You may have read Roger Cohen’s op-ed in the Sunday New York Times, “Did Israel put Money over Justice?” Cohen recounts the dilemma facing Yekutiel “Tuly” and Sharon Wultz in Florida. They were confronted with the Israeli government denial of a deposition by a former Shin Bet agent in a New York federal court case. The case involves the laundering of Iranian funds through the Bank of China (BOC) to pay for the attack that mortally wounded their teen age son, Danny in Tel Aviv in April 2006. That testimony would be key to implementing a federal court determination of liability of the BOC in the attack that resulted in the death of Danny Wultz.
Cohen seeks to blame the impasse on Israeli PM Netanyahu, because the release of the former Shin Bet agent to provide testimony, previously approved by the Israeli government, was reversed in 2013. Allegedly that was down so as not to jeopardize a burgeoning economic relationship between Israel and the People Republic of China. Cohen does not address whether the reversal by the Israeli government might have been attributable to Israel security echelon concerns that such testimony might reveal valued agents and networks monitoring Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists backed by Iran. The BOC wants to avoid the precedent in the Jordanian-based Arab Bank case decision involving 300 victims of the terrorist group, Hamas. That decision in September 2014 held a financial institution liable involving illicit banking relations with terrorist groups and financiers.
Tuly Wultz is the father of the late Danny, who was mortally wounded by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) suicide bomber at a Tel Aviv Shawarma stand in April 2006. The United West sponsored a presentation in March 2010 that heard from two fathers of terrorism victims. Tuly Wultz, a former IDF special operations officer, and David Beamer, father of Todd, one of 9/11 passengers on Flight 93, discussed the emotional loss of their sons to terrorism. In Tuly’s case he tried to shield Danny from the blast, causing significant injuries to himself as well. Tom Trento of the United West let me preview a video interview with both Tuly and Sharon (Cantor) Wultz at their home in Florida in 2008. They had established a foundation in Danny’s name to inform people about Islamic terrorism that took the life of their son who succumbed to his injuries after a 27 day ordeal. We chronicled the course of their federal case, Wultz v. Bank of China Ltd., 979 F. Supp. 2d 479 – 2013 brought by the Wultz family against the Bank of China (BOC). The case was brought to hold the BOC liable for laundering Iranian funds for the PIJ. Those funds were used to pay for the attack and also provided compensation to the Palestinian terrorist’s family for the loss of their son, whom they venerated as a Shahid, martyr, for his heinous act. The Israeli government held back testimony by a former Shin Bet agent, who could have provided testimony in a deposition in connection with the federal court award in excess of $330 million as compensation. See: Florida family’s Anti-Terrorism case: Israeli intelligence expert barred from testifying in U.S. – Watchdog Wire – Florida.
Cohen uses the plight of the Wultzs as a thinly veiled attack on Israel PM Netanyahu. He tried to make the connection between the latter’s opening to China for economic reasons allegedly blocking ‘justice’ in the Wultz case. Based on the BOC counsel replies in the Wultz case, and given the Arab Bank case decision, the evidence from the former Shin Bet agent could be material. Unfortunately, we find this NYT Op Ed column by Cohen to be exploitative of the Wultz’s predicament. We also want to see justice done. But not at the expense of partisan politics conveyed by Cohen and comments from Democrat National Committee head, Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz. It is not lost on us that this NYT op ed was published, the weekend prior to PM Netanyahu’s looming speech before a Joint Session of Congress on March 3rd. That is the day before the Jewish festival of Purim, laden with ancient Persian existential threats to Jews. What to do about it?
The Wultz case was brought under the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1990 affording the rights of American victims like Danny Wultz and others to file cases in US courts. That law formed the legal basis for the recent decision by New York Federal court Judge George B. Daniels in a $218 million award that established the liability of both the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. That case was brought by the Israel Law Center (Shurat Ha Din and the US law firm of Arnold and Porter) on behalf of a group of 33 Americans killed or severely injured during the Second Intifada, over the period from 2002 to 2004. See: Landmark Victory In New York Federal Court for U.S. Victims of Palestinian Terror. Then there was the Iran 9/11 Links case in 2011 brought by a widow and the families of 9/11 victims, Fiona Havlish et al., v. Sheik Usamah bin-Muhammad bin-Laden et al.. See: Federal Judge to Rule On Iran Involvement with 9/11 Attack. Judge B. Daniels also presided in the Havlish case decision and award against Iran.
We would suggest the following approach might be considered to achieve justice in the Wultz matter. The proposal would be to obtain a ruling that would enable the former Shin Bet agent to be deposed to produce an evidential record, subject to court release. It would also address the equitable division of liability between the BOC and the Islamic Republic of Iran to fund the award. The extent of the BOC liability would reflect the precedent of the Arab Bank decision currently under appeal before the US Second Circuit Court in Manhattan. Further, the proposed ruling might impound the equitable amount of an adjudicated economic payment to the Wultz’s from Iranian assets retained by the Office of Foreign Asset Control of The Treasury under US sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program.
That possible solution might have a derivative benefit. It could also set a precedent for the Havlish, et. al. matter, as well. We might possibly see amicus filings by the counsel in the Havlish matter. The Wultz family has retained as counsel, nationally prominent litigation firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP. Counsel for the Wultzs could make the proposed filings before federal Judge Shira Scheindlin in the Manhattan Federal Southern District Court along with a supporting affidavit from the legal representatives of the State of Israel enabling the former Shin Bet agent to be deposed. That evidentiary record could be sealed by court order and released upon petition at a later date. Only the Wultz counsel and the legal representatives of the State of Israel are best able to see whether this proposal has merit to render justice in this languishing case. If feasible, it might set a precedent for the Havlish, et.al. and other matters brought in US courts under the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1990.
What is troubling about these cases brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1990 is the lack of proactive efforts by the Justice and Treasury Departments. It is unseemly that victims like the Wultzs, the 9/11 families, the American victims of the Second Intifada and Hamas are not supported in their pursuit of justice. Dr. Rich Swier, publisher of the eponymous e-magazine, who has also met Tuly Wultz said:
The Wultz family deserves justice and closure. The U.S. government must act to protect its citizens from attack, but once that attack takes place, everything must be done to bring the terrorists to justice and provide recompense to the family. While Tully’s son Daniel cannot be replaced, this case can add enormously to the non-profit established in Daniel’s name to help others. Justice cannot be served until Iran is punished, monetarily, for its crime against the Wultzs and so many others.