April 2, 2021
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a suit brought by the Jewish National Fund and 12 individual Americans living in Israel against Just Peace in the Middle East, a U.S. charity also known as the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR). The suit, filed in November 2019, made claims under the Anti-Terrorism Act for damages caused by incendiary devices launched into Israel from Gaza by unnamed persons. JNF argued that USCPR was liable because it collects funds from U.S. donors for the Boycott National Committee (BNC) in Palestine and one of BNC’s members is a coalition that includes Hamas, which the State Department has designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). USCPR’s motion to dismiss, filed March 5, 2020, argued that the plaintiffs did not alleged facts to support their conclusions, that USCPR’s activities are lawful and that plaintiffs relied on guilt by association. The motion was granted March 29, 2021. The court said the plaintiff’s arguments “are, to say the least, not persuasive.” Diala Shamas, one of USPCR’s attorneys, said, “we hope this marks a turning point that discourages private actors seeking to weaponize terrorism laws to silence their critics.”
The case was an unusual attempt to expand liability to several degrees of separation with what JNF called a “chain of liability.” But the court rejected this argument, saying that USPCR could not be held directly liable because JNF did not allege facts that it supported Hamas or that it fiscal sponsorship, support for the Great Return March and participation in the Stop the JNF campaign was “a substantial factor in the sequence of events that led to their injuries.” The court said USCPR’s “support of the BNC and other groups are simply too removed from a terrorist act or organization to state a claim under the ATA.”
A joint press release from the USCPR and Center for Constitutional Rights, which provided legal representation, noted that, “specific acts alleged against USCPR consisted of wholly lawful activity to achieve lawful ends…”
Read a full summary of the case here.