Doe I v. State of Israel

Decision Date10 November 2005
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.02-1431(JDB).,CIV.A.02-1431(JDB).
Citation400 F.Supp.2d 86
PartiesJohn DOE I, et al., Plaintiffs, v. STATE OF ISRAEL, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Maher H. Hanania, Hanania & Khader, Falls Church, VA, Counsel for Plaintiffs.

Jean Engelmayer Kalicki, Arnold & Porter, LLP, Robert Neil Weiner, Arnold & Porter, Ori Lev, United States Department of Justice, Civil Division/Federal Programs Branch, David O. Bickart, Kaye Scholer LLP, Kurt J. Hamrock, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, Stephen B. Shapiro, Holland & Knight LLP, Washington, Counsel for defendants and interested parties.


BATES, District Judge.

Plaintiffs, an assortment of anonymous Palestinians living in Israel or the West Bank, or more recently in the United States, filed this action on July 18, 2002. Most plaintiffs are either U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens. The defendants were initially divided into four groups: (1) the collective "federal defendants," consisting of the President and Secretary of State;1 (2) the collective "Israeli defendants";2 (3) an assortment of American defense contractors and manufacturers, collectively referred to as the "contractor defendants"; and (4) the collective "settler defendants."3 On October 3, 2003, this Court granted the motions to dismiss filed by the federal defendants and the contractor defendants, concluding that plaintiffs had asked this Court to decide a nonjusticiable political question. See Doe v. State of Israel, No. 02-01431, slip op. at 15 (D.D.C. Oct. 3, 2003) (stating that "claims involving arms sales to Israel — which occur pursuant to a sensitive and detailed statutory and regulatory scheme inextricably intertwined with critical foreign policy decisions — are nonjusticiable political questions better left to consideration by the political branches") (hereinafter "Doe Mem. Op."). Hence, the remaining claims are those against the Israeli and settler defendants.

Now before the Court are motions to dismiss filed by the Israeli defendants and three of the settler defendants ("Rinat defendants") — Congregation Rinat Yisrael ("Rinat Congregation"); Rabbi Yosef Adler ("Adler"); and Mr. Arnon Hiller ("Hiller"). For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant these motions and dismiss the action against all defendants.4

1. Israeli Defendants

The named defendants in this case include the sovereign State of Israel, as well as the Israeli General Security Service ("Shin Bet") and the Israeli military ("Israeli Defense Forces" or "IDF"). Plaintiffs also name an assortment of individuals employed as high-ranking officials within the Israeli government, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. See Compl. at 12-15.

The complaint exceeds 140 pages and includes nearly 600 paragraphs, broadly alleging that plaintiffs, or their loved ones, have been personally and financially injured by the actions of the Israeli defendants — and those acting under their command or policies — regarding settlement activities in the West Bank. See Compl. at 70-109. Plaintiffs have sued the individual Israeli defendants in both their official and personal capacities, alleging that those officials acted outside the scope of their official authority on behalf of the state. See Compl. at 12-15. Plaintiffs also allege that those officials are derivatively liable for the actions of the settler defendants, and further allege that the named officials had command responsibility for the actions of subordinate governmental employees who either acted pursuant to unofficial national policy or without proper supervision by the Israeli defendants. See, e.g., Compl. at 3. Violations of various international laws and conventions are also alleged. See Compl. at 109-12.

The complaint seeks punitive and treble damages, compensatory damages and injunctive relief, for causes of action allegedly arising under the Alien Tort Claims Act ("ATCA"), the Torture Victims Protection Act ("TVPA"), the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), customary international law, assorted international conventions and agreements, and the tort laws of various American states. See Compl. at 109-39. Specifically, plaintiffs identify the following claims: genocide, Compl. at 112; crimes against humanity, Compl. at 113; war crimes, including intentional killing, torture, inhumane treatment, and destruction of property without military necessity, Compl. at 114; conspiracy to commit racketeering activities in coordination with the American government, based upon the predicate offenses of murder, attempted murder, kidnaping, threat of murder, and arson, Compl. at 115-16; conspiracy to commit racketeering activities with settler defendants and the Rinat defendants through the predicate offenses of attempted murder, threat of murder, arson, and extortion, Compl. at 118-20; extrajudicial killing, Compl. at 121; torture, Compl. at 123; arbitrary arrest and detention, Compl. at 124; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, Compl. at 125; wrongful death, Compl. at 126; battery, Compl. at 128; false imprisonment, Compl. at 129; assault, Compl. at 130; intentional infliction of emotional distress, Compl. at 131; negligent infliction of emotional distress, Compl. at 132; trespass, Compl. at 134; and conversion, Compl. at 136.

