In March 2005, after five years of procedural wrangling, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment entered againt the PLO and the Palestine Authority in favor of the estate, survivors and heirs of Efrat Ungar in the amount of $116 million. The First Circuit’s decision is accessible here. Ramsey Clark and others represented the PLO/PA defendants. The claims resulted from the murder of Ungar and his wife by four members of Hamas carrying uniforms issued by the Palestinian Authority.
Their claims were brought under the federal law enacted after the murder of Leon Klinghoffer by Daddy Abbas, the friend of Saddam Hussein who was captured by U.S. special forces on the outskirts of Baghdad in April 2003. (PA/PLO mouthpiece Saeb Erakat said that the United States violated the Oslo peace accords when it seized Abbas. The PA/PLO guys deploy legal niceties on a tactical basis.) The law was intended to deter non-state actors who commit terrorist acts against American citizens such as Mr. Ungar.
David Strachman is the Providence attorney representing the Ungars. He is now undertaking the collection of the $116 million judgment. Today’s Boston Globe story cues the violins and sets the weepy mood for the poor guys just tryin’ to do their job for the good old PA: “Palestinian Authority’s US assets are frozen.” Why the sad faces at the PLO/PA?
The federal judge who has watched them in action through Ramsey Clark over the past five years seems to think that the guys at the PLO/PA have recently liquidated assets comprising a significant part of their investment portfolio and that they might shelter the assets beyond the jurisdiction of the court if they aren’t frozen in the United States. What would make him think that? The judge has found that the poor guys at the PLO/PA “do not intend to honor the judgment of the court in this action[.]” He thinks the poor guys are liable to take the money and run.
The PLO/PA never disputed its responsiblity for the murder of Mr. Ungar. Strachman tells us that Ramsey Clark announced the directive he had received from Yasser Arafat after he “climbed through the rubble of the Mukata-a in Ramallah” not to file an Answer disputing the Ungars’ claims. By the time Clark’s clients sought to file an Answer, the court reasonably construed the effort essentially as another attempt to engage in procedural shenanigans.
The Boston Globe reporter does not appear to have contemplated the five years of procedural shenanigans that preceded the court’s judgment, or to have read either the restraining order or the injunction entered by the court in the Ungar action. She does not appear to have inquired very deeply into the question of why the poor guys at the PLO/PA refuse to honor the judgment entered against them after five years of litigation in the federal courts. She doesn’t appear to have dug with much intensity into the state of their finances. And she doesn’t much explore the question why they should be relieved of the superficial monetary consequences of their profound bloodlust.
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