Jerusalem – Two years after the Second Lebanon War, in which Israel’s home front suffered heavy losses, Israeli citizens are entering the legal sphere in order to sue for the damages that they believe are due them from Lebanese financial institutions.

Last week, 60 Israeli families brought lawsuits against five Lebanese banks, claiming that they aided the Hezbollah terrorist organization in violation of international law.

“Instead of giving the money to Hezbollah’s terrorism machine so that they can kill more people, let them give the money to those who were harmed in the war,” says Zviya Tamam, one of the plaintiffs, whose husband and brother-in-law were killed in a Katyusha rocket strike during the war.

The bereaved families are bringing a lawsuit of approximately $100 million in the federal court in New York against five Lebanese banks: Fransabank Sal, Banque Libanese Pour Le Commerce, Bank of Beirut Sal, Banque Libano-Francaise Sal and the Middle East Africa Bank.

The plaintiffs claim that these banks carried out banking transactions in the U.S. for Hezbollah’s fundraising department, which funded the organization’s terrorist actions against Israel, and were aware of the fact that the organization’s bank accounts were being used in order to fund terrorism against Israel.

In a press conference yesterday, Attorney Oren Gutterman, who brought the suit together with American attorneys Gary Osen and Tab Turner, showed an excerpt from propaganda broadcasts by Hezbollah’s television station, Al-Manar, in which the names of the banks and the organizations’ bank accounts appear.

The lawsuit includes a donation form for Hezbollah in which donors can choose whether to invest their money in arms purchases.

The lawsuit was brought in New York because American law permits the federal court to hear lawsuits of people who are not American citizens as long as the defendants run their businesses permanently in New York.

Aryeh Tamam and his brother Tiran were killed in a Katyusha rocket strike in Acre. Albert Ben-Abu, Shimon Zaribi and his 15-year-old daughter Mazal were killed together with them. “Four widows and ten orphans are left,” says Tzvia Tamam, who was wounded together with one of her daughters in the rocket strike. “We went through hell, and from a happy family, we turned into people who run from treatment to treatment. We decided not to sit around doing nothing, but to sue the ones who hurt us. That will not bring back my husband, but if the banks are still holding Hezbollah’s money, then let them pay for the injustice that they caused.”

Motti Tamam, the brother of Aryeh and Tiran, explains that the idea behind the lawsuit is to create deterrence among the banks. “We need to make them realize that dealing with terrorist groups will hurt their business,” he said. “The world should embrace such a lawsuit. Today we’re the ones involved, tomorrow or the next day it could happen in another country.”

Mr. Gutterman said that all citizens or members of their families who were harmed during the war can join the lawsuit, except for soldiers who were wounded during active service.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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