Justice against the Palestinian Authority has finally been served. The six terrorist attacks following the Second Intifada’s end in 2004 was proven on Monday by lead trial counsel Kent Yalowitz of Arnold & Porter to have been supported by the Palestinian Authority in the form of money and personnel. Yalowitz asserted that the PA’s involvement met the legal definition of “material support,” refuting the PA lawyer Mark Rochon’s claim that the PA and the PLO were not liable for the attacks that resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and injuries.
Rochon gave a spirited and dramatized defense, saying that the PA should not be blamed for the atrocities performed by individuals within the government who acted according to their own wills. “Sometimes people who do terrible things work for the government. [But these are] things they did for their own reasons,” Rochon reasoned. He then attempted to disprove the credibility of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses. Rochon scoffed, “The only people you can bring in are IDF intelligence officials who served during that time? …Who you gonna believe, the IDF or a report from the USA that explicitly states: There is no conclusive evidence that the senior leadership of the PA or PLO were involved in planning or approving specific acts of violence.” The report Rochon was referring to is the PLOCCA. It was given by the US State Department to cover the extent to which the PA complied with obligations to Israel and the US under various agreements during the Second Intafada. Although many subsequent reports defended the PA against allegations of involvement in terror, they were highly debatable. Rochon said, “The plaintiffs want you to infer that from the absence of evidence. That’s not how it works.” He concluded his defense in a whisper: “What they did was despicable, selfish. But it was not the PA.”
Rochon’s performance failed to win the jury over in the end, however. Yalowitz’s counter-arguments were successful in disproving Rochon’s assertions. He declared that the PA “didn’t have to pay terrorists if it didn’t want to.” Yalowitz refocused the case to the ten American families who were victims of the attacks. He referenced the Anti-Terrorism Act as a means of hitting “those who send terrorists where it hurts most—the wallet.” Yalowitz painted a clearer picture to the jury of the PA’s crime by saying, “If an NYPD cop commits a murder in New Jersey and you say, ‘Good job. And we’re going to keep you on payroll while you’re in jail,’ that says something…If you have a policy that says: ‘If you commit a terrorist act, you keep your job, get a promotion, and get paid while you’re in jail,’ that says something about who you are and what you believe in.” Yalowitz ultimately won his case, and the US jury charged the PA with $655.5 million in damages.
Although the historical verdict will never suffice to restore the families that were broken by the terrorist attacks, it is nonetheless a significant measure of justice and closure after enduring so many years of suffering and pain.