Paul Alster
Israel-based print and broadcast journalist

PLO to stand trial in US

After considering arguments for and against the case of Sokolow V PLO moving forward, Judge George Daniels agreed on Tuesday for a landmark trial brought by the victims of seven terrorist attacks in Israel between 2000 -2004 to go ahead in New York on January 12, 2015. This will be the first time that the Palestinian Authority and the PLO will have ever stood trial and could potentially produce a landmark judgement.

Among the seven attacks that make up the case are the bombing of the Frank Sinatra Cafe on the campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in July 2002 that killed nine and wounded 81 others, and the suicide bombing at a bus stop in Jerusalem’s French Hill a month earlier that killed seven and wounded 35 more.

The prosecution, who seek $1 billion on behalf of the families who allege the PLO and Palestinian Authority incited, supported, orchestrated, executed, and then ratified the terrorist crimes in Israel, will contend that the acts were carried out by officers and employees of the PLO during a four-year, organized terror campaign called the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

The terror movement began in 2000 under Yasser Arafat, the commander of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, and lasted until after his death in 2004. The terrorists who committed the seven atrocities were subsequently convicted and are serving jail sentences for their crimes.

Judge Daniels, summarising the case to be considered next month, said the prosecution will seek to show how the PLO carried out these acts to “terrorize, intimidate, and coerce the civilian population of Israel into acquiescing to defendants’ political goals and demands, and to influence the policy of the United States and Israeli governments in favor of accepting defendants’ political goals and demands.”

“Eleven courageous American families are emphatically standing up to terrorism,” said Kent Yalowitz of Arnold & Porter who is representing the victims. “We are very pleased that the Court has yet again rejected the defendants’ incessant efforts to delay their day of reckoning. The evidence is very strong, and we are looking forward to presenting it to the jury at trial beginning January 12.”

The case will be heard at a particularly sensitive time for the PA. They have been lobbying hard (with much success of late), for countries to begin the process of recognising a Palestinian state. A spotlight being thrown on just seven of the many terrorist attacks in Israel in recent decades in which senior figures from the PA are alleged to either have knowledge or been involved, might well give pause for thought amongst those still weighing up whether or not to support the Palestinians bid for recognition at the United Nations and elsewhere. 

“For over a decade the defendants have tried every tactic in the book to obstruct and avoid their inevitable date with a New York jury, which will finally hear the shocking evidence of their involvement in the terror attacks that left so many Americans dead or wounded,” Nitsana Darshan- Leitner, Director of Shurat HaDin- Israel Law Center, who is working on the case said. “We are glad the judge determined the trial will move forward so those who lost their children in the Hebrew University cafeteria bombing and other PLO terrorist attacks can finally have their day in court.”

The case will surely be followed with much interest not only in the US and Israel, but around the world by governments seeking to clamp down on terrorism and the funding of terrorism.

About the Author
Paul Alster is an Israel-based broadcast journalist with a special interest in the Israel/Palestinian conflict and Middle East politics. He is a regular contributor to a variety of international news websites including The Jerusalem Report, and was formerly's main Middle East correspondent. He can be followed on Twitter @paul_alster or at