Israeli terror victim wins $1.5 million verdict under nation-state law

The judge used the new Basic Law to rule on a two-decades-old lawsuit, awarding a plaintiff millions of shekels in damages.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Drori awarded 5.4 million shekels (1.5 million US dollars) to a man who was badly injured 20 years ago in a Tel Aviv attack committed by Hamas terrorists. The basis of the ruling was the new nation-state law.

The unprecedented ruling quoted a clause in the law that appears on its face to provide support for Diaspora Jewry facing anti-Semitism: “The State shall strive to ensure the well-being of the Jewish people and of its citizens who are in distress due to their Jewishness or citizenship.”

However, as the judge wrote, “Anyone who reads the Hamas charter” can see the danger that the terror group poses to Jews, reasoning that “the Jewish people, … certainly when they are in Israel, are defined as ‘in distress due to their Jewishness.’”

Since the state did not “ensure the well-being of its citizens,” which is now its duty according to the nation-state law, he said that the law serves as “alternative relief in ensuring – and certainly not obstructing – a Jew injured in a terror attack by Hamas from receiving the highest possible compensation according to Israeli law.”

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The plaintiff, David Mashiah, along with 15 other people, was injured in August 1998 when a bomb placed in a reinforced steel garbage can on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv exploded. He was the most seriously injured, to the point of receiving 100% disability from the National Insurance Institute.

After the Hamas terrorist ring that planted the device was caught and confessed, he and his family sued the organization.

Drori took into account the loss of income and distress suffered by Mashiah over the years, and added to that nearly 20% (NIS1 million) in punitive damages. He noted that this extra sum has only been applied in four other terror cases, two of which Drori ruled on as well.

The judge saw no problem in using the two-month-old law retroactively to decide a case that had languished for two decades. Emphasizing that he doesn’t read the new law as simply declarative in nature, Drori wrote, “We, the judges – as part of the government authorities in the State of Israel – are obligated to apply and implement the Basic Law: Israel – the Nation-State of the Jewish people.”

The judgment, which may ultimately be only symbolic since Hamas will refuse to pay damages, represents a moral victory for the plaintiffs by broadening the terror group’s scope of liability under Israeli law.