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 email@example.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008