A U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., has ordered the government of Iran to pay $12,904,548 to the estate and family of Marla Bennett, who was killed in a terrorist attack at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem five years ago.

Marla Bennett, of San Diego, California, was 24 years old at the time of her death. She was one of nine people killed in the attack at the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria at the university’s Mount Scopus campus on July 31, 2002. Bennett, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, was a graduate student in Judaic studies at the Hebrew University at the time.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth determined that the attack was carried out by members of the Hamas terrorist movement, which is supported by the Iranian government, and that Iran therefore bears responsibility for the attack.

The Hebrew University administration expressed satisfaction at the court decision: "Perhaps it will ease, if only slightly, the sorrow of the family," the university stated.

"Extremely difficult" to receive payment

Three weeks after the 2002 attack, security forces exposed the Hamas terrorist cell from eastern Jerusalem that was responsible for the blast at Hebrew U. and for the massacre at Cafe Moment

"There is a great deal of hypocrisy on the side of the US government."

in Jerusalem earlier that year.

Muhammad Ouda, a resident of eastern Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood, who planted the bomb that murdered Marla Bennett, worked as a construction worker at the university. He concealed the explosive charge a day before the attack without arousing suspicion. The day after the blast he came to work at the university as usual.

Despite the verdict, it will be "extremely difficult" for Marla Bennett's family and estate to receive payment from Iran or any other source, according to Mordechai Haller, an Israeli attorney who has represented victims of terror in similar suits. "The US government has consistently interfered with enforcement" of this kind of judgment, he explained. Instead of watching out for the victims' interests, "they intervene in proceedings in such a way that they take the side of the Iranians," Haller said, "and effectively defend Iranian assets."

US Hypocrisy

According to Haller, the State Department has actively opposed legislation passed over the last decade which allows victims to be compensated for terror acts. "There is a great deal of hypocrisy on the side of the US government," he said. "They make bombastic statements about defending against terror, but when it comes time to take compensation they side with Iran."

Some of the lawsuits filed against Iran in the past did end with large sums being paid to the victims of terror.

"I have a front-row seat for the history of the Jewish people. I am a part of the struggle for Israel's survival."

However, it has become increasingly difficult to receive any payment at all from Iran, and the numbers are piling up: Over $3 billion in damages have been ruled in American judgments against Iran, mostly from the past five years.

“My friends and family talk about how dangerous it is here and I have to agree with them," Marla Bennett wrote in an open letter a short time before her death. "It is dangerous. But I remain unconvinced that the rest of the world is such a safe place…"

"I have a front-row seat for the history of the Jewish people. I am a part of the struggle for Israel's survival."

Marla Bennett's death was followed by a tremendous outpouring of grief and comforting. A ninth-grader from Bonita, California, who had never met Marla, wrote to her parents: “I’ve watched the news and listened to the radio and have learned to know the kind of person your Marla was. It hurts me to know that someone with so much good in them could have something like this happen… I admire the person she was. And I want to live my life as she did. Marla will always be a role model for me… It is too bad there aren’t more people in this world like your precious daughter.”