Lawfare is the term for the practice of employing legal proceedings to wage a kind of war on a country or cause. For the most part, the State of Israel has been on the receiving end of this effort as non-governmental organizations and others purporting to support the cause of human rights have attempted to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist and to self-defense with specious efforts to arraign before the bar of justice. But not everybody in Israel believes the best way to counter these attacks is to play defense or simply ignore it. Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner founded Shurat HaDin—the Israel Law Center in 2004 to use the law to not only work for the rights of Jewish victims of terrorism but also to make the terrorists, state sponsors, and enablers in the business world pay for their crimes. For this she was rewarded with an article profiling her activities in yesterday’s New York Times that posed the question in its headline as to whether her work was “misguided,” a clear indication of the opinion of the paper’s editors. But that verdict can only be sustained if you believe those who support terrorism deserve legal impunity.
The piece by Jodi Rudoren does provide us with yet another tortured food metaphorfrom the paper’s Jerusalem bureau chief. In describing her relentless efforts to keep probing legal foes for weaknesses and to adopt the best strategies, Darshan-Leitner made an analogy to baking challah for the Sabbath. Rudoren uses that one line to attempt to gain some insight on her subject’s career but it doesn’t work.
Even less convincing is Rudoren’s effort to put down Darshan-Leitner as either a worthless publicity hound/profiteer or an impediment to the peace process. Indeed, who is the only source Rudoren can produce to justify the headline about the Law Center’s efforts being “misguided?” The Israeli attorney who had been defending the Palestinian Authority in cases relating to its financial support for terrorists described her as a “nuisance.” I’m sure his clients and others who believe those who commit terrorism against Jewish Americans and Israelis feel the same way. But it’s hard to see why anyone else would view her activities in that same light.
Rudoren also finds some anonymous sources that bash Darshan-Leitner for getting too much credit for cases that are ultimately litigated in American courts where, as an Israeli, she of course cannot practice. But that is hardly fair. She doesn’t claim to litigate all cases to conclusion herself. Nor could she. Her job is to set in motion proceedings that both publicize Palestinian terror to international publics that hear relatively little about the subject and build support for the effort. No wonder the Palestinians, other terror funders, and their mouthpieces want to silence her.
Not all of her efforts have been successful. In even those cases she has won, collecting judgments for those who sued those responsible for terror is easier said than done. But Darshan-Leitner has always rightly understood that the main point of these efforts is to change the narrative from false charges of Israeli war crimes to the real story of Middle East terrorism in which Palestinian and Islamist groups indiscriminately slaughter Jews and think there is no way they will ever be made to pay for their crimes.
The subtext of this criticism has little to do with the letter of the law or how much the Israel Law Center has collected from terror funders and enablers. For some in the media and on the political left, any effort on the part of Israelis or friends of Israel to draw attention to Palestinian terrorism is what is really “misguided.” From their perspective, knowing the truth about the PA is, in a sense, the biggest obstacle to peace, since the more we know about it and other terror funders, the less likely Israelis or Americans will be to trust them to keep their promises or to refrain from renewing the conflict even after Israel is eventually compelled to give up even more land in the vain hope of receiving peace in exchange. In particular, Darshan-Leitner’srecent successes in launching cases against the Arab Bank and the PA have drawn the ire of Israel’s critics.
As with the State Department’s refusal to tell the truth about Palestinian incitement, criticisms of the Israel Law Center’s cases is not so much about the facts or the law as it is about the bad manners of an Israeli who wants to uncover and publicize the truth about the Jewish state’s peace partners. It is that, and not her legal acumen or publicity, that is Darshan-Leitner’s real sin. It is one for which she will never find any forgiveness from the New York Times and other outlets who otherwise ignore her efforts.