Israel has blocked a terror attack victim from testifying in a US lawsuit against Bank of China for helping facilitate the attack, The Washington Post reports.
In a petition to an American federal court, the Israeli government asked to quash the deposition subpoena issued to the witness, who could have tipped the scales in a case filed by families of victims of suicide bombers who accuse the Bank of China of facilitating terrorist funding via branches in the United States.
Twenty-two families of victims killed in Palestinian Arab suicide bombings accuse the bank of participating in terror activities by handling the bank accounts used to fund the attack.
The victims' families insist that the move stems from political pressure from China, who visited Israel two weeks ago to meet with the Ministry of Defense.
“This motion asserts that Israel will forgive the supporters and perpetrators of acts of terror against Israelis and Jews. This is unacceptable,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer representing the bereaved families, to The Washington Post.
“Prime Minister (Binyamin) Netanyahu, by turning his back on the victims of terror, is not only denying justice to those who have paid the ultimate price, but he is sending a message to the terrorists and the whole world that Jewish blood is cheap.”
Naftali Moses, whose son Avraham was murdered in the 2008 Mercaz HaRav massacre, lashed out at the prime minister.
“Netanyahu’s office promised to fight terror — and they are backing down,” he said. “Netanyahu’s office promised to aid us in our court case — and they have forgotten the victims of terror in favor of relations with the Chinese.”
In July, the families addressed a letter to the PM asking for help in the case, which hinged on the witness testimony of counter-terrorism expert Uzi Shaya. Shaya allegedly expressed to the bereaved families this past summer that he wished to help them in the case, but had not received permission to do so.
“We are confident that in the overall national view of things, you see yourself as heading the nation and the families in the fight against terror, even in the face of heavy pressure from a foreign country, and [contradictory] interests – important as they may be," the letter stated.
According to court documents, Shaya was part of a delegation of Israeli counterterrorism officials who met with Chinese officials in April 2005, warning them that Hamas and Islamic Jihad were transferring large sums of money to their militants through the Bank of China. At that meeting, the Israelis asked Chinese officials to “take action” to prevent further transfers, The Washington Post reports.
The PM's office responded Saturday by defending the importance of confidentiality in the case, insisting that the issue is a matter of national security.
“After conducting a comprehensive review of the matter, the State of Israel concluded that it cannot allow the former official to be forced to disclose in foreign legal proceedings any information that came to his knowledge in the course of his official duties,” the statement read.
“The disclosure of such information would harm Israel’s national security, compromise Israel’s ability to protect those within its borders, and interfere with international cooperative efforts to prevent terrorism.”
The move is another blow to bereaved families across Israel and the globe, who are still reeling from the release of 26 convicted terrorist murderers into civilian areas of Judea and Samaria this past month. The release, which was allegedly a precondition for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, has only spurred an upswing of terror attacks, critics claim.