Using the law to cut off terrorists’ lifelines
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner’s mission in life is to “bankrupt terrorism one lawsuit at a time.”
The founder and executive director of Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center said she and her legal team have successfully won more than $1 billion in judgments against sponsors of terror for their victims and their families, thus far collecting $120 million.
Since 2003, she said, Shurat HaDin has also successfully frozen more than $600 million in terror assets.
On Jan. 26, Darshan-Leitner came to Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick to outline how a team of Israeli lawyers has forced banks, businesses, and universities to cut their ties with terrorist organizations or face criminal or civil liability.
She explained how their actions have forced many extremist groups to seek underground methods of smuggling money.
“Our duty is to the terror victims and we will not stop fighting,” Darshan-Leitner told the cheering crowd of 250. “We will not let them kill our children and keep silent. We will fight back…. We took the money from those who devastated their lives. That is called justice.”
In one typical case, the organization is trying to block the Bank of China from executing wire transfers of funds intended for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Such funds are used to buy local loyalty though free food and healthcare programs and to fund the group’s military infrastructure in places like Gaza.
“If you cut the money, you cut the terrorism,” said Darshan-Leitner. “They need money. They need facilities. They cannot be without them. We make sure the money doesn’t end up in the hands of the terrorists.”
Shurat HaDin’s targets have included Iran, Syria, North Korea, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, and Hamas. Darshan-Leitner also claims partial credit for Iran’s decision, in 2010, to transfer its assets out of European banks.
Darshan-Leitner, a mother of six — including triplets — said she has traveled the world dogging banks who have allowed themselves to be used as fronts for terror money, including sham charities. Those with offices in the United States are warned that they could be violating the Anti-Terrorism Act.
“The banks know we will go to trial, and it will be a jury trial,” declared Darshan-Leitner. “They know we will take this to the end because we are right. We changed the way banks do business — not only the European banks or the Arab banks, but we sent shock waves all over the world banking system.”
The most glaring exception is the Bank of China, which Darshan-Leitner charged has been allowing funds to funnel to Hamas through its New York office “with the full approval of the Chinese government.”
Shurat HaDin now has a billion-dollar lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court on behalf of the families of students murdered in 2008 at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Shurat HaDin also fights against the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against Israel, using local laws that define selective boycotts as “discrimination” based on creed or national origin.
Most recently, the organization has broadened its campaign to communications companies, warning Twitter it was in violation of American law by allowing Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations to maintain accounts. The courts have yet to agree. In 2012 Shurat HaDin warned Verizon that it was violating the law in providing service to the PLO office in Washington, which Shurat HaDin alleges is an umbrella for terrorist groups. Verizon replied that it is doing nothing illegal.
Darshan-Leitner said one of its most notable victories was blocking a flotilla of ships with “500 anarchists” from setting sail from Greece in 2011. Shurat HaDin had warned Greek officials that allowing the ships to sail might violate the country’s own neutrality act.
Darshan-Leitner also sent letters to maritime insurance companies notifying them they could be charged with “aiding and abetting” terrorist organizations.
“Without maritime insurance they cannot sail and no port will allow them to dock,” she said.
The event, which was cosponsored by the Jewish Federation of Middlesex County, raised more than $7,000 for Yashar LaChayal, which assists poor Israeli soldiers and “lone soldiers” — those serving in the IDF without any family in Israel — providing needed essentials such as water backpacks, thermal socks, and warm coats.
Adam Klazmer of Philadelphia, a former lone soldier, spoke about Yashar LaChayal before Darshan-Leitner’s talk, telling the audience the items it provides are “necessities, not luxuries.”
The cause is especially meaningful for Shelly Talmud of East Brunswick, a B’nai Tikvah member and organizer of the event whose son, Adam, is serving in the IDF.
“It really was a wonderful outpouring from the community who really got the message that the Israel Defense Forces really doesn’t provide many of the basic items these soldiers need to do their jobs,” she said.