Court Says Adelson, Israeli Banks Must Defend Palestinians’ U.S. Suit

(Bloomberg) -- Bank Leumi Le-Israel BM, Bank Hapoalim BM and billionaire Sheldon Adelson must defend a lawsuit in the U.S. accusing them of conspiring to force Palestinians out of Israeli-occupied territories and of war crimes, a U.S. appeals court ruled.

The unanimous ruling Tuesday by a three-judge panel reinstates a 2016 lawsuit dismissed by a trial judge for raising what she said were political questions for which the court had no authority, including who has sovereignty over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The ruling raises the prospect of a U.S. court having to determine whether Israeli settlers committed war crimes and if those targeted in the suit are financially responsible. U.S. Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson said in a decision that the sovereignty issue was separate from a broader question of whether war crimes, including genocide, had been committed.

“A legal determination that Israeli settlers commit genocide in the disputed territory would not decide ownership of the disputed territory and thus would not directly contradict any foreign policy choice,” Henderson said in a ruling joined by U.S. Circuit Court Judges Nina Pillard and Harry Edwards.

The 18 Palestinians who are suing claim the banks, Adelson and others plotted to funnel millions of dollars to Israeli settlements, which spent the money to kill Palestinians and confiscate their property.

The defendants include Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison, former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, construction firms, real estate company Re/Max LLC, Motorola Solutions Inc., and former U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams.

Re/Max is accused of marketing former Arab-owned houses to U.S. and Israeli buyers, while Motorola allegedly sold security systems for the gated communities. Motorola declined to comment, and Re/Max didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Abrams, accused of being a “self-appointed U.S. spokesman” for Israeli settlements, is on leave from his Council on Foreign Relations fellowship. His office referred inquiries about the suit to the U.S. State Department, which declined to comment.

Adelson is accused of contributing money toward the “violent expulsion” of Palestinians. The banks, Adelson, Braman and Ellison didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The case is Al-Tamimi v. Adelson, 17-5207, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia (Washington).

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