US Stops All Foreign Aid to Palestine
A new law passed by Congress again cuts United States’ funding for Palestine.
Thanks to a bill passed last year in Congress, the U.S. just ended its roughly $60 million annual financial support of Palestine, at Palestine’s request.
Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) in July of last year and it was then signed into law by President Trump. The act, while it does not target Palestinian funds specifically, lead to Palestine requesting the U.S. stop sending financial support.
What the act does allow is for U.S. citizens to sue any defendant that receives financial aid from the U.S. in U.S. courts for damages resulting from acts of terrorism.
While Americans have sued foreign defendants over terrorism-related atrocities in the past, U.S. courts have failed to find that they maintained jurisdiction over foreign defendants. Two such specific cases were cited in the ATCA’s House report.
As Lawfare explains, in both Waldman v. Palestine Liberation Organization and Livnat v. Palestinian Authority plaintiffs or their family members were injured or killed in terrorist attacks in Israel and the West Bank that were attributed to individuals with ties to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The plaintiffs, in turn, pursued claims against both organizations. However, the plaintiffs lost due to the courts finding they lacked jurisdiction.
US Courts Granted Jurisdiction
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the ATCA to remedy the lack of jurisdiction and it was widely accepted and approved by both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Now the ATCA has essentially granted U.S. courts a wide expanse of jurisdiction. Lawfare writes:
The ATCA now establishes that any defendant “shall be deemed to have consented to personal jurisdiction” if it does one of two things 120 days after ATCA’s enactment: (1) receives U.S. foreign assistance pursuant to economic support fund (ESF) or international narcotics control and law enforcement (INCLE) authorities; or (2) establishes or maintains a headquarters or other facility in the United States while benefiting from a waiver or suspension of a statutory provision that bars “the PLO or any of its constituent groups” from operating such facilities in the United States. Such consent extends personal jurisdiction for ATA claims regardless of when the act of international terrorism on which they are predicated occurred, but ends five years after a defendant ceases the activities described in (1) and (2) above.
While the constitutionality of the ATCA is unclear, the message is clear: anyone receiving U.S. funds is now vulnerable to lawsuits over alleged complicity in acts of war.
The BBC reported that at a news conference on Thursday, senior official Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian Authority (PA) had sent a letter to the U.S. state department asking them to end funding because of a fear of lawsuits.
“We do not want to receive any money if it will cause us to appear before the courts,” he said.
A U.S. official also told the BBC, “At the request of the Palestinian Authority, we have wound down certain projects and programmes funded with assistance under the authorities specified in ATCA in the West Bank and Gaza.”
“All USAID assistance in the West Bank and Gaza has ceased,” they added.
Under the Trump administration, the U.S. had already cut hundreds of millions of dollars in USAID to Palestine in a move thought to pressure Palestine into negotiations with Israel.
Trump also stopped all U.S. financial support for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. Previously, the U.S. gave $360 million in 2017 to the fund, making it the fund’s largest donor.