US court upholds dismissal of lawsuit linking Palestine solidarity group to 'terrorism'
“This lawsuit was about punishing the US Campaign - and Palestinians - for daring to advocate for Palestinian rights and for supporting the Palestinian call to boycott Israel,” Diala Shamas, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said.
“The DC Circuit, as did the court below, saw this suit for what it is, and issued a resounding rejection of plaintiffs’ smear campaign and their fantastical theory of liability not based in law or fact.”
In 2019, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) sued the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, (USCPR) alleging that the group is liable for militant attacks against Israelis and American citizens because of its support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and Gaza's Great March of Return.
The Great March of Return started in 2018 and demanded an end to the blockade on the Palestinian territory and emphasised the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were displaced from their homes in what is today Israel.
Israeli forces killed more than 200 Palestinians, including medics and journalists, during the Great March, which lasted for more than a year.
Protesters responded by lighting up balloons, kites, and condoms and flying them into Israeli territories.
The JNF lawsuit described the Palestinian balloons as "arson terrorism" that caused emotional suffering and material damage for the US citizens suing the USPCR.
The case was dismissed by a federal judge in 2021. The judge said the plaintiffs failed to establish a direct link between the US-based group's activities and actual attacks against Americans.
In January, the JNF appealed the case. On Tuesday, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the case, saying the “appellants’ allegations are far less convincing than those we have evaluated in prior cases”.
“This is a victory for USCPR and an even bigger victory for the movement for Palestinian rights,” Ahmad Abuznaid, the executive director at USCPR, said.
“The JNF's lawfare attack was meant to silence us, so we’ll raise our voices all the louder. Activists across the US will keep mobilising to end all US military funding to the apartheid state of Israel.”
Palestinian rights activists have said that the lawsuit was part of a broader effort to stifle advocacy work in the US.
Dozens of states in the US have adopted anti-BDS legislation, and prominent individuals critical of Israel have faced obstacles at American institutions.