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Shurat HaDin

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Shurat HaDin
Israel Law Center
Non-profit organization
IndustryCivil rights
Founded2003, Tel Aviv, Israel
FounderNitsana Darshan-Leitner
ProductsFighting Global Terror Via the Courts

Shurat HaDin, Israel Law Center (ILC), founded in 2003, is a Tel Aviv-based civil rights[1][2][3] non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on representing terror victims, and Jewish and Israeli causes. The organization uses the power of the courts in litigation against groups and people it accuses of supporting terrorism or being enemies of Jews and Israel.[4]

Shurat HaDin has been described by some as a pro-Israel lawfare-waging NGO.[5][6]


When Shurat Hadin was founded in 2003 its stated purpose was to "combat terrorism and promote civil rights through research, education and litigation."[7]

According to its founder, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, its creation was inspired by the Southern Poverty Law Center in the United States, which used civil litigation to cripple and bankrupt the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups in the US.[8]

According to a leaked US embassy cable, Darshan-Leitner told a US embassy official in 2007 that her organisation in its early years "took direction ... on which cases to pursue" and still "receives evidence" from the Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel.[9] Darshan-Leitner denies ever saying that to a U.S. diplomat.[10]


Shurat HaDin is staffed with activist Israeli attorneys and works with numerous other law offices internationally which serve as co-counsel on cases being litigated in courtrooms in the U.S, Canada, Israel and elsewhere.[citation needed]

By 2012, Shurat HaDin had 11 employees, three with salaries over $100,000.[11] It retains two public relations firms, one in Israel and one in New York.[11]

The annual budget is $2.5 million, but the donor(s) are all anonymous.[11]

Prominent cases

Shurat HaDin has been involved in a range of legal actions in Israel[12] and abroad on behalf of civil rights cases.[13]

North Korea abduction case

Plaintiffs proved claims under the terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act leading to a $330,000,000 judgement against North Korea. This was the first time that a US court concluded that a foreign regime which abducts an individual who is then never heard from again, has the burden of proving that he has not been murdered.[14][15]

Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization, 04-cv-00397

On February 24, 2015 a New York District Court jury found the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) liable for six terror attacks under the US Anti-Terrorism Act. The jury was unanimous in its decision regarding six terror attacks in Jerusalem that killed and wounded US citizens. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $218,500,000, which was trebled under the Anti-Terrorism Act to $655,500,000. The plaintiff's argued the defendants provided weapons, bombs, logistics, safe houses and money for these attacks, and provided payments to those responsible for the attacks while they were in jail.[16]

In August, 2016, the verdict was overturned in the appeal court, as "the federal courts cannot exercise jurisdiction in a civil case beyond the limits prescribed by the due process clause of the Constitution".[17]

Gaza flotilla

Shurat Hadin used lawfare to threaten lawsuits against parties associated with the Gaza Flotilla.[18] This was accomplished in three ways: 1) It informed maritime insurance companies that by insuring sea vessels used by terrorists (for delivery of weapons to be used by terrorists), they would be liable for future attacks by those terrorists; 2) It warned Inmarsat, a U.S. based satellite communications provider, that under U.S. law it would be open to charges of aiding and abetting terrorism if it provide services to those Gaza-bound ships; and 3) it filed civil lawsuits against the ships that were to participate in the flotilla.[19]

Judgement against Iran and Syria

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Shurat HaDin Israel won a case in May 2012 in which she was representing the family of Daniel Wultz, a 16-year-old American who was killed in a suicide bomber attack in a Tel Aviv restaurant in 2006. The case was tried in a U.S. District Court, and represented the first time that a U.S. court issued a judgement against Syria for terror related activities. The amount of the judgement was $323,000,000. The court explained that Iran and Syria were responsible for supporting "Palestinian militants" in that bombing which killed 11 people.[20][21][22]


On January 7, 2008, ten families of Sderot (Israel) residents, whose relatives were killed or seriously injured by Palestinian Qassam rockets, filed a lawsuit against the Egyptian government in the Be'er Sheva District Court seeking compensation in the amount of NIS 260,000,000 ($65,000,000 US). The court complaint accuses Egypt of intentionally assisting what it calls Palestinian terror organizations in smuggling explosives and weapons into the Hamas controlled Gaza strip.

The plaintiffs argue that Cairo assists the organizations by authorizing the smuggling of tons of explosives and thousands of weapons into Gaza. They also argued that the Egyptian government allowed what the group called terrorists to cross back and forth from the Egyptian-held Sinai into Gaza, permitting them an open route to and from what Shurat HaDin asserted to be terrorist training bases in states like Iran, Lebanon and Syria.

