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Palestinians sue pro-Israel tycoons for $34.5bn

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A group of Palestinians has launched an ambitious $34.5bn lawsuit against US-based tycoons, charities and firms for supporting Israeli land grabs, settlement-building and other violations of Palestinians’ rights these past four decades.

They seek damages from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson; Irving Moskowitz, a philanthropist with property interests in East Jerusalem; and megachurch pastor John Hagee for financing the construction of settlements on Palestinian soil.

Lawyers also name such charities as Christian Friends of Israeli Communities and private firms, including Dead Sea-based cosmetics maker Ahava, UK-based security firm G4S and the industrial powerhouse Israel Chemicals Limited.

“We’re not in this for the money, but we’ll probably pick the pockets of some very wealthy corporations,” Martin McMahon, a lawyer for the complainants from the firm Martin McMahon and Associates, told Al Jazeera on Monday.

“It’s about time that the world woke up to the fact that Palestinians are being murdered every day with US taxpayer dollars.”

The case is brought by Bassem al-Tamimi, an activist, and about 35 other Palestinians and Palestinian Americans who say they have seen their loved ones killed by Israeli forces and lost their land to settlers and business and construction schemes.

They allege five counts of conspiracy, war crimes, aggravated trespass, pillage and racketeering via various legal mechanisms, including laws against organised crime and US entities linked with overseas human rights abuses.

Al Jazeera contacted Adelson, Hagee and some of the four dozen charities, firms and individuals named in the case but spokespeople were not immediately able to comment.

The suit was filed in the Federal District Court of Washington DC on Monday.

The pro-Palestinian lawyers said they expected protracted legal arguments over the court’s jurisdiction and potential dismissal proceedings.

A trial, possibly by jury, would likely not take place for five years, they said.

“We have cases going that have lasted 13 years, so we are used to long cases,” Jameson Fox, another lawyer for the Palestinians, told Al Jazeera.

In a statement, al-Tamimi, said he was tortured and jailed for staging protests at Halamish, a West Bank settlement.

Doaa Abu-Amar, another complainant, lost 14 family members when Israeli forces bombed a day-care centre during the 2009 assault on Gaza, it is claimed.

Ahmed al-Zeer was beaten and left disabled by settlers who attacked him outside the settlement of Ofra, it is claimed.

Susan Abulhawa, another complainant and poet, said she sought official recognition of Palestinian suffering.

“I want a court, somewhere, somehow, to hold accountable those who have financed my pain of dispossession and exile and to hold accountable the financiers of Israel’s wholesale theft of another people’s historic, material, spiritual, and emotional presence in the world,” Abulhawa said in a statement.

Palestinians have a poor track record for winning in US civil courtrooms.

Pro-Palestinian lawyers suffered a setback in New York in February 2015, when jurors awarded $218.5m in damages against the Palestinian leadership and blamed it for terror attacks in Israel that killed or wounded American citizens a decade previously.

Pro-Israel lawyers chalked up another victory in New York last year, when jurors agreed that Jordan’s Arab Bank was liable for materially supporting Hamas.

A US class action suit against Avi Dichter, Israel’s former security chief, over a one-tonne bomb hitting a Gaza City apartment block in 2002, failed in the US after Dichter was granted immunity from prosecution.

Palestinian lawyers complain that US jurors are biased. A Gallup opinion survey last month found that 62 percent of Americans sympathise with Israelis compared to 15 percent who side with Palestinians.

McMahon said that unconditional support for Israel was waning.

“Forty per cent of Jewish Americans condemn settlements so there is a complete reversal going on in America against tolerating these actions from the Israeli government, and our law suit apparently is a vehicle for those who are completely frustrated by that process,” McMahon said.

George Bisharat, a Palestinian-American law professor at California University, described a growing number of so-called lawfare cases between Israelis and Palestinians, where courts are used in part to sway public opinion.

“I’m sceptical of courts and their willingness to be politically daring and would put the odds of this case winning at less than 50 per cent,” Bisharat told Al Jazeera.

“As a matter of publicity, there is great potential to be exploited here. Palestinian have not effectively explored all of their legal remedies or been artful in managing cases, so there is untapped potential there.”

MSN

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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