A lawsuit by an American man who sought to hold Arab Bank responsible for injuries he sustained in a sniper attack in Israel cannot go forward, a federal judge in Brooklyn has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein of the eastern district of New York ruled on Nov. 6 that Matt Gill, a citizen of both the U.S. and Israel, cannot hold the bank liable for Gill's being shot in 2008 while standing inside Israel's borders in an area overlooking the Gaza Strip.
At the time Gill served as an aide to Israel's minister of public security. He was on a tour of the area with a delegation from Canada when the group came under attack from the Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas, Gill charged in his 2011 complaint.
Arab Bank is based in Jordan but it has an office in New York, where some transactions alleged to have aided Hamas took place.
Though Gill charged Arab Bank with providing material support to Hamas in violation of U.S. law, the court ruled he failed to establish the bank bore legal responsibility for causing his injuries, either by its own actions or in a conspiracy with Hamas.
"Hamas is not the defendant; the bank is," Weinstein wrote in a Nov. 6 ruling that dismissed the case. "And the evidence does not prove that the bank acted with an improper state of mind or proximately caused plaintiff's injury.
The ruling comes amid a series of lawsuits filed in Brooklyn federal court that charge Arab Bank with aiding Hamas, which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007. Taken together, the cases test how far banks must go to vet customers for ties to terror groups.
"This is the first Arab Bank case where the court has evaluated the entire record, and it dismissed the case concluding that the Bank was not responsible for the plaintiff's injuries," bank spokesman Bob Chlopak said in an email.
In his suit, Gill charged the bank with providing financial services to Hamas through a series of groups, charities and people affiliated with the organization.
The court, however, found the alleged connections among the entities and individuals to whom Gil pointed and Hamas either without basis or sufficiently attenuated to warrant a finding the bank funneled money to Hamas that could have helped to finance the 2008 attack.
Though Gill alleged the bank processed roughly 157 transactions on behalf of people allegedly affiliated with Hamas over a roughly four-year period beginning in December 2000, the court concluded he failed to show the transactions accounted for a sufficient enough share of the hundreds of thousands of transactions Arab Bank cleared through its New York office annually or that the bank knew the transactions could result in harm to an American four years later.
"No single or total transfer highlighted by plaintiff establishes the requisite magnitude and temporal connection to the attack required to find that the bank's actions proximately caused plaintiff's injuries," Weinstein ruled.
According to the ruling, the bank's New York office, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed to pay $24 million in 2004 to settle charges by the U.S. government the bank had failed to monitor suspicious fund transfers.
For his part, Gill says the court erred by not ordering the bank to turn over records of transactions in the three years that preceded the attack. The bank had contended that laws in Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories that govern the confidentiality of transactions prevented it from producing the material.
Gill, who plans to appeal the ruling, asserts "the court erred in refusing to attach probative weight to the defendant's complete withholding of those records," Gary Osen, a lawyer for Gill, said in an email.