U.S. Court Rejects Palestinian-led Multi-billion Dollar Lawsuit on Settlements

A string of U.S.-based tycoons, including Sheldon Adelson, and companies were sued over alleged connections to the Israeli occupation

Diggers break the ground for a new Israeli settlement near the settlement of Shilo, West Bank, June 21, 2017.
Diggers break the ground for a new Israeli settlement near the settlement of Shilo, West Bank, June 21, 2017. Dusan Vranic/AP

WASHINGTON – A federal court rejected a lawsuit by Palestinian activists against the U.S. government and prominent American companies for their support of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The court stated that it lacked the jurisdiction to discuss this issue because it is political in nature and should be decided by policymakers, not the courts. 

The lawsuit was titled “Tamimi vs Adelson” because the plaintiffs, led by Palestinian activist Bassem al-Tamimi, included American Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson among the list of private American citizens and companies whom they sued for providing support to the settlements. All together, the case included 49 defendants, sued for over $34 billion.  

The plaintiffs also filed a separate lawsuit against Elliott Abrams, a senior foreign policy adviser under former U.S. President George W. Bush, claiming that “he has advocated and justified continued settlement growth, which necessarily meant the theft of more private Palestinian property.”

District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected the lawsuits, stating that the court “lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the claims against all Defendants because they are replete with non- justiciable political questions.” She decided to dismiss the case alltogether. 

Chutkan wrote in her conclusion that “the Palestinian and Palestinian-American Plaintiffs in this lawsuit allege that they have experienced immense loss of life, liberty, and property over the last several decades, and they seek justice and compensation for violence they have experienced. 

“At the core of their Amended Complaint, however, is the request for this court to adjudicate and resolve the lawfulness of the development of Israeli settlements in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem stretching over 30 years into the past. This issue, both close to the heart of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and central to the United States’ foreign policy decision-making in the region, is simply inappropriate for this court to resolve. Instead, these issues must be decided by the political branches,” said Chutkan, who was appointed by former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2013 and confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate.

The court's decision was praised by Israeli legal organization Shurat Hadin, which stated that “cases such as this are brought solely to furnish a foundation of legal legitimacy for the BDS movement, and undermine the legitimacy of Israel. We are grateful that the court understood the objective and agenda” behind the lawsuit. The organization expressed hope that “the judge will see clear to impose the large costs of these proceedings on the plaintiffs.”