Over 1,132 Israeli victims of terrorism and families of Israelis murdered in terrorist attacks have filed a 20 billion shekel ($5.8 billion) lawsuit against the Arab Bank, which is based in Jordan, the Israel Hayom newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The lawsuit claims that the bank cooperated with, supported, assisted, funded, and encouraged terrorist actions that resulted in thousands of casualties and wounded.
This is the first time a bank has been sued for alleged involvement in financing terrorism, although victims of terrorism have filed suits against both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
The Arab Bank is one of the largest banking institutions in the Arab world and operates some 600 branches internationally, as well as subsidiaries.
The lawsuit claims that the bank, its employees, and its managers played an integral role in the system that supported terrorist activity and even knowingly – if indirectly – provided assistance by funding actions carried out by Palestinian terrorists and terrorist organizations.
The plaintiffs are Israeli citizens who were personally wounded in terrorist attacks or who lost family members to terrorist actions committed inside the Green Line as well as in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip from 1995-2005.
They argue the bank was involved in funding terrorist attacks carried out in Israel by Hamas, Fatah, the Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian Arab terrorist groups during those years. The shootings, bombings, and suicide bombings claimed the lives of hundreds of Israelis, not to mention the many thousands wounded.
Specific attacks cited include, but are not limited to, the suicide bombing at Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv in 1996, in which 13 people were murdered; the suicide bombing at the Dolphinarium nightclub in Tel Aviv in 2001, which killed 21 and wounded over 120; numerous shootings that targeted passing Israeli cars; the suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in 2001, which claimed the lives of 15 and left over 100 wounded; and the suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya on the eve of Passover 2002, in which 30 people were killed and 160 were wounded.
The bank is accused of playing a significant role in collecting donations to support families of suicide bombers, wounded terrorists, and imprisoned terrorists for terrorist activity. The bank even disbursed the money in violation of accepted banking practices.
The lawsuit claims that the bank was also more directly involved in supporting terrorism and says that at the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, bank chairman Abd al-Majid Shuman established the Fund to Support the Palestinian People's Resistance, which was designed to support the intifada. Shuman promised to donate $500,000 of his own money to the fund, and the bank committed to an additional donation of $2 million.
The Israeli lawsuit follows a similar suit filed against Arab Bank in the US in 2004. The lawsuit was resolved last year through a settlement that paid out some $1 billion to victims of terrorism.
In September 2014, a federal jury found Arab Bank liable for providing material support to Hamas in two dozen attacks attributed to the terrorist group. Nearly 300 Americans who were either victims or related to victims of the attacks, between 2001-2004, were plaintiffs in the suit.
The ruling was appealed, but in May 2015, a District Court decided to uphold the verdict due to an overwhelming amount of evidence against the company.