Sokolow et al v. Palestine Liberation Organization et al

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Sokolow et al v. Palestine Liberation Organization et al was a civil case considered by US federal courts, against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority. The plaintiffs were US citizens injured in terrorist attacks in Israel and US citizens who are relatives of those who were killed by these attacks. They sued Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991, demanding $1 billion or more in damages. On 31 August 2016, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that US federal courts lacked overseas jurisdiction on civil cases[1][2][3], and the 2nd Circuit decision was effectively upheld on appeal when the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal of the Sokolow decision, sending the case back to the trial court for dismissal.[4]


The lawsuit was brought in 2004 with respect to the following terrorist attacks:

  • Jan. 22, 2002 shooting

Two elderly women were killed and 45 more people injured in a machine gun attack in downtown Jerusalem's Jaffa Street. The shooter, Said Ramadan, was a PA police officer. The attack was planned by Ahmed Barghouti, whose cousin Marwan Barghouti was a senior official in the PA's controlling Fatah party. PA records indicate that PA employees involved in the attack continued to receive pay and promotions. Ramadan was killed in the attack, but PA documents described him as a martyr who died "performing his national duty".[citation needed]

  • Jan. 27, 2002 bombing:

Wafa Idris became the first known female Palestinian suicide bomber, killing an 81-year-old man and wounding 150 others on Jaffa Street. Among the injured was lead plaintiff Mark Sokolow, his wife and daughters. Idris worked with an official in the PA's military intelligence office in planning the attack. That official later was promoted. Idris received martyr status which brought monthly payments to her family.[citation needed]

  • March 21, 2002 bombing:

Three people are killed and 80 wounded in a suicide bombing on downtown Jerusalem's King George Street. The bomber was a PA police officer who had been arrested for plotting a terror attack a month earlier, but released by Palestinian security officials. He was assisted by a lieutenant in the PA's General Intelligence Service, who received money for the attack from Marwan Barghouti. The lieutenant, Abel Karim Aweis, later admitted his role in Israeli court. He stayed on the PA payroll and was promoted four times afterward. The bomber's family received martyr pay.[citation needed]

  • June 19, 2002 bombing:

2002 French Hill suicide bombing

  • July 31, 2002 bombing:

Nine people, including five Americans, were killed in a bombing at a Hebrew University cafeteria. Hamas took credit for the attack, but it was "planned and carried out by Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Barghouti" and other PA employees, the complaint says. As in the King George Street bombing, PA officials arrested the bomber before the attack, only to release him. The bomber, Abdullah Barghouti, was provided a safe house and bomb-making materials by his relative, PA official Marwan Barghouti.[citation needed]

The PA's Ministry of Detainees' Affairs later gave Abdullah Barghouti's family monthly payments.[citation needed]

  • Jan. 29, 2004 bombing:

Eleven people were killed and 50 wounded in a suicide bombing on a Jerusalem bus. Four PA police and security officials later admitted to participating in the plot and making the bomb. The PA paid the families of the suicide bomber and those later jailed for their participation in the attack.[citation needed]

The trial in the Manhattan federal district court began on January 12, 2015, presided over by US Federal District judge George B. Daniels, after Daniels ruled against the PLO and PA's request for summary judgement for lack of jurisdiction.[5] [6]

The plaintiffs showed that many of those involved in the planning and carrying out of the attacks had been employees of the Palestinian Authority, and that the authority had paid salaries to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and had made payments to the families of suicide bombers.[citation needed]

On 23 February 2015 the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization were found liable by the jury. The damages were to be $655.5 million, under a special terrorism law that provides for tripling the $218.5 million. The Palestinian groups said in a statement that they intended to appeal the verdict, but not about their willingness or capacity to pay.[citation needed]

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they could seek orders to have the defendants' bank accounts frozen and to require them to turn over real estate and other property. The judgments could also be taken to other countries, where the defendants do business or have assets. In addition, Israel, as punishment for the Palestinians' move in December 2014 to join the International Criminal Court, began withholding more than $100 million a month in tax revenue it collects on the Palestinians' behalf and the plaintiffs could also go after those taxes.[7]


On 31 August 2016, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan overturned the verdict of the Manhattan federal district court and dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that US federal courts lacked overseas jurisdiction on civil cases.[3] The appeals court's decision was criticized by the lawyers and families of the victims but was praised by lawyers and representatives of the Palestinian government.[1][2] An appeal to the Supreme Court was turned down in April 2018.[4]

The Sokolow Decision in scholarship[edit]

Michael Ratner has written that the US Court's ruling against the Palestinian Authority failed to treat Palestine as a state, immune, like Israel, from suits of this kind. He says that there is no jurisdiction over Palestine, that links between the murderers as the PNA unproven, that a fair jury was impossible to obtain in the U.S. and that the trial should not have taken place. It was, he added, both an obstacle to Palestinian victims seeking redress from Israel and a measure that held Palestinians to be collectively responsible for the acts of a few.[8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Stemple, Jonathan (31 August 2016). "US court voids $655 million verdict against PLO over Israel attacks". Reuters. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Sokolow v. Palestinian Liberation Organization" (PDF). Lexology. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b Court Throws Out $655.5 Million Terrorism Verdict Against Palestinian Groups, B. Weiser, Aug. 31, 2016, The New York Times
  4. ^ a b Williams, Pete (2 April 2018). "Supreme Court won't hear case involving American victims of Palestinian terror". NBC News. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  5. ^ The Palestinian Authority faces a big terror trial. Will the State Dept. help?
  6. ^ Terror Victims Take Palestinian Authority to Court
  7. ^ Palestinian Groups Are Found Liable at Manhattan Terror Trial
  8. ^ Ratner, Michael (February 2015). Why the $655 Million Verdict Against the PA is Not A Victory for Human Rights. The Real News
  9. ^ Ratner, Michael (February 2015). Prejudicial Trial, Prejudicial Verdict: $218 Million. The Real News

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