Although the case had been rejected by a judge, the group has now decided to appeal against the dismissal.
The complaint was originally filed almost two years ago on behalf of thirteen Palestinian residents of the West Bank (two of whom are US citizens), a mosque and a Greek Orthodox monastery. All of the plaintiffs have suffered attacks by settlers.
In May last year, US District Judge Jesse Furman dismissed the complaint, claiming that the plaintiffs had failed to prove the US organizations had intended to facilitate violence.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments for appeal on 15 April. If the case is allowed to go forward it will be the first time for a Palestinian to sue a US-based charity under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
The ATA allows civil action in US courts against those who allegedly support acts of terror. It has been primarily used to prosecute Muslim and Palestinian-Americans.
The plaintiffs have alleged that five US-based, tax-exempt organizations that have given large donations to settlements in the West Bank provided material support for terrorism due to the fact that settlers were known to have undertaken “price tag” attacks on Palestinians and their property. “Price tag” attacks have occurred when buildings or structures erected by settlers without permission from the Israeli authorities have been demolished.
In 2011, the US State Department referred to “price tag” attacks as “terrorist incidents.”
The plaintiffs have suffered attacks by settlers, including by gunfire, firebombs, vandalism of a church or mosque and the burning of farmland.
Melito and Adolfsen, the commercial law firm representing the plaintiffs, told The Electronic Intifada that their scope is more narrow than the judge characterized in his dismissal. Their suit is not looking at all settlements in the West Bank or alleging that all settlement activity amounts to terrorism; rather they are focusing on specific fringe settlements — Yitzhar and Bat Ayin — the residents of which espouse the most radical ideologies and carry out some of the worst violence.
These settlements, the suit alleges, have received ample funding from the five organizations that conduct their fundraising campaigns in the US with the benefit of a tax-exempt status.
For example, the Central Fund of Israel, one of the defendants named in the case, has given thousands of dollars to the Yitzhar settlement, which has advocated for such extreme violence that the Israeli army intervened last year. The Israeli government has, however, also funded the Yitzhar settlement.
In 2009, the Yitzhar settlement’s yeshiva — a religious school — published a book that provided a “justification” for killing non-Jews who allegedly pose a threat to Israel. Just last week, Israeli police seized arms from Yitzhar, which they believed were intended to be used against Palestinians.
The five organizations accused of aiding Israeli settlers are The Hebron Fund, Central Fund of Israel, One Israel Fund, Christian Friends of Israel and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim. All are based in New York.