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A US judge has told the parents of Naftali Frankel, who was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists together with another two Israeli teens in the summer of 2014, that they were partially to blame for his death because they chose to send him to a school in an area supposedly prone to terror attacks.
The three Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaer and Naftali Frankel, were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists in the summer of 2014 in the Gush Etzion area of Judea and Samaria. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave three weeks later on the route to Hebron. A couple of months later, Israeli Special Forces tracked down and killed the terrorists.
In 2015, Racheli Frankel, Naftali’s mother and a US citizen, filed a lawsuit against Iran and Syria in a federal court in Washington in a bid to hold them accountable for their son’s murder.
During the proceedings, Racheli Frankel recounted the devastating night of her son’s abduction and the subsequent torturous weeks.
Federal Judge Rosemary Mayers Collyer accepted the family’s claims but chose to award them a very small amount in compensation, arguing that the family had taken its chances and endangered itself when it chose to live in Judea and Samaria, according to the ruling obtained by Israel’s Ynet news and published on Tuesday.
‘This is Unthinkable’
Collyer conceded that Frankel’s murder “was a tragic event for which money can never compensate his family.”
She was convinced that Iran and Syria did provide material support and resources to Hamas in Israel, which contributed to the hostage-taking and murder of the boys, but ordered the defendants to pay only $1 million for Naftali’s pain and suffering, $50 million in punitive damages, and $4.1 million to his family in “solatium damages,” a term for the mental anguish suffered. The family sought damages of $340 million.
The Frankel family appealed the low sum in compensation, but Collyer refused to reconsider her decision, stating that the plaintiffs had taken the risk involved in living beyond the Green Line in Israel and sending their son to a school in Gush Etzion.
Explaining the decision to award the family a relatively small sum, Collyer noted that Frankel was kidnapped and murdered for being Jewish and Israeli, not because he was an American citizen. This somehow affects the amount the family is entitled to receive in civil damages, she asserted.
Racheli Frankel was shocked by the judge’s comment. “This is unthinkable,” she said. “The children were on their way home from school. How can the teens be responsible for their own death?”
The family members appealed the ruling through attorneys Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Robert Tolchin of the Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, saying that the court exceeded its authority and involved unlawful considerations in its decision.
Last month, a court ruled that the Frankel family is entitled to a higher level of damages than that awarded by the earlier judgment and handed the case back to Collyer, clarifying that no guilt should be ascribed to the victim. The court also said that it found “no legal basis” to limit damages based on being “targeted for his affiliation with Israel, rather than the US.”
Collyer is expected to rule on the matter soon.
Justifying terror against innocent civilians
“We filed the claim to ‘irritate the bad guys,’” Racheli Frankel explained, according to Ynet. “There are many, ways to fight terror, and in this case, we are trying to put financial obstacles in their way. Even if a large sum of money is awarded, no one will enforce the ruling. We don’t actually expect to receive the money.”
Frankel referred to the original ruling as “outrageous,” adding that “the boys were on their way home from school. Does that make it okay to kill them?”
Meir Katz of the Berkman Law Office, who is one of the attorneys representing the Frankels, welcomed the new ruling.
Darshan-Leitner stated that “we are glad that the court of appeals ruled that Naftali shouldn’t have expected to be murdered by Palestinian terrorists because he studied beyond the Green Line. The statement that the Frankel family took the risk of being kidnapped and murdered because of their place of residence justifies terrorism and violence against innocent civilians. Moreover, when such a statement is issued by a court—alongside a financial reward to Palestinian terrorists—it may encourage further acts of terror, in Israel and worldwide.”
Iran will not pay, but the Frankels may receive the money through the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund. The Fund is financed by fines paid by entities found to be engaging in business with countries in violation of US sanctions.