Alien Torts Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act

On September 10, 2006, Shurat HaDin and New York attorney Robert Tolchin filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the families of 12 missing Iranian Jews against the former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.[23] The complaint alleges that the former president was responsible for the kidnapping and torture of their missing family members in Iran. The families, currently residing in Los Angeles and Israel, claim that Khatami instituted the cruel policy of making Iranian Jewish detainees "disappear" – that is imprisoning Iranian Jews without trials and refusing to provide their families any information concerning their arrests, status or whereabouts.

The families of the missing Jews, who are not U.S. citizens, brought the suit under special laws – the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 – which permit foreigners to sue their tormentors for torture and kidnapping in American courts. The plaintiffs are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages against Khatami for what they assert to be his role in the ongoing disappearance of their relatives. Khatami has refused to answer the complaint and has defaulted the case.

Collaborators with Israel

On May 1, 2008, Shurat HaDin along with former Soviet refusenik, Ida Nudel launched a public campaign to save the life of a Palestinian police officer accused of having assisted the Israeli intelligence services in hunting down fugitive terrorists. The policeman, Imad Sa'ad,[24] has been sentenced to death by a Palestinian military tribunal in Hebron. Sa'ad, it is alleged, provided the Israel Defense Forces with the whereabouts of four suspected bomb makers whom the Palestinian Authority was unwilling to hand over to the Israelis.

Shurat HaDin accused the Palestinians of having engaged in a show trial that did not permit the defendant, a father of four, the right to counsel nor the right to call witnesses in his defense. Darshan-Leitner and Nudel wrote to then-president George W. Bush, the European Union and the Vatican to ask for their support.[25]

UBS bank

On May 13, 2008, Shurat HaDin was co-counsel in filing in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Swiss bank, UBS[26] which is accused by the plaintiffs of financing terror.

The plaintiffs in the case, all of whom had family members injured or killed in Israel, allege that UBS's unlawful eight-year-long provision of financial services to the Islamic Republic of Iran at the time that the group allege that Tehran was providing material support to terrorist organizations renders the Swiss bank liable for the harm that has been inflicted upon them and their families. This was the first civil action brought by what the group allege to be American victims of Katyusha rocket attacks by Hezbollah.

The group alleges that the Swiss bank was involved in transferring dollars to regimes such as Iran, Cuba, and North Korea. The UBS operation was uncovered by American soldiers in Iraq in 2003 who discovered brand new dollars, still wrapped in Federal Reserve casings behind a wall in Saddam Hussein's palace.[27] A Federal Reserve investigation of the currency determined that UBS was responsible for illegally transferring between $4 to $5 billion to states designated by the U.S. as sponsors of terrorism between 1996 and 2004.[27] At first UBS sought to deny the extent of the money transfers it had provided to Iran and others, but eventually was compelled to admit the scope of its criminal activities.[27] UBS, one of world's wealthiest banks, was fined $100 millions by the Federal Reserve for its conduct.[27] The lawsuit charges UBS, which has a branch in New York, with aiding and abetting what the group allege to be Iran's support of terrorism, by illegally providing Tehran the dollars it needed to pass along to the terrorist groups for their purchases and attacks.

Iranian families and diplomats

On June 30, 2008, Shurat HaDin filed a petition in the Israeli High Court of Justice on behalf of the families of 12 missing Iranian Jews seeking to block the Israeli government from releasing information on the fate of four disappeared Iranian diplomats as part of a prisoner exchange deal with Hezbollah. The petition was heard on Wednesday, July 2, 2008. The Jews were arrested in the 1990s as they sought to escape from Iran across the border with Pakistan and they are believed to still be in Iranian prisons. The Iranian diplomats disappeared in South Lebanon in 1982. The petition demands that the Prime Minister not authorize the transfer of information regarding the diplomats until such time as reliable and detailed information is received about the missing Jews' fate.

Shurat Hadin claims it has reliable information that at least one of the Jews is still alive and being held as a prisoner in Tehran. The families contend that the government must honor the obligations imposed upon it by the Israeli High Court approximately two years ago, in a prior High Court proceeding, that [the Israeli government] "...push forward diligently without sparing any effort in order to gain information about the [12 missing] Jews of Iran." The families are insisting that there be a "quid pro quo" on information about their family members in exchange for the release of the details on the fate of the missing Iranians.

