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Leftist Lawyers' Campaign Against Israel By: Joseph Klein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, May 05, 2008

As Israel celebrates its sixtieth birthday, the extreme left Center for Constitutional Rights (“CCR”) continues its attempt to use our federal courts to punish Israelis who have helped keep Israel free against terrorists determined to destroy it.

CCR’s calculus is purely ideological. Israel is defined as the enemy because it is one of the closest allies of the United States and is in the foreground of the war against the kind of terrorists whom CCR loves to represent.

CCR is the same loony organization that represents al Qaeda suspects in cases against the United States government. Not content with advocating on behalf of America’s terrorist enemies, however, CCR decided to get the U.S. courts involved in rebuking Israeli policies and military operations in its continuing fight for survival. One of CCR’s key allies in its judicial war against Israel is the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, an anti-Israel propaganda mill.

As NGO Monitor reported, “CCR consistently disregards the context of terror, denies Israel’s right to self-defense, and accuses it of deliberately targeting civilians.” The following are examples of CCR’s cases that fit this description.

Matar v. Dichter is a federal class action lawsuit that the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights brought against Avi Dichter, former Director of Israel’s General Security Service (GSS), on behalf of certain Palestinians who were killed or injured in a 2002 targeted assassination air strike in Gaza.

The lawsuit charged Dichter with war crimes, extra-judicial killing and other human rights violations for supposedly providing the necessary intelligence and giving final approval to drop a one-ton bomb on an apartment complex. The attack was intended to and did in fact kill Saleh Mustafa Shehadeh, a Hamas leader. The claim is that the targeted killing also resulted in foreseeable civilian deaths and casualties.

CCR and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights brought the case under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreign victims of human rights abuses to have their claims heard in United States courts even where no Americans are involved in the dispute. Fortunately, they are losing the case so far. Just about a year ago, Judge William Pauley of the Southern District of New York dismissed the case, finding that Dichter possesses immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because, according to the Israeli government, he was acting in the course of his official duties. The case is currently on appeal.

CCR had previously brought another class action lawsuit, Belhas v. Ya’alon, against a former head of the Israeli Defense Force’s Army Intelligence. The suit charged him with war crimes and extra-judicial killing for his alleged role in the Israel Defense Forces’s attack on a United Nations compound in Qana during the course of a 1996 bombing campaign directed against Hezbollah. This suit was thrown out on immunity grounds, a decision upheld on appeal.

CCR has also worked with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights to intimidate American companies doing business with Israel. In 2005, CCR brought a lawsuit against Caterpillar, Inc. for allegedly violating international, federal, and state law by selling bulldozers to the Israeli military, knowing they would be used to demolish homes and endanger civilians in the Occupied Territories. The case was brought on behalf of the parents of Rachel Corrie, an American activist who was accidentally killed when trying to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from destroying Palestinian terrorist weapon tunnels in the Gaza Strip. This case too has been dismissed by the lower federal court, but is still on appeal.

CCR’s choice of cases should be no surprise in view of its checkered history. The Center for Constitutional Rights is a misnomer, as it has no interest in defending the U.S. Constitution. Instead, this organization uses the law to advance its anti-American and anti-Israeli agendas.

The Center’s representation of America’s enemies goes back decades. Its rogue gallery of clients included, for starters, Red Army Faction members who bombed U.S. military facilities, and the Armed Forces of Puerto Rican National Liberation which was responsible for more than 50 bomb attacks on U.S. political and military targets. Al Qaeda suspects are only the latest in its long string of anti-American clients. Indeed, one of CCR’s lawyers, Stanley Cohen, told the Village Voice immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks: “If Osama bin Laden arrived in the United States today and asked me to represent him, sure I'd represent him.” [1]

When asked how and why Israel has come onto CCR’s docket list, CCR’s president Michael Ratner said that “Israel is the main recipient of U.S. aid, which means that our government is deeply involved in human rights violations…” Ratner also justified the cases his organization has initiated against Israel on the grounds that “we think Israel has to change its policies toward the Palestinians and toward the overall issue of peace.”[2]

Not surprisingly, the UN Workshop on Palestine Work in the Global Peace Movement recommended that lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights serve as spokespersons for the Palestinian cause.

Under Ratner’s leadership, CCR has chosen to overlook the crimes against humanity committed every day by state sponsors of terrorism such as Syria and Iran. Its docket is apparently too busy with cases against the United States and Israel to take on the genocide in Darfur and Uganda, the gross human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, North Korea and China, or the suppression of democracy in Zimbabwe. CCR’s ideology is more compatible with the terrorists who claim they are resistance fighters for the ‘people’ against Zionism and Western imperialism.

No doubt the presence of Abdeen Jabara on CCR’s board has helped move the Center in an anti-Israel direction. Jabara, a lawyer who was formerly the president of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, became active on behalf of the Palestinian cause and supported the PLO after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In addition to involvement in CCR’s litigation against Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, his anti-Israeli activities reportedly included attempting to prevent the collection of money for Israel and trying to prevent the entry of Prime Minister Shamir and an Israeli Military Attache into the U.S.

Jabra has also embraced the thesis of the controversial book Overcoming Zionism by Joel Kovel, who argued that the only tenable solution to the Israeli/Palestinian problem is the establishment of a single secular state in place of a Jewish homeland.

Jabara is no stranger to terrorist causes. He teamed with Lynne Stewart and Ramsey Clark in representing Sheikh Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric leader convicted in New York Federal District Court of supporting terrorism. Two years before 9/11, Jabara accused the U.S. government of committing “genocide” and of “pursuing policies that are themselves producers of terrorism and violence…”[3]

In short, the Center for Constitutional Rights has become “Terrorist Rights Central” for al Qaeda and Palestinian terrorists alike. It is a prominent example of the radical left’s double standard, which excuses terrorist atrocities but holds democracies strictly accountable for any defensive actions they take to defend themselves. NGO Monitor hit the nail on the head when it pointed out how such conduct by progressive organizations purporting to uphold the law actually promotes “injustice, undermines international law”, and “contributes to a culture of impunity by groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.”


[1] Homeland Terrorism, How Arabs and Muslims Should Combat It—Despite What the Jewish Defense Organization Says by Peter Noel, Village Voice (September 25, 2001).

[2] War Criminals in the White House? A Conversation with Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights,, Jewish Currents (September 2007).

[3] Arab-Americans 2000 by Abdeen Jabara, The News Circle/Arab-America Magazine (September 1999).

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