On May 15, a Washington, D.C., court awarded $332 million in damages to an American family whose 16-year-old son was killed in a 2006 suicide bombing in Israel. The court determined that Syria was guilty and would have to pay the judgment because it supported the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, which actually carried out the attack. The judgment against Damascus is perhaps no coincidence as Syria is currently on everyone’s enemy list, but the principle involved, that supporters of militant groups can be held legally responsible for the consequences of that support, is referred to as “lawfare.” The preeminent promoter of the use of lawfare is the Israeli group Shurat HaDin, which on its website describes how its various courtroom victories have made it the “bane of anti-Israel groups throughout the world.”
Shurat HaDin was in the forefront of opposition to the Gaza aid flotilla of 2011. It successfully pressured the Greek government to physically stop the boats from sailing and international insurers to deny coverage to the vessels involved. It sent warning letters to the U.K.- and U.S.-based global satellite company INMARSAT stating that it might be liable for massive damages and criminal prosecution if it provided communication services. The legal warning asserted that under U.S. law, INMARSAT and its officers would “be open to charges of aiding and abetting terrorism if it provides satellite services to the Gaza-bound ships.” It should be noted that the ships were completely and scrupulously legal, were breaking no laws, and were carrying humanitarian supplies that had been inspected. All passengers and crews had signed pledges of nonviolence.