A group of Palestinians and Palestinian Americans are seeking $34.5 billion dollars in damages from wealthy individuals and companies they accuse of financing and profiting from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and other abuses of their rights.
The plaintiffs include Palestinians who have lost family members in Israeli attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Adelson is renowned for using his huge casino fortune to advance his pro-Israel political agenda and is a major financial backer of both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the US Republican Party.
Saban has donated millions of dollars to US Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
Moskowitz is one of the main financiers of settler efforts to force Palestinians out of their homes in occupied East Jerusalem.
Twelve US-based charities and a number of Israeli and US corporations are also named as defendants. The charities include Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, The Hebron Fund and Christian Friends of Israeli Communities.
Follow the money
The plaintiffs, represented by the law firm Martin McMahon and Associates, allege that the defendants are directly responsible for violence and for the expansion of settlements.
The lawsuit, filed in a Washington, DC, federal court on Monday, alleges a wide range of crimes under US and international law, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, conspiracy, money laundering, racketeering, perjury and pillage.
It alleges that charitable donations are sent to the Israeli army, a violation of US laws against funding a foreign military.
Last December, some of the same plaintiffs using the same law firm sued the US Treasury for allowing billions of dollars of tax-exempt donations to flow to Israeli settlements.
This lawsuit targets those who are supplying the money.
Several are powerful billionaires who the lawsuit contends have defrauded the US tax authorities by funnelling huge sums of money meant for illegal purposes through tax-exempt organizations.
According to the lawsuit, approximately $1 billion is sent through these organizations each year, with $104 million going to the Israeli army in 2014.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants donate money to tax-exempt organizations knowing that it will be used for criminal activity, such as funding the theft and destruction of private property and financing racially discriminatory practices such as Jewish-only towns and highways.
Victims of violence
The plaintiffs in the case are 20 individuals and five village councils who say they are victims of these crimes.
They include the Palestinian activist Bassem al-Tamimi who has been jailed for his nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation, the author Susan Abulhawa and Hiba Barghouti, whose Palestinian American brother Abdelrahman Barghouthi was killed by the Israeli army during a visit to the West Bank.
Plaintiff Doaa Abu Amar lost 14 family members when the Israeli army bombed a daycare center they had to take shelter in during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2009, according to Martin McMahon and Associates. Plaintiff Ahmed al-Zeer is permanently disabled because of an attack by Israeli settlers.
Each one of the plaintiffs “can trace the cause of his damages from violent settlers …. to US 501(c)3 entities and wealthy US donors,” the filing states, using the formal legal name of this type of charitable organization.
Donations made to 501(c)3 organizations are tax-deductible for the donors and the organizations themselves do not pay income tax.
But this lawsuit reaches even more broadly than charities that fund political agendas abroad.
Seventeen international corporations are named as beneficiaries of the unlawful activities of the tax-exempt entities and donors.
The lawsuit calls this money loop a civil conspiracy to defraud the US government.
“The settlement enterprise is a very successful industry,” the law firm states in a press release.
Israeli banks that process international wire transfers for other defendants are also accused in the conspiracy.
By targeting both the funders and the profiteers, the lawsuit aims to capture the criminal economic cycle that has helped make Israel’s occupation sustainable for everyone but Palestinians.
Separate from the civil conspiracy charges, the lawsuit also accuses Ahava–Dead Sea Laboratories, Israel Chemicals and Nordstrom department stores of the war crime of pillage.
Nordstrom sells Ahava cosmetics made with Dead Sea minerals taken from the occupied West Bank.
One of the plaintiffs, the author Susan Abulhawa, said, “I want a court, somewhere, somehow, to hold accountable those who have financed my pain of dispossession and exile … to hold accountable the financiers of Israel’s wholesale theft of another people’s historic, material, spiritual and emotional presence in the world.”
The law firm representing her and the other plaintiffs told Al Jazeera English that it expects the defendants to put up a fight over the jurisdiction of an American court to hear the case.