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Israel demands compensation from Palestinians for tourism revenue loss during Second intifada

Jerusalem24 – Israel’s Jerusalem District Court ordered on Tuesday the Palestinian Authority (PA) to pay 5.5 million shekels ($1.5 million) in compensation to Israeli tourist guides for business lost during the Second Intifada.

The lawsuit, filed in the Jerusalem District Court on 1 July 2003 by pro-Israeli “lawfare” organization Shurat HaDin, blames dwindling tourist numbers between 2000 and 2005 on Palestinian attacks and the general situation of unrest in the occupied West Bank.

Shurat HaDin successfully petitioned the Jerusalem District Court in another compensation case in June 2022, with the court ordering the PA to pay 130 million shekels ($36 million) to relatives of Israelis killed during the Second Intifada.

Who are Shurat HaDin?

The self-described “lawfare” organization, also known as the Israeli Law Center, has been engaged in “hundreds” of high-profile cases around the world since it was founded in 2003 – not only against the PA and PLO, but also private individuals whom the center targeted for their pro-Palestinian stance.

2007 Wikileaks cable revealed that Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the founder of Shurat HaDin, had been “provided with intelligence” from Mossad (Israel’s national intelligence agency), and that “in its early years” the organization “took direction” from the Israeli government “on which cases to pursue.”

Shurat HaDin lawyer Aviel Leitner is a convicted terrorist associated with the Kach party, imprisoned for committing attacks against Palestinians.

Shurat HaDin founder Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who laid the blame for the Second Intifada erupting squarely at the feet of the PA, said at the time that the lawsuit would prove that the PA “intentionally targeted” Israel’s tourism industry and “perpetrated terror attacks with the goal of intimidating foreign travelers from visiting”.

The organization celebrated the ruling in a Facebook post on Wednesday, but its own documentation of the two-decades-old case is unavailable on its website or in archives, with only a brief summary and mention of the case name – confusingly dated 19 September 2000, as the Second Intifada was breaking out – specifying the plaintiffs were suing for lost earnings “which directly resulted from terror attacks and acts of violence.”

The 5.5 million shekel will likely be deducted from Israel’s monthly disbursement of tax revenues to the PA. As per the Oslo Accords Israel collects tax revenues on behalf of the PA, and regularly withholds these as a punitive measure for what is sees as non-compliant behavior from the PA.

The PA is currently indebted to the tune of $2.37 billion, and regularly delays payment of public sector workers’ salaries for months at a time as well as defaulting on its payments to the health sector in occupied East Jerusalem, driving the hospitals to the brink of bankruptcy.

“Who will compensate us?”

The Palestinian Jerusalem Governorate issued on Wednesday a scathing condemnation of the ruling, calling it “piracy, theft, and a blatant assault”.

“Who will issue compensation for what the occupation destroyed during the Intifada, for killing thousands and arresting tens of thousands of our people, destroying infrastructure over seven years, during which the whole world witnessed the breaking of the bones of our people, under direct instructions from the occupation’s leaders?”

At least 4,412 Palestinians were killed (including 727 children), 48,322 injured, and 119,000 detained during the Second Intifada.

By January 2003, six months before Shurat HaDin filed its lawsuit, The World Bank estimated Palestinian economic losses incurred during the first 27 months of the Intifada at $5.4 billion (or roughly one full year of Gross National Income). The World Bank determined the primary cause of this loss was Israel’s “imposition of restrictions on the movement of Palestinian goods and people across borders and within the West Bank and Gaza”.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) puts cumulative losses caused by Israel’s restrictions on the West Bank between 2000-2020 at $50 billion.

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