State-Court Liability for U.S. Entities Furthering International Harms: Tort Causation & U.S. Financiers of Israeli Settler Organizations Dispossessing Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah



In an age of drastically narrowed federal-court remedies, this Article offers a new framework to hold a range of U.S. actors accountable for facilitating grave human rights abuses and international law violations abroad. The Article responds to impacted communities’ and international human rights practitioners’ search for different legal tools in a post-Alien Tort Statute world. It identifies state tort law as a promising alternative, chiefly because, as a creation of the common law, tort law is flexible and adaptable. This Article grapples with a predictable but undertheorized obstacle to pursuit of human rights and international-law claims under tort law: showing a causal connection between U.S.-based actors’ actions and the ultimate harm that individuals and communities experience at the hands of third parties. It demonstrates how tort jurisprudence already provides a path to liability in circumstances of complex causation and multiple tortfeasors via evidential grouping principles. Several variations of this doctrine prove particularly relevant for human rights litigation.

This Article applies this causation framework to the context of U.S.-based actors’ role in aiding and abetting Israeli settler organizations’ forced home expulsions and expropriation of Palestinian land in Sheikh Jarrah, occupied East Jerusalem. Sheikh Jarrah is a site of both particularly pitched dispossession efforts by Israeli settlement enterprise actors, and particularly strong organizing and resistance by Palestinian communities. In addition to its political and ideological importance, Sheikh Jarrah presents complex causation issues that lend themselves to testing the reach of evidential grouping variations. Numerous U.S.-based entities are responsible for funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to Israeli settlement organizations, which are in turn committing grievous harms against Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah. Despite years of legal efforts by practitioners and directly impacted people, U.S. entities so far have escaped any meaningful accountability for their support of an enterprise that plainly violates international law. This Article illustrates how evidential grouping could operate in practice to reach liability in U.S. courts for Palestinian communities in Sheikh Jarrah. It also provides a roadmap that can be applied in a broad range of other contexts in which U.S. actors are funding or enabling rights violations. In so doing, this Article hopes to provide impacted communities, advocates, and legal practitioners with a new tool for seeking legal accountability for harms abroad enabled by U.S. actors’ funding or facilitation, as part of the larger struggle toward collective liberation.


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