Shurat HaDin emphasized that, the families' are not appealing against the deal to bring back the Hizbollah captives itself but rather are demanding that the fate of the 12 missing Jews be included as a "quid pro quo" before any information about the diplomats is released.[28]

American Express Bank and Lebanese-Canadian Bank

On July 14, 2008, Shurat HaDin and Attorney Robert Tolchin of New York filed suit against American Express Bank (Amex), accusing it of partaking in a transfer of money to Hizbollah. The action was filed in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Representing some 85 victims and their family members, the Shurat HaDin lawsuit[29] alleges that the Amex and the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) unlawfully performed millions of dollars in wire transfers for Hizbollah between 2004 and 2006. The plaintiffs assert that Hizbollah used the funds transferred by Amex Bank and LCB to prepare and carry out the rocket attacks which the terrorist organization rained on Israeli cities between July 12 and August 14, 2006.

The plaintiffs rested their claims in part on written findings issued by the New York State Banking Department in 2007, which determined that Amex Bank had failed to establish adequate procedures to prevent terrorism financing as demanded by state and federal law. This was the first lawsuit brought by alleged victims of terrorism against a U.S. financial institution. The suite was dismissed by the federal trial judge in 2010 but reinstated on appeal in 2012.[30]

Jimmy Carter

On February 1, 2011, Shurat HaDin and US attorney David Schoen, Esq. of Montgomery, Alabama filed a federal suit against former president Jimmy Carter and publisher Simon & Schuster over the publication of Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.[31] According to the Center's information page, the book violated New York's consumer protection law.

The plaintiffs, who hope to have the case certified as a class action, are members of the reading public who purchased Carter’s book expecting that they were buying an accurate and factual record of historic events concerning Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. The lawsuit contends that Carter, who holds himself out as a Middle-East expert, and his publisher, intentionally presented untrue and inaccurate information and sought to capitalize on the author’s status as a former President of the United States to mislead unsuspecting members of the public. The complaint alleges that the defendants’ misrepresentations, all highly critical of Israel, violate New York consumer protection laws, specifically New York General Business Law § 349, which makes it unlawful to engage in deceptive acts in the course of conducting business. While acknowledging Carter’s right to publish his personal views, the plaintiffs assert that the defendants violated the law and, thus, harmed those who purchased the book.[32]

Simon & Schuster said the suit was frivolous, without merit, and a “chilling attack on free speech.” The plaintiffs withdrew the suit on May 3, 2011 (three months later) with no money changing hands. At the time, Shoen told The New York Times that the original suit had "technical jurisdictional concerns" and would be filed again in New York state court.[33]

World Vision Australia

In February 2012, Shurat HaDin accused World Vision Australia (a Christian relief, development, and advocacy organisation) of providing "financial aid to a Gaza-based terrorist group", the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), which they also alleged is a "front for terror group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine" (PFLP). World Vision "suspended its dealings" with UAWC until the outcome of the investigation.[34][35] WV resumed working with UAWC after AUSAID and World Vision determined that the allegations were unfounded. A spokesperson said "UAWC is a nonprofit company that is registered with the Israeli Justice Ministry".[36] According to The Australian newspaper, 'AusAID has written to Shurat HaDin to confirm that a detailed investigation has been conducted into the claims and no evidence has been found to substantiate them'.[37] In March 2012, Shurat HaDin provided what it described as "conclusive evidence" that Gaza-based UAWC was linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.[36]

On 31 May 2012, the Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr issued a statement that "An AusAID examination has concluded there is no evidence to support claims by the Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) that funding through World Vision Australia to a Palestinian NGO, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) was in violation of section 21 of the Charter of the United Nations Act, 1945.". He added, "I understand the material provided by the Israel Law Center has been carefully examined by AusAID in consultation with other agencies including the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation".[38]

On 6 October 2012, World Vision issued a detailed, 5-page letter to Shurat ha-Din in which it stated that the claims were "unsubstantiated, and in some circumstances, defamatory".[39]

Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia

In 2012, Prof. Dan Avnon, a political theorist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, applied for fellowship at Sydney University and asked Prof. Jake Lynch at Sydney to endorse his application. Lynch refused, citing his leadership with the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. In 2013, Shurat HaDin sued Lynch for violating Australia's anti-racism laws and attempted to use the suit to outlaw BDS in Australia. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry publicly denounced the suit as an inappropriate use of the courts.[40][41]

In April 2014, the court struck part of the suit, and Shurat HaDin lawyers narrowed the complaint to the specifics of Avnon and Lynch.[42] But Avnon made known that he did not support the suit. In July 2014, noting that Shurat HaDin did not represent a willing client and did not have a complaint of its own, the court dismissed the case and awarded attorney fees to Lynch.[43] Shurat HaDin told Haaretz that "the case was thrown out on a technicality, not on the merits of the arguments ... [Lynch's] lawyers came up with a trick to avoid the issue being heard on its merits." The Shurat HaDin spokesman said the suit was a warning to other Australian academic institutions.[43]

