The pro-Israel lawfare NGO, Shurat HaDin (SH), founded with critical material support provided by the Mossad, is being hoisted by its own petard. We’ll get to that part a bit later. But first…
A Maariv profile of SH notes its annual budget is $2.5-million and that it is financed solely from foreign NGOs and donors who, according to a Maariv profile, are largely right-wing. They include the Central Fund for Israel ($1.5-million) and settler-funder, Irving Moskovitz. The Central Fund is a leading Judean-extremist charity which funds settlements and other Islamophobic NGOs in Israel. The NY Times recently featured Darshan-Leitner in a not entirely flattering profile. Given Jodi Rudoren’s liberal Zionist proclivities, that’s really saying something.
SH’s modus operandi is to research funding for terror attacks against Israeli and American Jews and prosecute the financial institutions which allegedly funneled money to the terrorists. As a corollary, it also prosecute Arab governments which purportedly support the terror groups. In her own words, the NGO’s mission is “to protect IDF soldiers and fight terror.” I’m not sure what protecting Israeli soldiers has to do with her agenda since all her clients are Israeli civilians. But it does exemplify what a creature of the Israeli security state she is.
Asa Winstanley has noted that SH lies on its website when it claims to be “a fully independent non-profit organization, unaffiliated with any political party or governmental body.” It is, as Darshan-Leitner herself explained in the memo linked above, a creature of the Israeli government, specifically its intelligence apparatus.
They’ve won judgments of hundreds of millions against these banks and countries over the years. Often, as in the case against Iran, the countries don’t fight the case as they refuse to recognize the jurisdiction of the court. Darshan-Leitner has claimed to have collected hundreds of millions from defendants with little proof offered.
This matters little to SH’s founder, Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, an Israeli-Iranian attorney and graduate of the religious-nationalist Bar Ilan University. She doesn’t function as an attorney in her capacity with SH. She’s an indefatigable battler for her ideological agenda. She’s as much marketer as ideologue. She also travels around the world persuading terror victims and their families to agree to become complainants in her cases. She’s an anti-terror ambulance chaser.
Her agenda is as much symbolic as it is practical. This Wikileaks memo drafted by the U.S. embassy after a meeting with her, reveals the NGO’s real agenda:
…The center’s stated goal is to bankrupt Palestinian terrorist organizations as well as the PA, which it views as an accomplice in attacks against Israeli citizens. ILC [Israel Law Center or Shurat HaDin in Hebrew] claims to work closely with Israeli intelligence in selecting cases and collecting evidence.
ILC is operated as a clearinghouse for lawsuits in Israel, the United States, and Europe against terrorists and terror organizations. ILC focuses on bringing civil suits, and has taken the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Alabama as a model. The SPLC aimed to bankrupt the Klu Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups through aggressive lawsuits. Similarly, Leitner and her colleagues seek both to promote the rights of their clients and to weaken Palestinian terror groups and the PA, which they view as complicit in terrorist activities.
Taking Cues From GOI Intelligence
Leitner said that in many of her cases she receives evidence from GOI officials, and added that in its early years ILC took direction from the GOI on which cases to pursue. “The National Security Council (NSC) legal office saw the use of civil courts as a way to do things that they are not authorized to do,” claimed Leitner. Among her contacts, Leitner listed Udi Levy at the NSC and Uzi Beshaya at the Mossad, both key Embassy contacts on anti-terrorist finance cooperation.
…ILC lawyers are extremely aggressive, and boast that they “will sue anybody.” While the ILC’s mission dovetails with GOI objectives of putting financial pressure on Israel’s adversaries, the often uncompromising approach of ILC’s attorneys seems to overreach official GOI policy goals. ILC’s relentless litigation has proven to be an obstacle to the GOI’s releasing of all customs revenues previously withheld from the PA. A complete settling of these accounts may not be possible without dealing with the lawsuits in Israeli and U.S. courts.
I couldn’t think of a better definition of lawfare than this. In fact, this Maariv profile of Darshan-Leitner describes SH’s mission in Hebrew as lochama mishpatit (legal warfare). Under this rubric, either SH succeeds in bringing the PA to ruin or, if it doesn’t, she keeps the spotlight on the Arab world as the font of terror and anti-Israel hatred in the world. It’s a win-win.
To show her further sway, she bragged to a U.S. diplomat that a UK bank she sued will no longer do business with any Arab charities without getting approval from the Mossad that they are “kosher” (her words).
The sentence that should stand out for you above is the one saying that Shurat HaDin is a proxy for Israeli intelligence services. Darshan-Leitner told that same U.S. diplomat in 2007, according to Wikileaks documents, that the Mossad played an instrumental role in creating her group. This has been known for a few years.
But a new development reported by Maariv, is that Shurat HaDin has created a cottage-industry of lawyers, terror “experts,” and researchers who ride this anti-terror lawfare gravy train, which the article calls “the anti-terror industry.” One of those in particular, her husband, is a former disciple of Meir Kahane:
[This] agenda provides financial support not just for Darshan Leitner and her American-born husband, lawyer Aviel Leitner, who was an activist in the Kahanist movement thirty years ago; but also tens of lawyers in Israel and the rest of the world, the U.S. in particular, among them many who are veterans of the Israeli security apparatus, including the Mossad, IDF and Shin Bet.
Several anti-Zionist websites have claimed that Leitner and his wife at one time represented Yigal Amir, Rabin’s assassin. I could not confirm this with other sources, but if true, it would be instructive as to where their hearts lie ideologically.
