Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

PANEL: Fighting against Illegal Settlements and for Free Speech

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

PANEL: Fighting against Illegal Settlements and for Free Speech

Article excerpt

The Legal Battle for Justice Against Israeli Settlers and Their American Financiers

Martin F. McMahon

Janet McMahon: Following Susan's brilliant presentation of how American tax dollars are being used, and also amplifying, really, on her optimistic conclusions, we'll now be hearing from fellow Americans who are fighting the influence of the Israel lobby in this country-and winning. Our first panel looks at cases that have been filed in U.S. federal court, one here in Washington, DC, and the other in neighboring Maryland.

I might begin by noting that, while I am not related to our first panelist, I do know how to spell and pronounce his last name. One cannot take it for granted in this country, as I can personally attest!

Martin F McMahon is a graduate of Fordham University Law School in New York, and an experienced litigator who has tried cases all over the country. He spent a number of years with the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, where he oversaw significant litigation matters in the Southern District of New York and in the Second Circuit. He has had private practice experience as well, having been with Cravath, Swaine & Moore and with Proskauer, Rose, Goetz & Mendelsohn. He established his own law firm many years ago, and he's dedicated to advancing the interest of the proverbial underdog-in this case Palestinians, whom the world has largely forgotten about and deem irrelevant. In fact, a decade ago, one of his Middle East clients implored him to do something to "help the Palestinians," and he has been doing that.

He filed a lawsuit initially dismissed by the District Court here in DC. But it was overturned by the Court of Appeals here in DC. And that lawsuit seeks $1 trillion in damages from those who enabled the settlements and the settlers to commit war crimes, including genocide, ethnic cleansing and denationalization.

The court reasoned that, based on the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide has a legal, rather than a political, definition. All of the other counts [in the lawsuit] were dismissed as being political, not legal. So that means the case is going back to District Court and there will be litigation on whether Israeli settlers are committing genocide, which is a huge breakthrough.

So it's a pleasure to welcome Martin McMahon, who will describe for us the legal battle for justice against Israeli settlers and their American backers. Please join me in welcoming him.

Martin McMahon: Thank you very much for your kind applause. And I must applaud Susan, wherever she is, for those great remarks. One time Elvis Presley was asked "what act do you not want to follow," and he said, "Roy Orbison." Susan is an act you should not have to follow. But I'll try to do my best to entertain you and educate you somewhat about the legal stuff. The one caveat-and forgive me, I'm too tired to stand up-the opinions I express today are my opinions. They are not the opinions of the entity that sponsored this fantastic event.

Are there any AIPAC folks out there, or retired Mossad agents, who can stand up and identify themselves? I once made that crack at a convention-

I asked, would the FBI agents who had been monitoring my phones please stand up and identify themselves? Anyway, it probably won't come as a surprise to you in the room if you know what I've been doing with respect to controversial lawsuits. I have experienced slashed car tires, insults, death threats, bar complaints and other efforts to scare me off. Thank God I'm still here to give a speech or two and again.

Let me get to the lawsuit, which some of you may know nothing about. It's a pretty famous lawsuit, by the way. This is the first time-first time ever-that the political question doctrine has not barred a complaint by Palestinians. It is a landmark case, OK? We lost in round one- it's like a heavyweight fight, at the District Court level. …

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