A district court judge in Washington was told to issue a new ruling by a U.S. appeals court regarding a lawsuit that parents of a murdered Israeli teen filed against Iran and Syria. The district court judge had issued an original ruling stating that the family could only sue for a relatively small sum in compensation because it had endangered itself by choosing to live in Judea and Samaria.
The case, which was largely symbolic in nature, was brought to the court by U.S. citizens Racheli and Avi Fraenkel after their son Naftali disappeared in June 2014 together with two other boys, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach. The boys had been hitchhiking from a bus stop in Gush Etzion, when the inadvertently entered a car that was being driven by members of a Hamas terror cell, who was looking to kidnap and kill Jews.
The Fraenkels live in the town of Nof Ayalon, a town located in central Israel. The town lies close to the green line but does not cross it.
Fraenkel said she that the couple had no real expectations of receiving any money from the terror-supporting states and that the issue was more symbolic than actual.
The judge who presided over the case, Judge Rosemary Collyer, concluded that the family had the right to sue both countries for their son’s murder and said in the ruling that: “Iran and Syria did indeed provide help and resources to Hamas and aided in the kidnapping and murder of Naftali.”
Collyer even said that Naftali’s death was: “a tragedy that no sum can ever compensate for.” However, she rejected the claim for $340 million, ruling that $4.1 million was appropriate due to the family’s choice of living in a dangerous area.
The Fraenkels appealed Collyer’s decision and asked the judge to reconsider her verdict.
Collyer refused and explained that: “The plaintiffs took on themselves the risks of living beyond Israel’s Green Line and sending Naftali Fraenkel another 40 km into the West Bank to a high school in Gush Etzion, six km from the city of Hebron.”
Collyer noted that Naftali was not chosen by Hamas due to the fact that he was a U.S. citizen who was “mistakenly caught in the conflict,” but that he as well as the other boys were targeted “because they were Jewish and Israeli youths. These facts do not diminish the plaintiffs’ grief or loss, but they can influence the assistance available to them when viewed through the lens of civil tort liability,” she wrote.
Racheli said that the judge’s response was “outrageous. The children were on their way from school. What responsibility did the boys have for their deaths?”
The family turned to the federal appeals court. Attorneys Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Israel Law Center and Robert Tulchin argued that Collyer had exceeded her authority and included unacceptable considerations in weighing the compensation request.
The federal appeals court accepted most of the arguments put forth by the attorneys last month and ordered the case to be sent back to Collyer. They instructed the district court to not attach guilt to the victims and issued a directive that the sum of the compensation should be increased.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)