A number of Palestinians have filed a $34.5 billion lawsuit against a group of U.S. tycoons, charities and a megachurch pastor for their complicity in Israeli land theft and violations of Palestinian human rights.
Around 35 Palestinians have brought the case, including Bassem al-Tamimi, a well-known activist and central figure in the popular resistance movement, as well as Palestinian poet and author ofMornings in Jenin, Susan Abulwaha. Other complainants include victims of settler attacks, those whose loved ones were killed by Israeli forces, or others who have lost chunks of land to Israel’s settlement construction.
The alleged charges include five counts of conspiracy, war crimes, aggravated trespass, pillage and racketeering via various legal mechanisms, including laws against organised crime and U.S. entities linked with overseas human rights abuses. Damages are being sought from Irving Moskowitz, a philanthropist with property interests in East Jerusalem, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, and megachurch pastor John Hagee for financing the construction of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
Lawyers have also named charities such as Christian Friends of Israeli Communities and Dead Sea-based cosmetics firm AHAVA — a key target of the International Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Other targets are notorious U.K.-based misery profiteers and G4S and Israel Chemicals Limited for their complicity in the occupation, land theft, and Palestinian human rights violations.
“We’re not in this for the money, but we’ll probably pick the pockets of some very wealthy corporations,” Martin McMahon, lawyer for the Palestinians told Al Jazeera.
After more than half a century of dispossession, occupation, and political paralysis, it’s no secret that a viable Palestinian state turned into something resembling swiss cheese a while ago, under the red brick roofs of Israeli settlements.
Deliberately discriminatory zoning and planning policies against Palestinians by Israel mean that Palestinians in Area C — which remains under full Israeli control — must obtain building permits from the Israeli authorities. Between 2010 and 2014, only 1.5 percent out of 2,020 requests for building permits were approved, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
In addition, February 2016 saw the highest number of Palestinian home demolitions in the West Bank since UNOCHA began reporting in 2009. In just one month, Israeli forces destroyed, dismantled, or confiscated 235 homes, displaced 331 Palestinians, and affected another 740. Under international humanitarian law, the destruction of property in occupied territory is prohibited unless absolutely necessary for military operations.
In contrast — since the occupation began in 1967 — Israel has established over a hundred settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, as well as dozens of outposts that are not officially recognized by the authorities. Established on vast swathes of land taken from Palestinians and in breach of international humanitarian law, over half a million Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Referring to the lawsuit against the moguls, which was filed in the Federal District Court of Washington, D.C., on Monday, lawyer McMahon said, “It’s about time the world woke up to the fact that the Palestinians are being murdered every day with U.S. taxpayer dollars.”
Palestinian author and poet, Abulhawa, said in her statement:
“I want a court, somewhere, somehow, to hold accountable those who have financed my pain of dispossession and exile and to hold accountable the financiers of Israel’s wholesale theft of another people’s historic, material, spiritual, and emotional presence in the world.”
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