In the Saturday, January 24, 2015 edition of the New York Times, Jodi Rudoren, the Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief, penned a profile of Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the Director of Sherut HaDin (“the Israel Law Center”). The piece is entitled “Crusading for Israel in a Way Some Say is Misguided.” According to its web site, Sherut HaDin “utilizes court systems around the world to go on the legal offensive against Israel’s enemies.” Sherut HaDin files lawsuits on behalf of the victims of terrorism, fights academic and economic boycotts of Israel, and challenges those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state. It works with a network of volunteer lawyers around the world to file legal actions on behalf of American, European, and Israeli citizens, and it represents people of all religious and national backgrounds.
One would not know that or be aware of the ground-breaking legal work done by Ms. Darshan-Leitner from Ms. Rudoren’s superficial profile. Ms. Rudoren focuses on what she calls the “relentless” but “often fruitless campaign” Ms. Darshan-Leitner “has been waging for more than a decade to empty the pocketbooks of people who harm Israelis.” And rather than make her case, as a reporter for an esteemed newspaper should, with facts and reason, Ms. Rudoren attempts to do so with quotes from representatives of the very terrorist organizations Sherut HaDin is suing, and with a supercilious, personal attack on Ms. Darshan-Leitner, unbecoming one in Ms. Rudoren’s unique position of responsibility. Ms. Rudoren’s metaphor is that Ms. Darshan-Leitner’s fight on behalf of victims of terrorism is as “fruitless” as her three-year old quest “to figure out how to make her own challah.”
Ms. Rudoren’s sole substantive point is that Ms. Darshan-Leitner’s “arguments are regularly rejected by the courts. About 90 percent of the $1.6 billion in default judgments against no-show defendants including Iran, Syria, North Korea and the militant Palestinian group Hamas have not been paid.” Now that gives one pause. Ms. Darshan-Leitner has managed to obtain $1.6 billion in judgments against terrorism organizations? That sounds pretty impressive. And she has managed to collect 10% of that ($160 million) for the victims? Not bad given the financial and legal obstacles she has faced. Who else has done anything for the victims of terrorism? Ms. Rudoren? The New York Times?
Of course, what Ms. Rudoren doesn’t point out is that Ms. Darshan-Leitner’s tactics were inspired by the legendary civil rights organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose goal has long been to bankrupt opponents of civil rights by filing lawsuits, sometimes successfully, sometimes only symbolically. According to the SPLC’s website, “[w]e use the courts and other forms of advocacy to win systemic reforms on behalf of victims of bigotry and discrimination.” Like the Southern Poverty Law Center before her, Ms. Darshan-Leitner is engaged in creative and ground-breaking legal work, filing lawsuits under relatively uncharted waters of the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, Alien Torts Statute, torture victim protection conventions, civil rights laws, consumer fraud statutes, the IRS codes, state and federal education laws, civil RICO and whistleblower statutes. In founding Shurat HaDin, Ms. Darshan Leitner noted that her goal was to “go after terrorists in the same way that they (the SPLC) were going after racists.”
Ms. Rudoren also fails to note that, in addition, to collecting an impressive $160 million for victims of terrorism, Ms. Darshan-Leitner and Sherut Hadin have managed to obtain court orders to freeze over $600 million in terror assets, forced banks to sever ties with terror financing entities, and is using the legal system to counter boycotts against Israeli companies and academics by seeking to remove the tax exempt status of organizations that promote boycotts.
Most importantly, Ms. Rudoren fails to mention any of the victims of terror on whose behalf, Ms. Darshan-Leitner – – and only Ms. Darshan Leitner – – seeks vindication. Like five-year old Gal Eisenman and her grandmother, just back from a kindergarten concert of Gal’s, blown to pieces near the popular French Hill bus stop by a bomb that was reinforced with ball bearings to maximize impact and detonated by a terrorist associated with the Palestinian Authority. Or Ira Weinstein, a United States citizen, killed along with 45 others, in one of a series of bus bombings that took place on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem. Or Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami, two Israeli reservist soldiers, who were lynched in a Palestinian police station and whose bodies were brutally thrown to the frenzied crowd below. Or the eight high school students who were murdered (and many others were wounded) when a terrorist entered the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem and opened fire on hundreds of students with an Ak-47 assault rifle. Or the five dead and 181 wounded, many of whom were U.S. citizens, killed by suicide bombers who detonated themselves in the crowded Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in downtown Jerusalem. The list of victims for whom Ms. Darshan-Leitner seeks vindication is endless. Where is the voice of Jodi Rudoren? Or the New York Times?
Instead, in her recent profile of Ms. Darshan-Leitner, Ms. Rudoren quotes a lawyer for the Palestinian Authority, an entity Ms. Darshan-Leitner repeatedly has sued for sponsoring terrorism, calling Ms. Darshan-Leitner “a nuisance.” I expect she is. On January 6, 2015, Shurat HaDin filed suit against the Palestinian Authority in the International Criminal Court based on terror victims’ testimony of shocking attacks carried out by the Authority. The title of Ms. Rudoren’s Times profile of Ms. Darshan-Leitner is “Crusading for Israel in a Way Some Say is Misguided.” However, the only ones who seem to think Ms. Darshan-Leitner is “misguided” (other than Ms. Rudoren) are the lawyers for the terrorists’ organizations she is suing.
Ms. Rudoren also mocks Ms. Darshan-Leitner for spending most of this month in New York, where, because she is not licensed to practice law in New York, she is found “sitting among the court watchers, not at the lawyer’s bench.” And, Ms. Rudoren snarkily observes, “she is missing several Fridays of baking challah.” The trial Ms. Rudoren references is a landmark case, the first ever terrorism trial against the Palestinian Authority in a United States court. Ms. Rudoren fails to credit Ms. Darshan-Leitner’s vision and hard work which led to the filing of this remarkable lawsuit. Nor does she acknowledge that Ms. Darshan-Leitner, recognizing her own limitations, reasonably entrusted the actual trial work to a seasoned federal trial lawyer, a partner in the famed law firm Arnold and Porter. If only Ms. Rudoren would likewise turn her column over to a professional.
Of course, this is not the first time Ms. Rudoren has expended valuable Times real estate in attacking Israel and its supporters. Ms. Rudoren routinely writes superficial pieces designed to put Israel in a bad light. Or worse, Ms. Rudoren writes lightly of Palestinian violence, once justifying “rock throwing [by Palestinian youths] [as] a rite of passage and an honored act of defiance.” I don’t recall a single article she has written about Israel that one could characterize as either positive or even objective. Why the Times continues to put up with this silly sideshow is beyond me. In the meantime, Ms. Darshan-Leitner continues her brave work on behalf of Israel and the innocent victims of terrorism. I expect that, in time, given her intelligence and persistence, she will even learn to make a proper challah.