Case against Palestinian Authority

Shurat HaDin is preparing to take the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the event that the Palestinian Authority is accepted into the ICC, it will enable the PA to become susceptible to lawsuits. Shurat HaDin is preparing in advance by collecting thousands of testimonies from Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks.[44] Shurat HaDin Chairwoman Nitsana Darshan-Leitner explained, "we've received dozens of terror victims' testimonies, from relatively 'light' stories to truly shocking ones."[44] Shurat HaDin filed a complaint against Mahmoud Abbas before filing complaints against other PLO officials.[45]

On January 6, 2015, days after PA appealed to join the ICC, Shurat HaDin filed complaint against three PLO officials, Jibril Rajoub,[46] Majid Faraj[47] and prime minister Rami Hamdallah.[48][49] A complaint was also filed against Hamas leader Khaled Mashal [50]

2015 Facebook lawsuit

On 8 December 2015, Shurat HaDin posted two racist Facebook pages, one anti-Israel and the other anti-Palestinian Arab in an effort to establish bias at Facebook; Facebook at first removed only the anti-Arab hate page, while maintaining that the overtly anti-Semitic anti-Israel page "met community standards," but later conceded that the pages were alike and also removed the anti-Israel hate page.[51] A lawsuit, Lakin v. Facebook, was filed on behalf of 20,000 Israeli plaintiffs in the State of New York in October 2015.[52][53][54]

2018 Lorde concert cancellation

On 31 January 2018, Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuit claiming $13,000 in damages to "emotional" and "artistic welfare" on behalf of three teenage Israelis against the New Zealand Palestinian solidarity activists Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab for allegedly convincing the New Zealand singer Lorde to cancel her scheduled tour of Tel Aviv in mid-2018. The lawsuit was filed under the 2011 Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott.[55][56][57] Sachs and Abu-Shanab had earlier penned an open letter on the New Zealand online current affairs magazine The Spinoff in December 2017 urging Lorde to cancel her Israel concert, citing human rights abuses against the Palestinians.[58]

In October 2018, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered that the two New Zealand activists pay NIS 45,000 ($12,300) in damages to the plaintiffs, and court fees. This is believed to be the first successful application of the 2011 law.[57][59][60][61][62]

The two activists stated that they had "no intention" of paying the teenagers, and launched a crowdfunding campaign in order to give the money to Gaza Mental Health Foundation, and raised more than $18,000 for the Gaza project in 3 days.[63] Darshan-Leitner said that legal agreements between Israel and New Zealand would enable here to "enforce this ruling in New Zealand, and go after [the activists'] bank accounts until it has been fully realized."[57] Academic legal experts in New Zealand wrote that attempts to enforce the judgement there were unlikely to be successful.[64][65]

Operation Harpoon

According to the Shurat HaDin's director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the NGO was in regular contact with the Mossad as part of the latter's Operation Harpoon to track terrorist money networks. Darshan-Leitner held regular briefings with Mossad operatives who would tip her off on suspect financing worthwhile pursuing in court discovery hearings. In some cases, the Israeli government provided written affidavits to back up some claims. Darshan-Leitner's role in the operation was voluntary and unpaid.[66][67][68]


In 2012, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Director of Shurat HaDin, received the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism for fighting Israel's war on terror in courtrooms.[69]


Philip Giraldi wrote that Shurat haDin abuses lawfare litigation in U.S. courts, and that "Many of the charges are frivolous and only intended to advance foreign political interests through exploitation of the U.S. judiciary system. The suits frequently accomplish little beyond tying up American courtrooms. Those who are sued have to waste time and resources defending themselves, which is precisely what is intended ... Despite describing itself as an NGO, the organization [Shurat haDin] works closely with the Israeli government, and received marching orders to stop the Gaza flotilla at all costs, as well as an offer of full support, directly from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ... Depending on one’s viewpoint, it is possible to perceive Shurat HaDin as either a nuisance or as a necessary resource for fighting terror. But either way, there are potential real world consequences that could result from its desire to punish anyone and everyone in any way linked to activity hostile to Israel ... It would also mean that the specious Israeli claim that they have no one to talk to among the Palestinians would become a reality."[70]

In two interviews on The Real News Network, Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, said that Shurat HaDin was a Zionist propaganda arm for Israel, dedicated to filing suits all over the place, without necessarily expecting to win them.[71][72]


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External links