Lawyers, carefully trained to rely on facts and the law, rarely dabble in predictions. But if I had to point out one case likely to make a significant impact in this new year, it would be Boim v. American Muslims for Palestine.
Case history is no one’s idea of a beach read, but this one has the distinction of both going back decades and being eerily relevant today, amid a climate where pro-Hamas rioters disrupt traffic, clash with police, and assault Jewish and pro-Israeli Americans.
It begins on May 13, 1996, when a 17-year-old American boy living in Israel named David Boim was waiting to catch the bus back to his parents’ home in Jerusalem. Two Palestinian terrorists, Amjad Hinawi and Khalil Ibrahim Tawfik Sharif, were driving nearby. They were hoping to attack an army base down the road, but armed soldiers guarding the gate deterred them. Driving along, they spotted the bus stop and the small group of teenagers standing there. They opened fire, hitting Boim in the head. He was pronounced dead shortly afterward.
Hinawi and Sharif were members of a then-little-known group: Hamas. Sharif would die a year later, when he strapped on a bomb and detonated himself on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street, killing five innocent Israelis. But Boim had the tragic distinction of becoming the first American ever killed by Hamas, and his parents, Stanley and Joyce, demanded justice. They sued not only the perpetrators themselves and the commanders who had planned the attack but also a host of American nonprofit organizations that they claimed were little more than fundraising fronts for Hamas, providing the terrorist group with material support. In December 2004, after much litigation, a jury awarded the Boims $156 million in damages. Joyce, David’s devoted mother, was elated. “David, I’ll never have again,” she told reporters at the time. “But at least I see justice for him.”
Justice, alas, was short-lived. The organizations found liable never faced the consequences of their actions. Instead, they disbanded and soon regrouped under different names, with many of the same people playing nearly identical parts.
Consider, for example, one of the main culprits, a Chicago-based NGO called the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). According to recent testimony delivered to the House Ways and Means Committee by Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, IAP was found, during the Boim trial, to have received numerous checks and deposited them into Hamas’s bank account, “in some cases with the memo line ‘for Palestinian martyrs only.’” Almost immediately after IAP disbanded, a new organization, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), was formed. According to Schanzer’s testimony, Rafeeq Jaber, IAP’s former president, prepared the tax forms necessary to launch AMP. His financial-services business was listed at the same office building as IAP before it shut down. Abdelbaset Hamayel, IAP’s secretary general, appeared on the tax forms of AMP’s fiscal sponsor as the person “who possesses the organization’s books and records.” Hatem Bazian, an AMP founder, was a frequent speaker at IAP events. And Osama Abuirshaid, who edited IAP’s newspaper, is now AMP’s executive director. He continues to publish articles in English and in Arabic praising Hamas, openly admitting that he is in communications with Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook.
Given these undeniably close ties between IAP and AMP, the Boims decided to renew their quest for justice. In May 2017, they filed a lawsuit against AMP, alleging that “these new defendants are alter egos of the now-defunct nonprofit organizations and therefore liable for the remainder of the $156 million judgment.”
I represent the Boims in this case, but it hardly takes an interested party to realize its significance. In addition to founding AMP, Hatem Bazian is also the founder of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which AMP continues to fund, train, and support. In December, SJP was suspended by Rutgers University after the group disrupted classes, terrorized fellow students, and vandalized the campus. The decision followed similar actions by Columbia, Brandeis, and George Washington University, all responding to the same patterns of behavior.
Taking action against SJP is complicated, raising questions about free speech and other matters. The Boim case, by contrast, is simple. The court has already found liable the predecessor organizations that supported Hamas. A judge has already ordered them to pay a considerable sum in damages. All our new lawsuit seeks to accomplish is to establish that the “new” organization established to take over for IAP is essentially the same entity that evaded the judgment that the jury awarded to the Boims.
Holding them accountable isn’t just about refusing to allow them to make a mockery of our judiciary. It’s also about signaling to these defendants and anyone else providing material support to terrorists that we will no longer tolerate such conduct on American soil. At the time of this writing, Hamas is still holding a number of American citizens hostage in its hellish tunnels in Gaza; more than two months after their abduction, this is now the most prolonged American hostage crisis since the Iranian takeover of the American embassy in 1979. We cannot allow anyone to fundraise and operate in America on behalf of terrorist organizations actively harming American citizens.