The Wikileaks memo reveals that none other than Stuart Eisenstadt, a former Carter administration official, is a lobbyist for their interests. Former IDF AMAN intelligence chief, Uri Saguy, also flies around the world earning substantial fees for his expert testimony on SH’s behalf in courts around the world. Perry Fogel, a former Shin Bet unit chief, also writes expert opinions on behalf of SH cases for a handsome fee. Former journalist and Shin Bet officer Ronnie Shaked, also serves the NGO in this fashion. Maariv says the testimony is remunerated according to American legal standards, tens of thousands of dollars per case. Often the experts are flown to foreign countries to testify and housed in elegant accommodations, all on SH’s dime.
Court documents in cases filed by SH in the U.S. reveal it hires some of the most expensive, prestigious law firms in the nation including senior partners in David Boies’ firm, Boies Schiller & Drexner; and the prestigious Washington firm, Patton Boggs.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Israeli intelligence pursues its own agenda using the smokescreen of so-called civil rights or anti-terror NGOs. Intelligence agencies have been co-opting civil society organizations for decades (remember when the CIA funded U.S. student groups in the 1950s, including the Paris Review?). The difference between what Israel is doing and what other western intelligence agencies do is that the westerners feel some level of constraint. They understand that there is a price to be paid if they or the co-opted NGO is exposed. This limits their activities to an extent. But not Israel. It’s damn the torpedoes and full-speed ahead.
But there is one case that hasn’t gone as Darshan-Leitner expected. In fact, instead of collaborating with her Israeli intelligence colleagues, she’s now fighting them tooth and nail. The case involves the murder of Daniel Wultz, an American Jew killed in a 2006 terror attack in Tel Aviv. SH is representing the family in a suit that targets the Bank of China and accuses it of transferring funds to the terror organizations that allegedly carried out the attack that killed the Florida teenager.
As I wrote above, part of the “package” which SH serves up to the court involves testimony by former or current Israeli intelligence agents. In this case, that would be Uzi Shaya. He tracked the purported financing for the attack and warned Bank of China officials that they were financing Mideast terrorism. The State offered Shaya as an expert witness to corroborate the charges brought.
Ironically, one of the conditions he demanded in order to testify was that there be no image of him recorded at the hearing. You can see here that I’ve offered a publicly accessible image of him. I’m not sure what he was afraid of.
But a fly got into the ointment. Two flies, actually. The first was a major State visit Bibi Netanyahu planned to China. No Israeli prime minister had ever visited the country. The amount of global cache this visit offered both to Bibi and Israel itself was enormous. Even more important was the prospect of China’s enormous appetite for precisely the sort of products Israel exports, including the most sophisticated military hardware and cyber-tools. As China dangled the enormous carrot in front of Bibi, it drew it back precisely as the Israeli leader reached for it. There was just one small catch: the Bank of China trial. China’s leaders, no doubt at the behest of the country’s leading bank, told him to stop cooperating with the case or the trip was off.
This might’ve been enough to torpedo the case on its own, but China had another card up its sleeve, and this one was the trump card: Sheldon Adelson’s Macau casino interests are largely financed by a credit line extended by the Bank of China. Ben Caspit wrote in the Jerusalem Post:
Bank of China is…the main bank working with Jewish-American tycoon Sheldon Adelson’s gambling business in Macau. In 2011, the bank managed the flotation of a large bond package in which $3.7 billion was raised for Sands China, a company owned by Adelson.
Public documents show that the Bank of China is listed as a “permanent adviser” to Sands China and that it is the “administrative agent” of two companies owned by Adelson that lent money to the firm.
After threats from Adelson’s lawyers, the Post dutifully removed the article from its website (the Hebrew version is republished here). This is SOP for the Israeli (and American Jewish) oligarchal elite. Given that an article in Haaretz that detailed Netanyahu’s lobbying on Adelson’s behalf with the Japanese government was “disappeared” from that company’s website, such phenomena will not seem unusual.
Bibi’s buddies, when queried by Caspit, claim he didn’t know anything about the connection between Bank of China and Adelson. But to quote Mandy Rice-Davies: “he would say that, wouldn’t he?”
What’s extraordinary about this new development in the case is that Netanyahu, when offered an opportunity to realize his own ideological agenda in fighting anti-Israel terror, declines to take it. Instead, he opts to pay obeisance to the financial Godfather, without whom he could never have achieved political power. Fealty to Sheldon Adelson trumps loyalty to his own principles.
Anyone who has followed Bibi’s career knows that his ideology is only skin-deep. He’s much more attuned to the dynamics of power: how to get it and how to keep it. He’s willing to sacrifice principle in service to maintaining his political career. This is precisely what he did when, under pressure from the Bush administration, he made a speech endorsing a two-state solution. This enabled Bush and liberal Zionists everywhere to say: “you see, Bibi can be a man of peace. Even he changed his ideological stripes and endorsed pragmatism.” Nothing actually was farther from the truth. Bibi has never mentioned the two state solution since, and it’s a dead letter.
Given that the American political system is now for sale to the highest bidder and Adelson has proven capable of being a major buyer, Americans might reflect on how Adelson’s impact could play out here. If he was able to buy Bibi and get him to do his bidding around the world, imagine what the gambling boss would do to a U.S. president whom his money got elected. It is one thing when the prime minister of a small country is a kept man. But quite another when it’s the president of the United States. Is that what we want?
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.