Thursday, February 21, 2019

D.C.Circuit: Conspiracy Suit Against U.S. Supporters of Israeli Settlers Is Not "Political Question"

In an important decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has held that a suit against high profile Americans by 18 Palestinians and a Palestinian village council over defendants' support for the Jewish settler movement in the West Bank and Gaza may move forward. In Al-Timimi v. Adelson, (DC Cir., Feb. 19, 2019), the court summarized its holding:
The plaintiffs, both Palestinian nationals and Palestinian Americans, claim the defendants, pro-Israeli American individuals and entities, are conspiring to expel all non-Jews from territory whose sovereignty is in dispute. They sued in federal district court, pressing four claims: (1) civil conspiracy, (2) genocide and other war crimes, (3) aiding and abetting genocide and other war crimes and (4) trespass. Concluding that all four claims raise nonjusticiable political questions, the district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We now reverse....
The suit claims that defendants-- 8 high net-worth individuals (including Sheldon Adelson and John Hagee), 13 tax exempt organizations (including the Jewish Naional Fund), 2 banks, 8 construction and support firms and former U.S. National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams conspired to funnel millions of dollars to Israeli settlements which funded "a militia of Israeli settlers [trained] to kill Palestinians and confiscate their property."

In a 21-page opinion, the court concluded:
[T]he plaintiffs’ claims present only one jurisdiction-stripping political question: who has sovereignty over the disputed territory. But a claim whose resolution also includes resolution of a political question can be dismissed on that basis only if the political question is “inextricable.” ... We believe this political question is extricable."
Reuters reports on the decision.