CHICAGO (WLS) — An American family’s fight for justice nearly 30 years after their son was killed by Hamas terrorists is playing out in a Chicago courtroom, the I-Team has learned.
At the center of the case is the question of whether the pro-Palestinian nonprofit American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), with Chicago roots and chapters across the country, is an “alter ego” of a former organization that was found liable and guilty of providing material support to terrorist organizations, including Hamas.
That question has now received the attention of state investigators in Virginia.
The Virginia Attorney General’s office announced on Tuesday that it has opened an investigation into AMP and allegations that it “used funds raised for impermissible purposes under state law, including benefitting or providing support to terrorist organizations.”
AMP has vigorously denied these allegations, labeling the Virginia Attorney General’s announcement a “defamatory and dangerous smear.”
The genesis of these legal proceedings can be traced back to 1996, when David Boim, a 17-year-old American citizen who was studying in Israel, was shot and killed by Hamas terrorists at a bus stop near Jerusalem.
David’s parents, Stanley and Joyce Boim, have been mourning their son’s death and fighting for accountability ever since.
In 2000, the family sued several Chicago-area nonprofits, including the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), alleging they had provided “material support” to terrorists and were liable for their son’s death under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.
The Boims’ arguments prevailed in December 2004 when a jury found the nonprofit defendants guilty and awarded the family $156 million in damages.
Speaking to ABC7 back in 2004 after the verdict was read, Joyce Boim said, “David, I’ll never have again. But at least I see justice for him.”
“There’s a feeling of relief,” said Stanley Boim in 2004, “It just may be the beginning of something else.”
That “beginning of something else” may have been a premonition of a legal struggle just starting for the Boims.
Nearly two decades later, the Boims through their attorney told the I-Team they are still trying to collect what they feel is rightfully owed.
“They have received nothing,” said attorney Dan Schlessinger.
Shortly after the 2004 verdict and judgment, the Boims said the nonprofit defendants in their lawsuit, including IAP, “claimed to be out of business and to have ceased operations.”
While some of the defendants’ monetary assets were seized by the United States in a separate criminal investigation, IAP claimed it was shutting down, based in part of “the burden of the Boim judgment and associated litigation costs,” according to court records.
But in a lawsuit filed in 2017, the Boims alleged that IAP, while shut down on paper, is still operating under a new name: American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).
“We became aware that there was a startlingly similar organization called A.M.P., the American Muslims for Palestine, that had the same leadership, the same mission, the same operations,” Schlessinger said. “IAP was essentially the same organization as AMP, but they just changed their name.”
The Boims have sued AMP, which has an office in Palos Hills, calling the organization an “alter ego” of IAP, and therefore liable for the $156 million judgment.
According to their lawsuit, the Boims allege AMP has “largely the same core leadership as IAP… holds nearly identical conventions and events with many of the same roster of speakers,” and “continues to espouse Hamas’ ideology and political positions.”
Among their evidence, the Boims have cited a Yahoo bulletin post online from 2005 where members of AMP allegedly said, “[W]e really need to distance ourselves from any well-known IAP figures…. [s]ince this is the transition period,” according to court records.
Even more striking, the Boims’ lawsuit alleges that AMP, “continues to facilitate fundraising for groups that funnel money to Hamas.”
Schlessinger said the lawsuit is not intended to target Palestinians; rather it is about holding organizations that support Hamas accountable.
“I want to make it clear that our lawsuit is not about Islamophobia,” Schlessinger said. “It’s not about trying to do anything to the Muslim community or the Palestinian community. We’re distinguishing Hamas and supporters of Hamas from the very good people who have no interest in supporting Hamas.”
Attorney Christina Jump, who represents AMP, tells the I-Team all of the allegations laid out in the lawsuit are not true.
“It’s offensive,” Jump said. “There’s absolutely nothing that ties either the organizations or the individuals involved, concretely, to any support of terrorism, any kind of act of terrorism.”
Jump said AMP was “formed by different individuals and for a very clear and stated purpose, which is to educate the American public on the rich culture and history of Palestine, within the United States.”
On its website, AMP states that all of its “funds and work is kept within the U.S.”
“We are an independent, American organization and not affiliated with any foreign entities or organizations,” the organization’s website states.
AMP has filed several motions to dismiss the Boims’ lawsuit, and in 2020, they received a temporary victory when the U.S. District Court dismissed the case for a “lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”
But that dismissal was “reversed and remanded” by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021, after the justices said the District Court’s “assessment reflected legal error.”
In its decision, the Court of Appeals wrote the Boims’ claims that AMP was an “alter ego of the defunct nonprofits… necessitates a fresh look by the District Court.”
With the Israel-Hamas war raging, AMP has organized recent demonstrations for Palestinian support across the country, including a recent march in Washington.
The nonprofit also has deployed trucks equipped with digital billboards to drive around cities, including Chicago, with messages calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
Jump tells the I-Team her clients’ actions are protected by the U.S. Constitution and vital right now.
“To be perfectly clear: American Muslims for Palestine does not support terrorism,” Jump said. “Being able to peacefully demonstrate is a cornerstone of America. Being able to gather and have an organization that gives them a voice to do that, that gives Palestinian Americans and Muslim Americans generally the opportunity to unite, to express their fears and share their history and share their stories is exactly what America is all about.”