are not in my home but in this case, it meant that our verdict was thrown out. That was a real bummer. Next stop—the US Supreme Court.
We applied for “cert” and the Court asked the new Trump administration what it thought about our case. We foolishly took it for granted that the America First administration would encourage the Court to hear our case as the right of Americans to seek justice as enshrined in the ATA was truly at stake. The scuttlebutt was that the initial statement prepared for the Court encouraged the latter to hear our case. Then magically the document actually filed by Solicitor General Noel Francisco told the court to skip it, which it gladly did. Bummer #2.
Our lawyers were not deterred. They marshaled the true friends of American terror victims in the US Congress and succeeded in passing the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) that made any group receiving US aid and/or having an office in the US “at home” for the purpose of terror litigation. This law passed unanimously in both houses and after proper vetting was signed by President Trump in late October of 2018. And then all hell broke loose.
I never knew that the Palestinian leadership (a true oxymoron) was such a fan of Mel Brooks, but they took a page right out of Blazing Saddles: like the sheriff who puts a gun to his head, the PA threatened that if they did not receive their $61 million in “security cooperation” money from the US government, they would stop cooperating with Israel, and you know what that means? The world will end. And like the dupes in the movie, the State Department, the State of Israel and the press bought it hook, line and sinker. Articles screamed that if the Palestinians take the money, they will have to pay “hundreds of millions of dollars” to those awful terror victims. The new law would ruin Mideast peace. But it was all “fake news”. The law would require the Palestinians to accept jurisdiction, something that they have been avoiding for 20 years. They have always claimed their innocence and they have one of the most prestigious law firms in Washington representing them. What in the world could they be afraid of? Are they afraid that they might be found guilty again…and again and again? So like a spoiled child that threatens he will not go to school unless he gets a Lamborghini, the Palestinians dashed off a letter refusing to take any more American largesse—take that you generous Americans! And then they made sure to send copies to all of the relevant media outlets to show how angry they were—how dare you give us your tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars each year and expect us to respect your courts! We will not take the blood money! We have the right to hug terrorists and all of your money will not make us give up that right—and pay our brother terrorists sitting in Israeli jails $300 million a year.
So you have Mike Pompeo out-stupiding John Kerry and begging the Congress to destroy the ATCA which only 3 months ago was passed and signed by his boss. You have Bibi Netanyahu—who has so many criminal investigations going on against him that scientists at the Technion are working to invent new numbers to identify the cases—is pushing Congress to drop the law as well. A three-star American general was dispatched by David Friedman–who is the first ambassador since the bombing who has refused to meet me and my wife–to convince the Congress that if that Palestinians are forced to follow US law and possibly pay the American citizens whose loved-ones they maimed and murdered, World War III will be at the front door. And for what? To shill for a group of murderers? To provide money to the same “security” personnel who killed my co-plaintiffs’ daughters at the Frank Sinatra cafeteria at the Hebrew University? That’s what American generals do in their spare time? Instead of telling the Palestinians to settle with fellow Americans, Pompeo and his thugs at State are cajoling and threatening senators to help open the responsibility-free spigot for people who murdered Americans and wished only to kill more. In the indictment against the Palestinian intelligence officer who sent the aforementioned Palestinian policeman to blow himself up on the busiest street in Jerusalem, the latter was exhorted to “kill Jews, even just one” after he was taught how to detonate the bomb provided from C4 explosives which the US had given in the days of Bush to the Palestinian “security organizations”.
So the good guys are a bunch of unrepentant terrorists who want American money without any responsibility and the bad guys are American terror victims who would like to finally put this chapter of their lives behind them. It is our supreme hope that the US Congress will stand up to the State and Israeli bullies and tell them that the ATCA stays in place and the time has come for the Palestinians to learn the first lesson of earning the right to a state: take responsibility for your actions. The time has come for them to pay up. If Bibi and Pompeo pushed for a settlement that recognized our suffering and our right to realize justice, I would not have written a word, but they are hellbent on helping Palestinian terrorists and their enablers, terror victims be damned. They could not care less if we never received a penny because it was not their child, it was not their father. Maybe when they pick their loved-one off the sidewalk, they’ll think twice about shafting those who came before them. Bibi pretends to be the head of the Jewish people in the world; maybe all of those free cigars he received from his billionaire pals have gone to his head. The same for Pompeo, who can’t bring himself to demand that the Palestinians settle with his fellow American citizens. I have never invited anyone to join our fraternity of terror victims, as no one should go through what we experienced. But maybe Bibi and Pompeo should join only to understand how evil they are in fighting for the wrong side.