Fight terrorists by suing them

By Melanie Phillips, March 20, 2008

Asymmetric warfare is normally defined as the weak pitting themselves against forces equipped with infinitely superior military power.

But in fact, unlike conventional warfare between states, asymmetric warfare conceals the real drivers of the aggression — those regimes which finance, recruit, arm and train those who fire rockets at civilians or turn themselves into human bombs.

Such concealment paralyses countries which need to protect their citizens against such terror. Their military might becomes a boomerang when, as happened during Israel’s recent action in Gaza, the terrorists place women and children on the rooftops during air-raids in order to maximise civilian casualties.

The credulous West accordingly sees an inhuman Israel killing unarmed innocents. The regimes whose strategic aim is the death of such innocents as well as the slaughter of Israelis are totally absent from the false picture imprinted upon the West’s collective retina.

Since asymmetric warfare thus limits the capacity of armies to bring about a military solution, defenders of civilisation have to start thinking outside the box.

In Israel a law centre, Shurat Ha’din, is doing just that. It is forcing the terror-masters onto a different battleground altogether — the courtrooms of America, Europe and Israel.

Inspired by the Southern Poverty Law Centre in the US, which used civil litigation to cripple the Ku Klux Klan, the lawyers of Shurat Ha’din have helped hundreds of Israeli terror victims file civil suits against Palestinian terror groups and their financial patrons.

As leading lights in the organisation told a conference in Rome last week, such achievements have an important strategic value. In suing Iran, Syria and the EU for bankrolling terrorists and in bringing cases against the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for actual attacks, they shrink the global space in which the sponsors of terrorism otherwise enjoy virtually free rein to run their infernal funding networks.

In an American court, for example, Shurat Ha’din won a $200 million judgment against the PA on behalf of the family of an American Jew, who was in the band at a batmitzvah party in Israel which was blown up in a human-bomb attack by a PA policeman.

While the PA fights this judgment — on the eye-popping grounds that the attack on the batmitzvah party was a “legitimate act of war” — its funds are frozen. This is causing it so much damage that it asked the State Department to intervene; two weeks ago, State finally refused.

Other lawsuits brought by Shurat Ha’din are similarly disrupting the flow of terrorist funds. The Jordan-based Arab Bank has paid families of human-bomb terrorists “rewards” for murdering Jews. Since the Arab Bank’s NY branch brought it under US jurisdiction, Shurat Ha’din launched a lawsuit against it there for $50 million. The bank promptly announced it would shut its NY branch to avoid liability — which it has not been allowed to do.

When Hamas came to power, the US and EU froze all PA funding that would go to Hamas — which in response raised $40 million from terror regimes.

The Arab League told Hamas that it would open a bank account in Cairo from which it would transfer this money to Gaza. Since the Arab League had an office in Washington DC, Shurat Ha’din filed a suit in that city to freeze the money in the Cairo bank account on the grounds that it should be paid instead to the Jewish families whose lives Hamas had destroyed.

Even though diplomatic cravenness in America, Israel and Europe creates problems in enforcing such judgments, the very fact they are made forces the terror-masters onto the back foot. Banks think twice before giving money to terror groups. Even a case in Italy which Shurat Ha’din lost against Iran’s national oil company forced Iran to shift funds from Rome to Thailand. As the Palestinian banks only deal in euros and dollars, terror finding was once again disrupted.

Since London is arguably the most important centre of all for the funding of global terror, one might think that the British courts would play a key role in this strategy of bankrupting the Islamists. Think again. For this to happen, such lawsuits need to be filed by British lawyers (on a pro bono basis). But every British lawyer — and for that, read Jewish lawyer — asked to do so by Shurat Ha’din has refused.

Is this not shameful? On the battlefield of the mind, the Islamists are winning. But on the battlefield of the courts, they are losing.

British Jews are hardly conspicuous by their absence in Britain’s legal circles. Surely they of all people should be queuing up to use the law to cut the terror-funding networks and defeat the devious godfathers of the vile and manipulative war against the Jews?

Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist

Last updated: 10:03am, May 15 2008