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Fathers' Claims Against Israeli Officials Fail in US Court

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on November 06, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Three fathers filed suit against Israelis officials including two former cabinet-level Ministers, a current Israel Supreme Court Justice, and a current Haifa Rabbinical Court District Judge, all because they were unhappy with the outcome of their child custody proceedings, claiming that Israeli family law unfairly discriminates against fathers. Their litigious grasp also ensnared three non-profit organizations who they accused of "financing radical feminism."

Models of Fatherly Love

Sharon Ben-Haim alleged that his wife kidnapped their child from the U.S. and brought the child to Israel. His beef with the Israeli officials is that "they failed to take action to abolish institutionalized policies elevating the rights of mothers over the rights of fathers." Gamliel Elmalem, alleged among other things, that his arrest for domestic violence in Israel was unlawful. Finally, Sol Havivi claimed that the threat of forced medication and treatment of his children amounted to his own "abuse" and "torture."

The trio of fathers initiated an action in U.S. District Court alleging, among other things violations of the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS") and the Torture Victim Protection Act ("TVPA"). The district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. The Third Circuit affirmed -- here's why.

Kiobel is Determinative

Regarding the ATS claim, the Supreme Court's recent decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. was determinative. In Kiobel, the Supreme Court "held that the ATS does not apply when all of the relevant conduct took place outside the United States." Here, all of the conduct took place in Israel, and under Kiobel, the ATS did not apply.

No Torture Here

Melodrama? Yes. Torture? No. The Third Circuit noted that torture usually involves "allegations of extreme, deliberate, or unusually cruel practices." Here, Havivi did not claim physical or mental harm. Instead, he argued that the threat of his children's forced medication and psychiatric treatment "tortured" him. The court didn't buy it.

This case may serve as a lesson for mothers, and fathers, alike. Perhaps if as much effort was put into parenting, as it was in litigation, children would fare far better. Because ultimately, isn't the child's well being what is really important?

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