A federal judge in Chicago on Tuesday allowed a lawsuit to proceed that claims the anti-Israel group American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is really a continuation of a defunct cog in a Hamas-support network.
In 2004, Joyce and Stanley Boim were awarded $156 million in damages from the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) and the American Muslim Society (AMS) for providing material support to Hamas. The Boims' 17-year-old-son David was killed in a 1996 Hamas terrorist attack.
But the defendants shut themselves down before paying, citing "the burden of the Boim Judgment and associated litigation costs."
The Boims believe that was part of a shell game, with AMP and its financial arm, Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation (AJP), emerging and picking up where IAP and AMS left off. If true, the $156 million judgment should apply to them.
The Boims have shown strong enough connections for the case to proceed, the court ruled.
"In sum, the pertinent factors identified by the Seventh Circuit and discussed by the parties support the Boims' claim that Entity Defendants are liable for the Boim I judgment as alter egos of Holy Land and AMS/IAP," wrote U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman. "The claim accordingly survives dismissal."
A different federal judge dismissed an earlier complaint against the AMP and its activists in August 2017, saying the Boims "fail[ed] to demonstrate the requisite level of unity of interest and control" to support the alter ego claims.
The Boims filed an amended complaint in December 2019. Last August, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a dismissal of the earlier complaint, saying the "amended complaint is replete with factual allegations ... show[ing]" that AMP "is a disguised continuance of [AMS/IAP] and [the] Holy Land Foundation."
IAP/AMS were propaganda arms of a now-defunct network called the "Palestine Committee." The committee was created by the Muslim Brotherhood to help Hamas politically and financially in the United States.
IAP/AMS's closing in 2005, the year after the Boim judgment, was followed by "a short quiet period," the amended complaint states. Then "a purportedly new organization emerged under a new name, 'American Muslims for Palestine,' or 'AMP,' but with the same fundamental mission and purpose of IAP/AMS."
AMP had "largely the same core leadership as IAP/AMS; it serves the same function and purpose; it holds nearly identical conventions and events with many of the same roster of speakers; it operates a similar 'chapter' structure in similar geographic locations; it continues to espouse Hamas' ideology and political positions; and it continues to facilitate fundraising for groups that funnel money to Hamas," it adds.
In 2015, the Investigative Project on Terrorism first identified the connections between the AMP and Palestine Committee groups. Foundation for the Defense of Democracies Vice President Jonathan Schanzer built on those connections in 2016 congressional testimony.
The "new name and quiet period were a necessity," the complaint explains, because the defendants came under increased law enforcement scrutiny after the Boim judgment. They "recognized that these organizations could not continue to pursue their missions with the same names, in the same form, and saddled with the same civil and criminal liability as IAP/AMS. They therefore deliberately concealed their connection to IAP/AMS, emphasizing internally that 'we really need to distance ourselves from any well known IAP figures.'"
A Yahoo bulletin board created in late 2005 by activists associated with a former Hamas-support network referred to the "initial phase" of "organizing the group that would eventually become the AMP" as the "transition." Among its organizers were Hatem Bazian and Magdi Odeh.
Odeh had helped coordinate IAP's first annual "Jerusalem Festival for English Speakers" held in Chicago in 1999. Bazian, chairman of AMP's national board, was a featured speaker at several IAP events and shared "a close personal relationship with IAP/AMS leader Rafeeq Jaber," who is also listed as a defendant in the Boim suit.
Jaber is a former IAP/AMS president and AMP's financial adviser. He has spoken at numerous AMP conventions and events.
AMP routinely sponsors conferences that serve as a platform for Israel bashers and openly approves of "resistance" against the "Zionist state." It is also one of the principal advocates of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Jewish state.
AMP also "provide[d] material support to Hamas through its open fundraising support for the pro-Hamas organization called Viva Palestina," according to the amended complaint. In 2009, Viva Palestina activists, headed by then-British Parliamentarian George Galloway, met with Hamas leaders to provide "funds and equipment." Galloway personally "handed substantial sums of money and equipment directly to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, stating, 'But I, now here, on behalf of myself...are giving three cars and $25,000 in cash to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Here is the money. This is not charity. This is politics.'"
The complaint also highlighted the role AMP Executive Director Osama Abuirshaid played in the "transition." Before AMP was created, Abuirshaid edited IAP's newspaper, Al-Zaytouna. When IAP/AMS closed, "Abuirshaid set up a replacement newspaper, which he published under the name Al-Meezan, from a location in Virginia ...," the amended complaint says. "In this newspaper and his other writings and pronouncements, Abuirshaid continued the publication and advocacy of pro-Hamas positions. The content, target audience, website and many of the advertisers of Al-Meezan were essentially identical to those of Al-Zaytounah."
Abuirshaid spoke at an April 2006 Muslim American Society (MAS) convention in Milwaukee. That is "where the 'transition' meeting took place [that] was effectively an IAP reunion," the amended complaint says. The convention was described as a "precursor of AMP leadership" and was organized and attended by former members of IAP/AMS and the Palestine Committee.
MAS was established in 1993 as the Muslim Brotherhood's arm in the United States.
AMP filed its formal articles of incorporation in August 2006. That November, the organization hosted its first national convention in Rosemont, Ill., at "the same place where IAP had held its annual conventions—and registered its current internet domain address, AMPalestine.org."
AMP was given until June 7 to respond fully to the amended complaint.
Abha Shankar is the IPT research director.
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