NEW YORK, July 6 (JTA) — A new lawsuit says the tentacles of Palestinian terrorism have reached into America’s own backyard. Using a recent federal law that makes it illegal to finance terrorism, some American victims of Palestinian terrorism are suing Arab Bank, PLC, a Jordanian bank with a branch in New York. They’re seeking more than $875 million on five counts, including “aiding and abetting” murder and “committing acts of international terrorism.” “While the terrorists are cutting off heads, we intend to cut off their funds,” said Mark Werbner, the Dallas-based lead lawyer on the case. Werbner was referring to a recent spate of decapitations of Westerners in Arab countries, mainly Iraq, but his lawsuit specifically targets Palestinian terrorism in Israel. Filed July 2 in U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York, a federal court in Brooklyn, the complaint alleges that the Arab Bank launders money raised by the Saudi Committee in Support of the Intifada Al Quds. Through its branches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the bank pays death benefits to the families of suicide bombers, the suit argues. It also charges the Arab Bank with serving Hamas and its charity front organizations. The Arab Bank did not respond to a JTA call seeking comment. For the victims, a group of five American families, it’s a stab at the beast that maimed them. The lawsuit, Linde v. Arab Bank, is led by Courtney Linde, the widow of John Linde, Jr., an American killed by a roadside bomb last year in the Gaza Strip while providing security for U.S. diplomats. “John was a wonderful and gentle person, but he was also a Marine and I know he would have wanted me to fight for him,” Linde said in a statement. Another of the plaintiffs, New Jersey surgeon Dr. David Averbach, told JTA, “We can strike them in the pocketbook.” Averbach’s son, Steve, had a hunch about a suspicious-looking passenger who boarded a Jerusalem-bound bus last year. He approached the man, a suicide bomber disguised to look like a religious Jew. The bomb exploded, and Averbach suffered massive wounds from the explosion, rendering him a quadriplegic. Averbach’s wife, Maida, learned of the attack when she flipped on Fox News after a dinner honoring her husband and recognized her son’s hand in the picture. “It’s a horrendous thing,” she said in an interview. “It’s a man who has been active all his life who is suddenly a prisoner in his body.” Steve Averbach was an Israeli soldier, a Jerusalem policeman and a private instructor in weapons and defense. Now he can’t even scratch his nose, his parents say. “We’ve been very private people all our lives, but this horrific act made us aware that Steve is not the only one that has become a victim. There are so many more,” Maida Averbach said. “We have to speak out.” Also included as plaintiffs are the parents of Koby Mandell. Mandell, an eighth-grader, skipped school one day in 2001 to go hiking with a friend in the West Bank. A Palestinian mob bludgeoned them to death with rocks, beating their bodies beyond recognition. A 2001 Congressional Act to monitor Palestinian terrorism was written in Mandell’s name, but it has yet to pass. Others have sued Arab and Muslim governments that are sponsors of terrorism. Many have won their cases but have had difficulty collecting damages, often due to opposition by the State Department, which opposes efforts by U.S. citizens to collect damages against foreign governments on the grounds that they impede U.S. foreign policy and may result in similar suits against the United States. The bank case was initiated by Gary Osen, a New Jersey attorney who resolved to combat terrorism personally after his neighbor was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. Investigating Middle Eastern and Saudi institutions and charitable groups, Osen said, he found “brazen” connections to Palestinian terrorist organizations. Werbner says he hopes new plaintiffs will join the case. “I foresee that by the time of the trial, that it’ll be a multi-billion dollar lawsuit,” he said, noting that Arab Bank has almost 6,000 employees and access to more than $25 billion. “Many citizens around the world feel helpless in the face of terrorism and frustrated, but this lawsuit is a tool that empowers ordinary citizens to do their part to end the scourge of terrorism,” he said.
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