The complaint is an amalgam of personal anecdotes describing the individual plaintiffs' suffering as the result of what they characterize as human rights violations. See Compl. at 70-108. All of the alleged human rights violations occurred in the West Bank or on Israeli soil. According to the complaint, however, injuries and harms have been suffered within the United States. For example, plaintiff Jane Doe II lives in South Carolina. Compl. at 108. She alleges negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, caused when she learned, from a television news report that she watched in the United States, that her childhood home in the West Bank had been destroyed by a rocket fired by Israeli forces, killing two of her sisters and injuring her niece and nephew. Compl. at 108-09. Other plaintiffs claim that the destruction of their livelihoods and property in the West Bank has caused them to suffer financial harm, which has impacted them within the United States. The majority of plaintiffs claim that, after returning to the United States, they continued to suffer residual pain and suffering from injuries inflicted abroad by the Israeli or settler defendants.

Plaintiffs begin by stating that "Israel is a terrorist state" and describing the Jewish settlements in the West Bank as "non or quasi governmental terrorist organizations." Compl. at 22 ¶ 76. Plaintiffs further assert that "[f]or decades, the United States government ... has turned a blind eye to the outrages perpetrated by Israel and its agents against American citizens because the victims were of Palestinian descent," thereby "allow[ing Israel] to torture and kill American citizens with impunity." Compl. at 23 ¶ 81. The complaint claims that the land in the West Bank is Palestinian land, and charges that Israel has confiscated that land by encouraging its citizens to develop settlements on the land, which, according to plaintiffs, violates international law. See Compl. at 23 ¶ 83. The complaint also chronicles plaintiffs' perspective of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict evolved, and why it persists. See Compl. at 22-70.

2. The Rinat Defendants

Rinat Congregation is a religious corporation that is organized under the laws of New Jersey and is located in Teaneck, New Jersey. Rinat Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 2. It maintains a website that is accessible twenty-four hours a day from any location that has a viable internet connection and has not blocked the website. See Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n to Rinat Def.'s Mot. Dismiss at 23. The Rinat website provides information about its ideology — including its support of the Israeli people regarding the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and allows visitors to join an email list, submit contact information, provide financial support, volunteer their services, and submit suggestions. Id. at 23-24. The site also contains links to other sites that accept contributions. Id. at 25. One of the causes to which a visitor can contribute money is called "Israel Action," which plaintiffs characterize as the Israeli settlement movement. Id. According to plaintiffs, contributions made through the Rinat website are funneled to other settler defendants, particularly the Halamish/Neve Tzuf Settlement. Id. at 25.

Defendant Adler is the spiritual leader of Rinat Congregation, and defendant Hiller is its former president. Rinat Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 2. Both reside in New Jersey. None of the Rinat defendants is located in or operated from the District of Columbia ("the District"). Rinat Def.'s Reply Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 18. Plaintiffs do not allege that the Rinat defendants frequently are present in the District for either business or pleasure, or have conducted any fund-raising activity in the District; nor do they allege that District residents have made contributions, or that any contributions have originated from the District.

The allegations against the Rinat defendants take two forms: (1) violations of RICO under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(b)-(d), brought by plaintiff John Doe II; and (2) a host of common law tort claims arising under the laws of various states (battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence per se, trespass, and conversion). See Compl. at 118-21, 128, 130-36. All claims rest on plaintiffs' assertion that the Rinat defendants actively solicited...

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