Federal court orders Iran, Syria to pay $191 million for murder of Ari Fuld
Ari Fuld during reserve service in the Israel Defense Forces. (Photo: Courtesy of the Fuld family)

‘It’s not a military act, but it’s an act of defiance that is essential,’ said Richard Heideman, who represented the Fuld estate in the lawsuit.

By Andrew Bernard
April 2, 2024

(JNS) — The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered on Thursday that Iran and Syria pay $191 million for complicity in the murder of Ari Fuld, an American-Israeli killed by a Hamas terrorist in 2018.

Royce Lamberth, a senior judge and former chief judge on the court, held that Fuld’s estate and surviving family members are entitled to damages due to Iran’s and Syria’s roles as state sponsors of Hamas terrorism.

“The stabbing that killed Mr. Fuld was a tragic event, and money cannot fully account for the harm that these defendants have inflicted,” Lamberth wrote. “Iran and Syria have, once again, provided material support to Hamas and thereby facilitated the savage murder of a husband, father, son and brother to these plaintiffs.”

“The court’s ruling today cannot erase plaintiffs’ pain, but it can begin the process of affording them due compensation for their loss,” he added.

Richard Heideman, senior counsel at Heideman, Nudelman & Kalik, which represented Fuld’s estate and most of his family members in the suit, told JNS that the $191 million in damages is intended to compensate for the suffering of Fuld and his family but also to send a signal to Hamas’s sponsors.

“The court also went one step further and assessed punitive damages, as not only a punishment of Iran and Syria but also to send a loud and clear message that the court will not countenance the continued sponsorship by Iran and Syria of terror against Americans,” he said.

Fuld was born in New York and emigrated in 1994 to Israel, where he served in an Israel Defense Forces paratrooper unit. He then worked for an organization supporting Israeli soldiers. Fuld, who lived in Efrat with his wife and four children, was also a staunch advocate for Israel on social media.

“Ari Fuld was a wonderful young man, who was a great advocate for Israel and the Jewish people,” Heideman told JNS. “He was known and respected by everybody. A brilliant husband and father and articulate member of a very articulate family that is passionately committed to standing up for Israel and the Jewish people in the court of public opinion, and in helping people in every walk of life.”

On Sept. 16, 2018, Khalil Jabarin, a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist, set out with an eight-inch knife used for slaughtering animals to look for an English-speaking Israeli of American origin to kill. 

Jabarin ambushed Fuld that morning outside a supermarket in Gush Etzion, stabbing him multiple times in the neck and upper body.

Despite being mortally wounded, Fuld chased Jabarin down and shot him before he could stab a woman working at a nearby shop. Jabarin survived and was arrested and given a life sentence in 2020.

Fuld died from his wounds in an ambulance, en route to the hospital. “He’s a true American hero,” Heideman said.

Ari Fuld
Ari Fuld, a father of four, resident of Efrat and member of the emergency squad in Gush Etzion, pictured at a celebratory event on Oct. 31, 2017. A Palestinian terrorist killed Fuld at the Gush Etzion junction on Sept. 16, 2018. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90.

Hamas claimed responsibility a few hours after the attack.

Heideman, a former B’nai B’rith International president, has brought lawsuits on behalf of U.S. victims of terrorism for decades. He told JNS that Jabarin’s intent to kill English-speaking Americans reflects the goals of Hamas and its state sponsors.

“If we look back over the last 25 years, Hamas has not just targeted Israelis, not just targeted Jews, but has also targeted Americans in Israel, whether they live there, whether they’re visiting there,” Heideman said.

“There are numerous cases, where U.S. federal courts have found that it was Hamas terror and found that Hamas was sponsored, provided with material support by the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.

The Hamas terrorists receive training and “get incentivized” and “many of them receive instructions, much as went on on Oct. 7 with the most barbaric, heinous massacre of our time,” Heideman said.

“We see that in the Ari Fuld case, where he was targeted because he was an English-speaking American, and we have to understand the threat,” he added. “We have to understand that the terrorists are out to kill.”

Sovereign immunity

A member of a Palestinian terror group killed Fuld on Israeli soil, but a U.S. court was able to find Iran and Syria responsible due to a combination of U.S. laws, which strip sovereign immunity from designated state sponsors of terrorism under certain circumstances.

The U.S. State Department designated Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism on Dec. 29, 1979. It did the same with Iran on Jan. 19, 1984. (The only other two currently designated state terror sponsors are North Korea and Cuba.)

In his ruling, Lamberth wrote that both Iran and Syria have a well-established legal record of aiding Hamas.

“The evidence in this case establishes, once again, that Iran and Syria have provided material support and resources to Hamas,” he wrote. “Because defendants enabled, encouraged and facilitated the attack here, the court’s findings of fact reflect that Iran and Syria are responsible for the murder of Mr. Fuld.”

Heideman told JNS that neither country sent lawyers to court to dispute the case, and the ruling was therefore a default judgment in the defendants’ absence. 

JNS sought comment from the Syrian and Iranian missions to the United Nations in New York. Neither country currently operates an embassy in Washington.

The Fulds may find it difficult to collect the $191 million in damages from two hostile countries, which are already under U.S. sanctions. But there are pathways for them to pursue what they are owed.

That includes the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, a program of the U.S. Justice Department that distributes money that the U.S. government seizes from state terror sponsors or other entities involved in sanctions evasion.

Heideman told JNS that Thursday’s court victory also points to legal remedies that victims of Oct. 7 might pursue to achieve justice against Hamas and its backers.

“It is important, we believe, to stand against terror in every way that we can,” he said. “We and other law firms are indeed busily standing up on behalf of victims and their families as a result of these acts of terror.”

“Our firm has been engaged to represent a number of families and we’ve drafted complaints that will be strategically filed in the near future,” he added. “It’s not a military act, but it’s an act of defiance that is essential.”

“It won’t bring lives back, but it will bring dignity to the memory of those whose lives were taken,” he said.

Leave a Reply