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Ahmad v. Christian Friends of Israeli Communities

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 5, 2014

AYDA HUSAM AHMAD et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CHRISTIAN FRIENDS OF ISRAELI COMMUNITIES et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

JESSE M. FURMAN, District Judge.

This case involves an attempt to collect money damages from five American organizations for injuries sustained in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Plaintiffs are thirteen residents of the West Bank who were allegedly injured by Israeli citizens also living in the West Bank, referred to in the Amended Complaint as "the Settlers." Plaintiffs bring claims under Anti-Terrorism Act ("ATA"), 18 U.S.C. § 2333, and the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS"), 28 U.S.C. § 1350, based on Defendants' financial support for the Settlers. Defendants move to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docket No. 15). For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are drawn from the Amended Complaint and are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion. See, e.g., LaFaro v. N.Y. Cardiothoracic Grp., PLLC, 570 F.3d 471, 475 (2d Cir. 2009).

As noted, Plaintiffs in this action are thirteen men and women who live in the West Bank, a territory the Amended Complaint refers to as "Occupied Palestine." (Am. Compl. (Docket No. 8) ¶ 1). Of the thirteen Plaintiffs, two are American citizens (the "American Plaintiffs"), ten are Palestinians, and one is Greek. ( Id. ¶¶ 23-33). Plaintiffs claim that the territory where they reside, or at least a portion of it, is "within the internationally-recognized borders of the future Palestinian state." ( Id. ¶¶ 1, 56).

As alleged in the Amended Complaint, the common thread among Plaintiffs is that they have been subject to attacks by a group they refer to as "the Settlers." ( Id. ¶ 1). The Settlers, as defined by the Amended Complaint, are Israeli citizens who have built and live in communities - or "settlements" - in the West Bank. Plaintiffs estimate that there are "over half a million" Settlers and allege that the existence of the settlements violates international law. ( Id. ¶¶ 56-58). The attacks on Plaintiffs took varied forms, from stonings ( id. ¶¶ 23, 33), to firebombings ( id. ¶ 26), to shootings ( id. ¶¶ 30, 33), to beatings ( id. ¶¶ 31-32), to the destruction of property ( id. ¶¶ 24, 32) and vandalism ( id. ¶¶ 27-29). According to the Amended Complaint, the attacks are intended to "coerce, intimidate, and influence the Israeli government and public and thereby ultimately bring the expulsion of the Palestinian residents from Occupied Palestine." ( Id. ¶ 66).

Defendants - Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, the Hebron Fund, Inc., the Central Fund of Israel, One Israel, and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim - are organizations that have provided the Settlers with financial support. The organizations, identified in the Amended Complaint as "purported charities, " are based in the United States, and they collect donations totaling "millions of dollars" that they wire "directly to the Settlers and the Illegal Settlements." ( Id. ¶¶ 2, 68, 93). The funds are used to "build and maintain the Illegal Settlements, illegally take land in Occupied Palestine, to support the attacks by the Settlers on Palestinians living in Occupied Palestine, and to support the terrorist acts of the Settlers against Palestinians and other persons in Occupied Palestine." ( Id. ¶ 8).

Those wire transfers form the basis for Plaintiffs' ATA and ATS claims, claims they first asserted on May 17, 2013. ( Id. ¶¶ 85-89, 93-95, 109-110; Compl. (Docket No. 1)). Plaintiffs amended their Complaint approximately one month later (Am. Compl.), and Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on September 12, 2013 (Docket No. 15).

RULE 12(B)(6) STANDARD

A motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the allegations in the complaint. See ATSI Commnc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007). To survive such a motion, a complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). More specifically, the plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to show "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. If the plaintiff has not "nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [the] complaint must be dismissed." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

DISCUSSION

Applying those standards here, Plaintiffs' claims fail as a matter of law. The Court first addresses the ATA claims, which are brought solely by the American Plaintiffs, and then turns to the ATS claims, which are brought on behalf of all Plaintiffs.

A. The ATA Claims

The ATA provides that "[a]ny national of the United States injured... by reason of an act of international terrorism... may sue therefor in any appropriate district court of the United States and shall recover threefold the damages he or she sustains." 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a). Here, the American Plaintiffs allege that Defendants committed predicate acts of "international terrorism" by violating two federal statutes: Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2339A and 2339C. (Am. Compl. ¶ 86). Section 2339A prohibits the "provi[sion] of material support or resources" to terrorists, and Section 2339C prohibits the financing of terrorism. See, e.g., Strauss v. Credit Lyonnais, S.A., 925 F.Supp.2d 414, 426 (E.D.N.Y. 2013) (stating that violations of Section 2339C "are considered to be acts of international terrorism' under Section 2333(a)"); Boim v. Quranic Literacy Inst., 291 F.3d 1000, 1015 (7th Cir. 2002) ("If the plaintiffs could show that [Defendants] violated... section 2339A... that conduct would certainly be sufficient to meet the definition of international terrorism' under sections 2333 and 2331.").[1] To state a claim under the ...


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