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Lady Globes November 2003 (English)

Lady Globes November 2003 (English)

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Nitsana Darshan-Leitner
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner

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Published by: Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center on Nov 19, 2013
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06/21/2014

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Nov 2013 – Lady Globes
The State of Israel Stayed Behind: She does not have the mind of an anarchist, she does not engage in street fights
She has led tens of lawsuits against terrorist groups and state sponsors of terror. Courtrooms around the world have ruled in her favor in amounts close to 1 billion dollars and have allowed her to seize finances and assets in order to bankrupt terrorists. Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner is leading battles that the State of Israel does not wish to conduct. Now, for the first time, she is fighting the state itself, which requested her to launch a major lawsuit against the Bank of China, but has abandoned her in the New York court. "They sent me to fight, made use of victims of terror, and abandoned them."
Tehiya Barak ■ Photography: Eyal Yitzhar Last April, Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner found herself in the middle of a story that seemed as if it was taken from a suspense novel. At the heart of the plot: global economic interests, political and diplomatic pressures, and Israel-China relations. On that spring day, Darshan received a telephone call from the American attorneys of the Shurat HaDin organization which she heads. These attorneys manage the lawsuit by the Israeli terror victims against the Bank of China, the central bank of China, where, they allege, accounts serving terror organizations in Gaza were operated. This was an urgent phone call. The feeling was that the ground beneath their legs was crumbling. The Bank of China's representatives happily announced to the court in New York that the central witness in the case, the former intelligence official Uzi Shaya, who had warned the Chinese about these accounts, would not be testifying. Darshan was beside herself. In the first instance she was surprised, and then she was angry, and finally she was enraged and threatened that she would subpoena not only Shaya but any intelligence officials with any part in the matter. "The first telephone call was to Shaya, who admitted there was a problem," she says. "The next phone calls were to senior officials in the intelligence community. I was very angry, and had difficultyp remaining calm during these conversations. I need to hear from the Chinese that Israel has broken her promises to me? I told them 'You have placed us in an insane situation,' and they said to me 'Do you think that if you raise your voice it will help?'" The story begins in 2005. "The Israeli security community discovered that the Bank of China operated accounts belonging to a Hamas activist in Gaza. He received funds from the Hamas headquarters in Jordan and Syria, and each time they transferred a round sum of one hundred thousand dollars, that would be deposited in the Chinese account in the Province of Guangzhou, a very active province from the perspective of terrorism, because China does not classify the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations as terrorist organizations. The funds passed from
 
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China to the bank in New York, where they were immediately withdrawn and transferred to Gaza. We are talking about accounts which had at least 3 million dollars pass through them during the Intifada years, at a time when Gaza was under siege and this money was needed by it like air to breathe in order to carry out terror attacks. "In 2007 an intelligence organization approached me. The intelligence officials told me the story, described how they met with the managers of the bank and warned them, and how the latter did nothing. Funds to finance terror continued to flow into Gaza, and the Chinese claimed that there was no problem with these accounts, and that no Chinese laws had been broken. The intelligence officials concluded their story and asked me: 'Can you sue the bank?' They promised that they would help with all that was needed – testimonies, documents, evidence. I immediately began working."
"We will not give up"
The work began through the Shurat HaDin organization, that Darshan-Leitner founded in 2003, at the height of the Second Intifada for the purpose of fighting terror financing. She was inspired by a legal center in southern United States, which sues neo-Nazi organizations. She serves as the director of the organization, and supervises a team of 10 lawyers. To this day she has launched tens of lawsuits against state sponsors of terrorism, terrorist groups and other bodies who take part in the matter, and has used tools such as freezing funds and assets in order to bankrupt them [the terrorists]. The organization receives donations from Jews around the world, and from evangelical Christians who love Israel. "We are a non-profit organization, and depend on donations of 1.5 million dollars a year. Until today we have been awarded over one billion dollars in judgments, and have collected more than 120 million dollars." Almost since the beginning she has been cooperating with Israeli intelligence groups and in particular with Galgal – a body which is made up of representatives from the Shabak, Mossad, Military Intelligence and the National Security Council. This cooperation increased "when they saw in the war against terror financing one of the most important elements for defeating terrorism, and since then Galgal began approaching us. They see us as a tool for attacking terrorist bodies." Five years into the trial, millions of dollars have been poured into the lawsuit and to finance legal expenses, serious threats were received from the Bank of China, including a promise that it will be put to a criminal trial in China, and above all, terror victims will be forced to return to the attacks and pull out their bloodied stories as evidence. "And after all of this, Israel chooses to retreat. I ask why, and do not receive substantive answers. My trustworthy sources, and in general, anyone who knows the details of this case, speak of Chinese pressures and the Israel-China relations which are on the agenda." "If Israel had not retreated from involvement in the case, Netanyahu's visit to China would not have taken place. Recently, I had a meeting with the Justice Ministry and the National Security Council, I said there: "Excuse me, but when you came and asked me to bring this lawsuit didn't you know China was a power? Did you not know that maybe one day you would want to warm up the relationship? You cannot begin a legal process in a United States court and then eliminate it in one swoop, because now you
 
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decided that China is more important.' They did not answer me, they only asked that we be patient." Darshan promises that she will blink last. "If the testimony is not forthcoming, I will ask the court to subpoena high-ranking Israeli officials, among them the head of the National Security Council, Yaakov Amidror, and the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, requiring them to testify. We will not give up the testimony, and the court will not give up either."
- Were There not Earlier Signs That Israel  Would Retreat?
 "Listen, I worked closely with the intelligence groups the entire time. They provided us with details on a few accounts, to show the Bank of China that we knew what we were talking about. We also obtained an affidavit from a former intelligence official, Shlomo Matalon, who describes the meetings in China in which the Bank of China officials were warned. I was promised that Shaya would testify. In March, we were still worked with the legal department of the security community on the condition of this testimony. We agreed that he would not testify publicly, that his face and name would not be revealed and that the testimony would be given in Israel. A month later, the State of Israel broke all its promises." "What is funny is that during the whole case, the Bank of China taunted us and said we do not have any witnesses or evidence and that the lawsuit was unfounded. Already three years ago, during the discovery stage, we received a memorandum from the Chinese Foreign Ministry stating that they will deny these meetings and that the Israelis will deny them as well."
- When you investigated the substance of this memorandum, how did they respond?
 "At every point I got promises that it will be okay, that Uzi will testify. Today I understand that the Chinese had already known what I did not know, that at the moment of truth, the State of Israel would not help. Otherwise, where did they receive the confidence to declare each time in court that the lawsuit was unfounded, despite all the documents I presented?"
"Flinching as if From Fire"
- How do you feel now?
 "Listen, it is a terrible story. I dragged 22 families, victims of terrorism, to file a lawsuit. The court in New York has been adjudicating the matter for a number of years. I found myself in a personal fight against one of the biggest banks in the world. They threatened me with a six page letter. I can't travel to China. I traveled to Thailand recently without going through China, I do not take risks. "I relied upon the promises of the security groups. They sent me to fight, made use of victims of terror and discarded them. We went through obstacles with this case, victims of terror being questioned without their feelings being taken into consideration, being torn to pieces. 'Maybe you were mentally imbalanced before the terror attack," or 'Why did you knowingly choose to be a resident of Sderot, a war zone?' these were the questions the other side asked without mercy." "It is an extremely difficult process. And now, the State of Israel who sent them there has shaken itself from them, abandoned them. What was the country's goal? To take these victims of terrorism, to use them to sue and to close the accounts. These accounts really were closed, after about a year, mysteriously, but now I am

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