On Wednesday, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) fiercely criticized Department of Justice Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who decided not to challenge an appeals court ruling that denied American victims of Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority terrorist attacks from presenting their case to the Supreme Court on jurisdictional grounds.
The case in question, Mark Sokolow v Palestinian Liberation Organization/ Palestinian Authority, dates back to 2004, when the victims filed a lawsuit against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority for aiding and planning terrorist attacks in Israel between 2001 and 2004, as Sara Carter reports. In 2015, a jury voted unanimously to award the victims $655 million to the victims.
But then the PLO and Palestinian Authority appealed the decision to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the original verdict.
In April 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives filed a brief asserting that the case should indeed be heard in the Supreme Court. They wrote:
On Wednesday, the ZOA responded to the DOJ’s decision, stating:
The Solicitor General’s position, representing the views of the United States, renders meaningless the Anti-Terrorism Act, a federal law that affords a crucial legal right and remedy to American victims of international terrorism. This position hurts the American terror victims, aids, and comforts terrorists, and makes them less concerned about facing consequences for their hideous actions.
ZOA National Board Member David Schoen, who represented the plaintiffs during the pretrial stage, echoed, “It is both shocking and sad that the Solicitor General has taken a position in this case that supports the untenable position of terrorists and that, if successful, will deny justice to the many American families who are suffering through tremendous tragedy as a result of the terrorism perpetrated and supported directly by the PLO and PA.” He added, “The Solicitor General’s position is a slap in the face to the many members of the House and Senate who filed their own amicus briefs, urging the Supreme Court to review the Second Circuit’s decision because it nullifies the (Anti-Terrorism Act) goals to afford terror victims a much-needed legal remedy and to deter international terrorism."
Kerri Kupic, a spokeswoman for Francisco, protested, “The court of appeals decided, however, that the suit was not consistent with due process under the Constitution, and its decision does not meet the usual standards for Supreme Court review.”
Schoen countered that the case “absolutely meets traditional criteria for Supreme Court review and specifically is a question of great importance. Also, it is exactly the kind of issue the Court has granted certiorari on in recent terms. Most of all, it is the DOJ’s job to defend the statutes passed by Congress. Why not here? Their brief is not written as if the concern is that the Court need not hear the case — they take the PLO side on the merits of the question.”
But as Carter reports, “A government official and source involved in the case said the failure of the DOJ to challenge the appeals court may have more to do with the State Department than the actual law. According to one source, the State Department allegedly pressured the DOJ to file the brief against Sokolow and the other participants, in an effort not to raise tensions with the Palestinian Authority as the U.S. continues to deliberate the difficult process of trying to broker a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Morton A. Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, concluded, “The Solicitor General has sent an unacceptable message from the United States to the PLO, the PA and other groups responsible for perpetrating and materially supporting terrorism against American citizens: You can kill and maim Americans overseas and we, the United States government, will make it harder, not easier, for victims to go after you and hold you responsible,” said Klein.