The US, Palestine and the pursuit of justice

US court ruling against PLO and Palestinian Authority maybe the best thing that has happened to Palestinians in years.

Israeli border policeman detain a Palestinian protester during clashes at a weekly demonstration against Jewish settlements in the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah
Palestinians at large have a much more legitimate case in seeking retribution for crimes of war, writes Kuttab [Reuters]

In an ironic way, the judgement by a US court against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority maybe the best thing that has happened to Palestinians in years. By opening up the US courts to so-called victims of terrorism, the US administration has, consciously or unconsciously, walked into  a trap that could ultimately prove in favour of Palestinians.

According to the New York Times, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organisation were found liable on Monday by a jury in Manhattan for their role in knowingly supporting six attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004 in which Americans were killed and injured.

Once the US courts agree to adjudicate cases of violence against Americans in the Middle East, they will have no choice but to take similar cases by Jewish terrorist groups against American Palestinians and ultimately state terrorism acts by the State of Israel.

Israeli army cleared in Rachel Corrie death

There are plenty of cases of Palestinian Americans injured and killed by Israel, and Israeli citizens. Americans own properties in the occupied West Bank that have been damaged or expropriated by Israel and Israelis.

Pursuit of justice

In reaching the various legal instruments connected with the Oslo Accords, Palestinians agreed to an Israeli demand that no Palestinian will be allowed to sue Israel or Israelis for injuries that occurred during the Palestinian Intifada (uprising). No such agreement exists with the US and there is no reason why in pursuit of justice, Palestinian Americans can’t seek justice as well.

Furthermore, Palestinians at large have a much more legitimate case in seeking retribution for crimes of war that have been occurring regularly since 1967. The US Congress might be unhappy with the UN recognised state of Palestine joining the ICC, but it can’t have justice work only in one direction. If Americans want to apply the value of justice and equality, then they have to accept that if American courts are going to be involved in forcing the PLO to pay for actions carried out by individuals then by the same token it must allow Palestinians to do the same thing with Israelis.

If the PLO/PA fail in their bid to overturn the unusual and highly irregular hundreds of millions of dollars in judgement against the Palestinians, then the Palestinian government must make demands of Washington that are similar to those made by Israel. The US must commit through legal instruments not to allow the legal pursuit against Palestinians.

Having Americans from New York take a case against the PLO in New York is highly prejudicial. It is impossible for Palestinians to get a fair trial in a highly politicised pro-Israeli court system. Taking a small part of the conflict and putting it on trial while ignoring decades of occupation, death and destruction is simply preposterous.

If anything, it’s the Palestinians who are the real victims in this conflict and they should be the ones suing Israel and Israelis for their systematic violations of Palestinian life, land and well being.

The larger issue

The fact that a New York court has acted as if it were the International Criminal Court carrying out judgements and demanding compensation for those injured in a Middle East conflict, raise an even larger issue. Will the US courts take other cases reflecting the various world conflicts that are brewing throughout the globe?

In 2003, an Israeli bulldozer driver premeditatedly ran over a 23-year-old American peace activist, Rachel Corrie. The Israeli driver has not been held accountable for his act. Will an American court agree to sue Israel and the Israeli army for which the bulldozer driver worked?

If terrorism is the killing of civilians for a political cause, does the killing of peace activists constitute as terrorism or state terrorism? In October 2014, a Palestinian-American teen born in New Orleans, Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad, was killed by Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories; will his family be allowed to sue and can they choose the most sympathetic district to file the legal case against them in this case?

US officials are bound to say that the legal system in America is totally independent. This might be true on most local cases, but once American judges operating in a district that is biased a certain way, start acting unilaterally against one party (and the injured one to boot) this will not accomplish the coveted “justice”.

Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist and a former Ferris professor of Journalism at Princeton University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.