(August 25, 2015 / JNS)
Two very different ways to respond to terrorism were on display this week. On a train headed to Paris, unarmed American civilians risked their lives to subdue a Muslim terrorist who attempted to machine-gun train passengers. In New York City, the Obama administration successfully intervened in court on behalf of Palestinian terrorists who are trying to avoid paying compensation to their victims.
The juxtaposition of these two incidents reminds us of the choice that faces America and the entire civilized world today: the choice between fighting terrorists and appeasing them.
I have bitter personal experience with U.S. government efforts to interfere in attempts by terror victims to gain restitution. I undertook the first federal lawsuit against Iran for sponsoring the Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995 in which my daughter Alisa was murdered. I heard all the usual sympathetic platitudes from Clinton administration officials about Alisa’s death—but that came to a screeching halt once we won our verdict against Iran.
Even after Iran was found guilty, the administration refused to hand over any frozen Iranian assets to meet the court-awarded judgement in the case and appeared in court against me and on behalf of Iran as we attempted to seize assets to pay our claim. It became very clear to me that appeasing Iran was a higher priority than justice for American victims of Iranian terrorism.
Several years ago, 10 families of Americans murdered or maimed by Palestinian terrorists sued the Palestinian Authority and its parent body, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The evidence presented in court included handwritten notes from PA chairman Yasir Arafat personally approving payments to the terrorists who carried out the attacks. This past February, a federal court found the PA-PLO guilty and awarded the families $655 million.
Obviously, that money can’t undo the pain that 12-year-old Jamie Sokolow suffered when shrapnel from a Palestinian bomb wounded her in the eyes, and it won’t bring back Stuart Goldberg, who was murdered in a 2004 Jerusalem bus bombing. But it’s a small measure of justice to make the killers pay for their crimes.
The PA-PLO is appealing the verdict. The normal procedure in such a case is for the court to order the guilty party to post a significant sum in the form of bond. That helps ensure that the culprits don’t hide their assets during the lengthy appeal process.
The victims requested that the PA-PLO be required to post $30 million monthly. That was a perfectly reasonable request; and the PA-PLO obviously has enough money to do it since it spends millions each year in payments to imprisoned terrorists and the families of suicide bombers.
Not only that, but the Obama administration gives the PA $500 million every year; so payments on the bond could have been subtracted from that sum.
But this is the Obama administration that has never shown a serious interest in the more than 100 Americans murdered by Palestinian terrorists. It has never indicted even one of the killers. It has never asked the PA to hand over any of the murderers, even though they live openly in PA territory—and some even serve in the PA police force. The administration has not even criticized the PA for naming soccer teams and public parks in honor of killers of Americans.
Thus, an American visiting the PA capital of Ramallah can attend a soccer match in which one of the teams is named after the terrorists who murdered a senior aide to U.S. Sen. Walter Mondale. Or the visitor can relax in a park named after the killer of the niece of U.S. Sen. Abraham Ribicoff. Mondale and Ribicoff happen to be icons of President Obama’s own party. Doesn’t their memory mean anything to him?
The Obama administration responded to the bond request in the Sokolow case by pleading with the court to drastically lower the required sum. They claimed that the PA doesn’t have enough money to pay. U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels announced this week that after giving “serious consideration” to the government’s request, he is ordering a bond of just a single $10-million payment, plus $1 million per month. Once again, politics triumphed over justice.
In Paris, American civilians showed us the courageous way to respond to terrorism. In New York, the Obama administration showed us the opposite.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.