Fighting Terror is Her Business
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Article Reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News
By Kristen Mott
As an Israeli activist attorney, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner receives hundreds of phone calls from terror victims who are seeking justice. And it’s no surprise that the calls continue to flood in, Darshan-Leitner said, since terrorism has not slowed down in Israel or the Middle East.
“Every day we get more and more calls from terror victims who want to fight back, who are seeking justice, who more than anything else in the world don’t want to be victims anymore,” said Darshan-Leitner, who spoke to a crowd of roughly 150 people the evening of Aug. 17 at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in Beachwood.
Shortly after earning her law degree from Bar Ilan University, the Second Intifada broke out. Darshan-Leitner started to file lawsuits on behalf of terror victims against terrorist organizations and their financial patrons.
“Very quickly we realized money is oxygen for terrorism and if you stop the flow of the money, you can stop the flow of the terrorism,” Darshan-Leitner told the Cleveland Jewish News.
After winning several judgments, Darshan-Leitner was inundated with phone calls from terror victims requesting that she also represent them in court. She decided to found Shurat HaDin, Israel Law Center in 2003 to manage the cases professionally.
In the last 12 years, the nonprofit civil rights organization has represented hundreds of terror victims in lawsuits and legal actions against Palestinian organizations, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Syria, Iran, North Korea and banks that provide financial services to terrorist organizations.
Shurat HaDin also was responsible for helping the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act become law in 2002, enabling terror victims to collect on judgments against assets of foreign states.
To highlight the fact that terrorism is not slowing down in Israel, Darshan-Leitner retold the story of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, who were kidnapped last June in Israel by members of Hamas. Their bodies were discovered in a field near the West Bank city of Hebron.
“An entire country held its breath for 18 days until the IDF found the bodies,” Darshan-Leitner said. “We have to fight them back. We have to prove that 70 years after the Holocaust, there is a price to Jewish blood. We will not let them kill our children and keep silent.”
In addition to fighting back against terror attacks, Shurat HaDin also battles the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Darshan-Leitner explained that Palestinians are using the BDS movement to isolate and put pressure on Israel, as well as promote their solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, which is a solely Palestinian state.
She added that it’s difficult to fight the BDS movement because many of its actions are protected.
“You can basically call to boycott, because speech is a protected right in the United States and any democratic state. You can organize demonstrations, you can say that the IDF is baby killers, and there is nothing one can do against you.”
One thing her organization can do, Darshan-Leitner said, is warn BDS movement members that they are violating certain state and federal laws. When the American Studies Association decided to boycott Israeli professors and Israeli academic institutions, lawyers involved with Shurat HaDin notified the ASA that it was violating both New York laws and federal laws.
Darshan-Leitner also briefly discussed the Iran nuclear deal. Shurat HaDin recently filed an injunction against the U.S. State Department to not release any money to Iran through the lifting of sanctions.
“We cannot have the Iranian regime get hundreds of billions of dollars released to their hands in the course of the Iranian nuclear deal,” she said. “We’re the first ones to go and file an injunction against the State Department not to release these funds until Iran pays all its judgment to the terror victims.”
Darhsan-Leitner, who lives in Modi’in, Israel, told the CJN she hopes her talk raised awareness and encouraged people to support Israel in its war against terror through advocacy, lobbying and pressuring their representatives in Congress.
Since 2003, Shurat HaDin has collected more than $200 million in judgments, which have gone to terror victims. Darshan-Leitner and her organization show no signs of slowing down.
“This is justice,” she said. “We take the money from the one who devastated the life of the terror victim and we give it to the ones who deserve it the most. We’ll continue fighting terrorism and represent terror victims because we don’t have any other choice. We are dedicated to this cause.”