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Taking Terror to Court By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A victory was won this week in Jerusalem for people who think the Fatah stream of Palestinian nationalism should not get away with murder and should be held accountable for its actions like other mortals on the planet.

Such “people” sometimes need to be ordinary civilians since the Israeli and U.S. governments can by no means be relied on to apply normal moral and legal standards to the Fatah stream as now embodied in the Palestinian Authority.

Back on June 9, 1996, two years after the PA was established, a couple named Yaron and Efrat Ungar were driving near Jerusalem with their baby son Yishai. Yaron was a U.S. citizen living in Israel and his wife Efrat was a native Israeli.

They were ambushed that day by Hamas terrorists who shot Yaron and Efrat dead. In 1999 an Israeli court convicted three Hamas terrorists for the murders.

In 2000 the Ungar and Dassberg families, guardians of Yishai and the other children of Yaron and Efrat, filed suit in the Rhode Island federal court against the PA, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO, of which Fatah is the largest faction), then-PA president Yasser Arafat, five senior Fatah commanders, as well as Hamas and some of its terrorists who belonged to the cell that killed the Ungars.

In other words, the Ungar and Dassberg families didn’t subscribe to the “enemies of peace” canard by which Israeli and U.S. governments had often exonerated the PA, Fatah, and Arafat by claiming or implying that Hamas and its fellow Islamist organization, Islamic Jihad, were “enemies” of the “peace” that the official PA purportedly sought and perpetrating their terror attacks against its wishes.

The defendants—represented by the law firm of none other than former attorney-general Ramsey Clark—claimed sovereign immunity. In July 2004 the federal court rejected that stance on the basis that the PA is not a state, and ruled that the PA was responsible for the attack on the Ungars and had to pay $116 million in compensation to the relatives. In 2005 Clark himself appealed the judgment to the Supreme Court—which let it stand.

The PA, however, protested that the ruling should not be enforced because paying the sum would lead to additional lawsuits and cause its financial collapse. The PA also warned—reverting, typically, to threats—that paying such high sums would have security and political implications for Israeli citizens.  

This week Jerusalem District Court Judge Aharon Farkash rejected those arguments, ruling that the U.S. decision is enforceable and the PA has to pay the damages to the families. Farkash also dismissed as unrealistic the PA’s claim that paying compensation for the Ungar murders would lead to its financial collapse. The PA, which among other things has for a decade and a half been instilling murderous hatred of Israelis in Palestinian children, has in that same period been the world’s highest recipient of per capita aid.

Meanwhile it was reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is piqued at current PA president Mahmoud Abbas. In a visit to Lebanon last week—during which he also said 400,000 Palestinian Arabs being held in camps in that country have a right to “return” to Israel—Abbas met with the particularly heinous terrorist Samir Kuntar, who in 1979 killed three Israelis including a four-year-old girl. Last July Kuntar was released by Israel as part of a deal with Hezbollah.

At a summit with Abbas on Sunday, Olmert told him he was “upset” with him and said: “You are not a man of terror, and I didn’t expect you to meet with such a despicable killer as [Kuntar].” Abbas replied that the meeting was unplanned and Kuntar had invited himself.

Now Kuntar has announced that it was Abbas who directly requested the meeting. An anonymous Abbas aide denies it despite the implausibility of Abbas’s version that Kuntar just appeared impromptu.

Even for Olmert, who made no known response to Abbas earlier sending greetings to Kuntar upon his release, the meeting in Lebanon may have been going a bit too far without a mild, qualified, verbal wrist-slap. But Israeli and U.S. officialdom have an inglorious history of giving wide leeway to Fatah misconduct—with Abbas’s predecessor Arafat never having been penalized for, among other offenses, the terror war he waged on Israel up to his death in 2004 or ordering the murder of two U.S. diplomats in Khartoum in 1973.

That’s why it sometimes takes courageous citizens to fight PA terror on their own.   

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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