On December 13, 2021, the US Supreme Court invited the Solicitor General to file briefs to express the views of the US for pending case Tzvi Weiss, et al. v. National Westminster Bank (NatWest), No. 21-381, US Supreme Court (September 8, 2021). A Petition for a Writ of Certioriari was filed with the Court to request that it decide whether NatWest, a bank that processed charitable donations to a Palestinian charity with ties to Hamas, can be held liable under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) for aiding and abetting terrorism. The writ was filed on behalf of more than 200 American nationals who are family members or estate representatives of those who were injured or killed in the early 2000s by terrorist attacks committed by Hamas in Israel during the Second Intifada.
Petitioners allege that NatWest processed millions of dollars in transfers for Hamas’s principal European fundraiser, Interpal, for more than a decade, and while the transfers were mainly for charitable purposes, the petitioners allege that because NatWest knew that Interpal was linked to Hamas – a group designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) – the bank should be held liable for transferring funds that ultimately aided and abetted Hamas’s terrorist activities. The petitioners brought the action under the Antiterrorism Act (ATA) that makes it a felony to knowingly support a designated FTO and argue that under JASTA a company that knowingly supports a FTO is civilly liable for providing “substantial assistance” for terrorists acts. Petitioners are requesting that the high court overturn an April 2021 Second Circuit decision that ruled for NatWest and held as a matter of law that the bank did not “knowingly” support the FTO because the funds that it processed were for a charitable and not a “terroristic purpose,” in essence, creating a humanitarian charity exception to aiding and abetting liability. Petitioners also assert that other circuits, including the Seventh and Fifth Circuits, refuse to recognize such charitable exceptions and that, by granting certiorari, the Supreme Court could bring uniformity to the law.