Israeli attorney hits “terrorists where it hurts”
By Stacey Dresner
HARTFORD – Over the past 12 years, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner has become the undisputed leader of the fight against Palestinian and Islamic terrorist organizations in the courtroom, as well as a beacon of hope for terror victims throughout the world. An Israeli activist lawyer, she is founder and president of Shurat HaDin, an Israeli law center specializing in civil rights litigation, which has $200 million for the victims of Palestinian and Iran terrorism.
A mother of six, Darshan-Leitner is a graduate of the Bar-Ilan University Law Faculty and holds an MBA from Manchester University. She has been lauded as a pioneer in the judicial battle against terrorism by a number of publications and organizations, including the Jerusalem Post and the Israeli Globes Financial Magazine. She is a regular guest on Israeli and international media programs, on networks such as CNN and the BBC.
The Jewish Ledger recently spoke to Darshan-Leitner about her work fighting terrorists in court.
Q: What is Shurat HaDin and what is its purpose?
A: Shurat HaDin is at the forefront of fighting terrorism and safeguarding Jewish rights worldwide. We are dedicated to the protection of the State of Israel. From representing terror victims in civil actions against the terrorist organizations and out-law regimes, defending against lawfare suits, fighting against BDS, safeguarding Israeli soldiers against false allegations of war crimes and challenging those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish State, Shurat HaDin is utilizing court systems around the world to go on the legal offensive against Israel’s enemies.
Our objectives are as follows: Stopping the flow of money to terrorists through the use of civil suits and other legal means; Achieving justice and compensation for terror victims from terrorist organizations, their sponsors, and the financial institutions that aid and abet their criminal activities; Combating the global effort by Israel’s enemies to de-legitimize, boycott and wage “lawfare” against the Jewish state; Training the next generation of activist attorneys and legal advocates to fight for the rights of the worldwide Jewish community and Israel; and leading the private sector’s war on terrorism.
We tend to think of the fight against terrorism as a task that falls mainly on the shoulders of elected officials and governments, whether it is their law enforcement, military, diplomatic or intelligence agencies. Nonetheless, Shurat HaDin has proven that there is one area where private citizens can uniquely play a leading role – stopping the funds available to the enemies of Israel and the Jewish People. Since the 1990s Western countries, and especially the United States, have legislated laws making it possible for terror victims to sue the regimes that sponsor terror, banks that transfer funds to terror groups, front charities established to assist the extremist groups, and even the terrorists themselves. Thus, Shurat HaDin’s legal campaigns have empowered the terror victims and their families to fight back.
Q: You modeled it after the Southern Poverty Law Center here in the U.S.?
A: The Southern Poverty Law Center is an innovative group that utilizes civil actions brought by victims to go after the hate organizations, the neo-Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan. Southern Poverty wasn’t just about winning cases. It was about using legal action to change reality on the ground. The court rulings didn’t just punish the white supremacists; it drove them out of business. It bankrupted them. It turns out that terrorism and KKK-style racism were actually quite similar. They both operate outside the law, creating injustice in ways that ordinary law enforcement has difficulty addressing. But they also both have to organize, raise money, have offices, a place to meet, and so on. What we learned from Southern Poverty was that you can use lawsuits—or even just the threat of lawsuits—to cripple their activities where law enforcement is either unwilling or unable to do the job.
Southern Poverty drove the KKK in many states into bankruptcy, forcing them to repeatedly shut down their branches, making fundraising a nightmare, and eventually driving much of organized racism in America entirely underground. Money is the oxygen of terrorism. If you can stop the flow of the money, you can stop the flow of the terrorism. We utilize civil actions brought by the terror victims to target the terror groups, the outlaw regimes that fund them as well as the financial institutions that provide them material support and services.
Q: You also are involved in the fight against the BDS movement. How does Shurat HaDim combat BDS?
A: As an organization aimed at protecting human rights, Shurat HaDin is often notified by concerned individuals about a BDS campaign taking place in their home city. In such a case, Shurat HaDin will analyze the legality of the specific case according to local laws. If the BDS activity is found to be illegal, Shurat HaDin will dispatch a strongly worded warning letter to the campaign organizers and the institutions being targeted. The letter will advise the organizer that capitulating to the BDS movement and boycotting Israel and Israeli-related businesses, academics and cultural persons is unlawful and the organizer may become the subject of civil, administrative and criminal legal action.
If the organizers don’t heed the warning and cease their BDS activities, Shurat HaDin follows through by taking legal action.
Q: What is the biggest lawsuit you are working on now, and can you explain its implications and what you hope it accomplishes?
A: In July 2016 we filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Facebook on behalf of terror victims and their families for aiding, abetting, and providing material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization Hamas in violation of U.S. antiterrorism laws. Since then, we have filed similar complaints against Google (the owner of YouTube) and Twitter on behalf of the families of terror victims killed in mass-casualty attacks carried out by ISIS in Paris and Brussels. For years, these American companies have knowingly provided their social media platforms and services to designated terrorist organizations, who use these resources to recruit, raise funds, plan, promote, and carry out their terrorist activities. We believe that by providing social media services to designated terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, the PLO and ISIS the social media companies are providing the terror groups with material support in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Any support for the terrorist groups is illegal, and by providing webpages and platforms to the terrorists these companies are exposing themselves to civil and criminal liability. Social media is every bit a necessary component of international terrorism today as weapons, explosives, funding, safe houses and training. NO bank would dare open an account for Hezbollah, why then does the leadership of Hezbollah have Twitter and Facebook accounts? We are working to hold these companies accountable for knowingly assisting terrorist organizations and to obtain some measure of compensation for the victims and families who have suffered injury as a result. We all want the internet to be as free as possible but there must be a limit when it comes to providing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts to groups like Hamas and ISIS.