A suburban woman and her family are among the victors in a $655.5 million judgment against the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, alleging the groups’ complicity in at least a half dozen terror bombings in Israel between 2002 and 2004.
"These people need to be held responsible," said Shayna Gould, who was shot in the chest on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem in January 2002. "Someone needs to hold their feet to the fire."
The suburban Chicago woman, then a 19-year-old college student, was standing at a bus stop during a driving rainstorm when a gunman began spraying pedestrians with an M-16. Two women were killed in the attack, more than 40 others were wounded, and Gould had no vital signs when she arrived at a Jerusalem hospital.
"She arrived dead, without pulse, without blood pressure," Dr. Salah Odallah, one of her treating physicians, recalled shortly after the attack. But doctors at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital saved Gould’s life. She moved back to the United States, and during the trial in Manhattan, testified for the prosecution.
"Because they were so prideful of their actions, there was lots of documentation," she said. "It was interesting, to see all of the people involved, from the top to the bottom, who planned to kill me."
The P.L.O. and P.A. have vowed an appeal, and while some question whether the plaintiffs will ever see any of the mammoth judgment, their attorneys said they will seek to seize the defendants’ assets if they don’t pay.
"It’s only going to be over once they’re really held accountable," Gould said. "And I feel like the only way to do that is to hit them in the wallet."
Her father, Ron Gould, who also testified in the case, agreed, noting evidence which showed an elaborate payment schedule for those perpetrating the attacks.
"There is a sliding scale," the elder Gould said. "If you’re a martyr, your family is paid in perpetuity, and the more people you kill, the more you get."
"Money is the oxygen of the terrorist," he said. "And what we hope to do, is deplete some of that, their resources."
In a statement, the P.L.O and P.A. called the charges "baseless."
"The decision is a tragic disservice to the millions of Palestinians who have invested in the democratic process, and the rule of law," said Dr. Mahmoud Khalifa, the Palestinian Authority’s deputy minister of information. "We are confident we will prevail, as we have faith in the U.S. legal system."
For Shayna Gould, the case is a victory, 13 years after she came close to death on a Jerusalem street. But right now, she says it is not cause for celebration.
"In order to really celebrate, we have to do our very best to prevent this from happening to other innocent people," she said. "And the only way to truly prevent this, is to hit their pocketbooks."