A New York Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of a group of Israeli terror victims in a lawsuit against the Bank of China on Friday, allowing the case to move forward. The 84 plaintiffs allege that the Bank of China provided wire transfers to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in 2006 and 2007 that helped the groups launch terrorist bombings and rocket attacks against Israelis.
The ruling in the "Almaliakh action," named after Emil Almaliakh, an Eilat resident killed in a suicide bombing in 2007, is a "huge precedent," according to Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an attorney with the Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin), which helped in filing the suit.
"Usually, US citizens have the right to file lawsuits in the US courts against terror organizations and organizations that sponsor terror," Darshan-Leitner said. "In this suit, we made use of old laws that allow non-US citizens to also sue [in the US courts] in the case of terrorism."
Both PIJ and Hamas have been designated terrorist organizations by the United States since 1997.
The account at issue belongs to Said al-Shurafa, who is alleged to be a senior operative of Hamas and PIJ. Shurafa allegedly received several million dollars to the account from the groups' leadership in Syria and Iran. The plaintiffs say he then transferred the money to Gaza and the West Bank "for the purpose of planning, preparing for and executing terrorist attacks."
Despite warnings from the counterterrorism division of the Israeli Prime Minister's Office in April 2005 that the money was being used to finance terror attacks, the Bank of China continued to send wire transfers to the two terrorist groups.
The Bank of China fought to have the case dismissed, according to Darshan-Leitner. The bank argued that the case should be tried in China, which does not consider Hamas to be a terrorist group.
But Justice Barbara Kapnick rejected the bank's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. "The Bank of China will now have to provide us with details of all bank transactions, basically everything that went through the accounts," Darshan-Leitner said.
That information, she predicted, will prove "that the money came from Syria and was transferred to Hamas."