CHICAGO: A “wrongful death” lawsuit has been filed against Qatar’s royal family by relatives of 10 Americans who were either killed or seriously injured during terrorist attacks in Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank between 2014 and 2016.
Representing 51 plaintiffs and 10 victims, the lawsuit, which was filed in a New York court on Wednesday, alleges that Qatar finances Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which are both designated as “terrorist organizations” by the US government.
According to the lawsuit, which seeks compensation for the victims’ families, Qatar sought to evade US sanctions by channeling its funds through three entities.
These have been identified as Qatar Charity, a member of the US-sanctioned “Union of Good,” which is a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” because of its association with Hamas, and two banks controlled by Qatar’s royal family, Masraf Al-Rayan and Qatar National Bank (QNB).
The chairman of the board of Qatar Charity is Hamad bin Nasser Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family.
“Like any enterprise, terrorist organizations need money to operate. But unlike legitimate organizations, terrorist organizations like Hamas rely on sympathetic nation states and financial institutions who employ creative fundraising strategies to disguise their operations and evade anti-terrorism laws. Often terrorist financing is disguised as charitable contributions,” the lawsuit asserts.
According to the lawsuit: “It has long been the official policy of the government of Qatar to provide financial support to the Hamas terrorist organization. It is thus no surprise that Masraf Al Rayan bank, Qatar Charity, and Qatar National Bank, which are dominated by the Qatari government and royal family, have joined in that effort.”
On the one hand, Qatar hosts two US military bases — at Al-Udeid, home to 11,000 American military personnel, and in Al-Sailiya, a suburb just outside Doha.
On the other hand, as the lawsuit states, Qatar is one of the largest financial supporters of Hamas, the Palestinian group in control of the Gaza Strip, having given it more than $50 million over the years.
“In 2008, Palestinian officials claimed that Qatar provided Hamas with millions of dollars a month that was nominally intended for the people of Gaza,” said the lawsuit.
Hamas rose to prominence during the first intifada, becoming the principal opponent of the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.
The group carried out a series of deadly suicide bombings in February and March 1996 in retaliation for the assassination in December 1995 of its chief bomb maker, Yahya Ayyash.
The attacks were widely blamed for turning Israeli public opinion against the peace process and bringing hawkish opponents of the Oslo Accords to power.
The New York lawsuit is backed up by an extensive investigation, the findings of which make for chilling reading. For instance, it accuses QNB of maintaining an account for “Husam Badran, a Hamas Politburo spokesperson and former leader of Hamas’ military wing in the Northern West Bank.”
“The name associated with the account is ‘Husam Badran,’ and the second and third digits of the Qatar national identification number associated with that individual indicate that this ‘Husam Badran’ was born in 1966, the same year as the notorious terrorist of the same name,” the lawsuit says.
“The account information lists a Doha post office box and notes that the account has been open since at least August 2015. As a Hamas military leader, Badran orchestrated the 2001 Sbarro Pizza bombing in Jerusalem, killing 15 and injuring 130; the 2001 bombing of the Dolphinarium Discotheque in Tel Aviv, killing 21 and wounding 120; the 2002 bombing of the Passover Seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya, killing 30 and injuring 140; and the 2002 bombing of the Matza restaurant in Haifa, killing 14 and injuring 33.”
In March 2014, David Cohen, then the undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the US Treasury Department, singled out Qatar as an especially “permissive jurisdiction” for terrorist financing, noting that Qatar “has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability.”
Qatari oversight is so lax that “several major Qatar-based fundraisers act as local representatives for larger terrorist fundraising networks that are based in Kuwait,” said Cohen.
On March 23, 2018, US President Donald Trump signed the Taylor Force Act, which blocks American financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA), asserting that the PA was paying stipends to individuals who commit acts of terrorism.
Palestinians have defended the payouts, describing them as “welfare payments” made to support the surviving families of the suspects whose homes were destroyed by Israel’s government policy of “collective punishment.”
The lawsuit alleges funds provided by Hamas through Masraf Al-Rayan bank are tied to the attacks.
It says the bank is under investigation in the UK under provision of “financial services to Qatar Charity in knowing support of that organization’s financial support of Hamas and PIJ.”
Qatar Charity solicited donations in Qatar and around the world and then transferred those funds to its account at Masraf Al-Rayan in Doha, the lawsuit says.
The funds deposited at Masraf Al-Rayan were transferred in US dollars through a correspondent bank in New York and then funneled into Qatar Charity’s accounts at either the Bank of Palestine or the Islamic Bank in Ramallah.
In the final step, Qatar Charity’s local branches distributed the funds in US dollars from those local accounts to Hamas, the PIJ and their affiliates to finance acts of terrorism in Israel, the lawsuit says.
Despite the accumulated evidence of Qatar’s support for terrorism, the US, UK and other coalition countries continue to use the Al-Udeid airbase, 20 miles southwest of Doha.
Between 2012 to 2018 the Qatari royal family invested, through the Qatar Foundation, more than $1.4 billion in setting up local campuses of US colleges and universities. The investments were seen as aimed at countering criticism of Doha’s support of terrorist organizations.
This is not the first lawsuit Qatar has faced in recent times. Last year in July, Rebecca Castaneda, an attorney in Tampa, Florida, filed a federal lawsuit against Sheikh Khaled bin Hamad Al-Thani, a brother of Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
The lawsuit says Sheikh Khaled threatened two American contractors for not killing his enemies.
Castaneda has said the original lawsuit is being expanded to include three more American plaintiffs who allege “even worse violence.”
The witnesses claim Sheikh Khaled murdered an Indian employee who insulted his wife, and made seven solicitations for murder, including wanting to kill a leader in the American race car sports industry.
“Sheikh Khaled is a very violent person,” Castaneda said.
Now read the lawsuit: