The parents of an American-born student fatally shot by Hamas gunmen in Jerusalem in 1996 filed a lawsuit Friday against two Chicago-area Palestinian-American groups, claiming they are liable for a massive legal judgment awarded the family years ago but never collected.
Stanley and Joyce Boim filed the federal lawsuit in Chicago against American Muslims for Palestine and the Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation, both based in Bridgeview, as well as three men they identified as leaders of the two groups.
The suit claims the organizations are the “alter egos” of three Islamic fundraising groups held liable for the death of the Boims’ son, David, for providing financial support to Hamas, a militant Palestinian group. In 2004, a federal jury in Chicago awarded $52 million in damages to the Boims, far more than the family’s lawyers had sought. Citing relevant law, a magistrate judge then trebled the award to $156 million.
The verdict was the first by a jury holding U.S. citizens or organizations liable under a federal law that allows victims of terrorism to sue for civil damages.
One of the Boims’ lawyers, Stephen Landes, said Friday that the family received only a small fraction of the award — he would not say how much — because the defendants claimed they had ceased operations and had no money to pay the huge judgment. The successor groups named in Friday’s lawsuit formed shortly afterward, with many of the same men assuming similar leadership roles, Landes said.
“What we ended up finding is they just tried to rebrand themselves, and they set up down the street,” he said.
If the groups are allowed to move on without paying the huge judgment, Landes said, “it makes a mockery” of federal anti-terrorism laws.
David Boim was 17 when he was shot in the head while waiting for a bus in Jerusalem. Boim, originally from New York, was standing with classmates as they prepared to head to a review class for exams, according to the lawsuit. A gunman fired from a passing car. Boim died the next day.
The original lawsuit was filed in 2000.
In a landmark ruling in 2002, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said Islamic groups could be held liable if the Boims could establish that they aided and abetted Boim’s killing.
But the Islamic Association for Palestine and the American Muslim Society, both based in the Chicago area, and the Holy Land Foundation, with a branch in Chicago, contended they were charitable and educational institutions promoting the welfare of Palestinians.
However, in late 2004, the court found the groups had knowingly supported Hamas and its terrorist activities. The jury awarded the multimillion-dollar damages — trebled by the judge.
A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit later set aside the jury’s decision, but the full court upheld the verdict in December 2008.
The new lawsuit was filed almost nine years after that key ruling. Landes said it took time to confirm connections between the old and new groups.
In Friday’s lawsuit, the Boims asked that a judge find that American Muslims for Palestine and the Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation constitute successor groups and order them responsible to pay the remaining tens of millions of dollars still owed.
Friday’s lawsuit also names three individuals — Rafeeq Jaber, Abdelbasset Hamayel and Osama Abu Irshaid — as defendants because of their alleged associations with the old and new groups.
Jaber was an organizer of Americans for Justice in Palestine and the former president and principal spokesman for American Muslims for Palestine and the Islamic Association for Palestine, according to the lawsuit. Hamayel has been identified as American Muslims for Palestine’s executive director, according to the lawsuit, and was director and secretary general of the Islamic Association for Palestine. Irshaid sits on the American Muslims for Palestine board and was also editor of the Islamic Association for Palestine’s newspaper, the lawsuit said.
Hamayel said he was unaware of the lawsuit and declined to comment, while Jaber and Irshaid could not be reached for comment. The lawsuit said both Jaber and Hamayel live in Illinois, while Irshaid resides in Virginia.
IAP was one of Hamas’ first front groups in the U.S. and later became CAIR.