Thursday, February 22, 2024

Islamist Organization Accused of Financing Terrorism Ordered to Reveal Donors

NewsIslamist Organization Accused of Financing Terrorism Ordered to Reveal Donors

An Islamist organization accused of links to the designated terrorist organization Hamas and which incites hostility toward Israel in Muslim communities throughout the United States is one step closer to possible bankruptcy in the light of a court order issued earlier today. A federal magistrate in Chicago has ordered American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) to provide lawyers representing a family whose son was murdered by Hamas in the mid-1990s with a list of its donors who contributed to the organization between 2011 and 2018. The organization has already provided the court with information regarding its larger donors, so the new ruling will result in the discovery of AMP’s smaller donors.

This information will be used to determine if the organization is an “alter ego” of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) which folded after a court ruled in 2004 that it had provided funding to Hamas in violation of the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. The 2004 ruling compelled the organization to pay $156 million in damages to the family of David Boim, a 17-year-old American citizen shot in the head at a bus stop in Jerusalem in 1996. With IAP’s dissolution, the Boim family was unable to collect on the judgement.

Lawyers representing the Boims assert that AMP is a not a new organization, but a “disguised continuance” or “alter ego” of the now-defunct IAP and should pay the $156 million judgement. According to the ruling issued today, lawyers representing the Boim family argued that the donor records in question are relevant to their case because they “may demonstrate that AMP relies on the same or a similar network of donors to continue IAP’s mission.”

According to the ruling written by Magistrate Judge Heather K. McShain, lawyers for AMP argued that records were “not relevant and that producing them would impinge upon the donors’ privacy interests.” In her ruling, McShain declared that “AMP’s donor records are highly probative of their claim is an alter ego of IAP” and that “their alleged reliance on the same or similar network of donors” could demonstrate a “similarity of operations” between the two organizations. McShain ruled that the privacy rights of donors to AMP could be protected by designating the information for “Attorneys’ Eyes Only.” Consequently, the AMP was ordered to provide the records in question by February 2, 2024.

To further their claim that AMP is a disguised continuance of IAP, Boim family attorneys highlight the presence of several individuals in leadership positions of the two organizations. Abdelbasset Hamayal, who served as IAP’s secretary general before it folded, has also served as AMP’s executive director and Osama Abuirshaid, who currently serves as AMP’s executive director, edited IAP’s newspaper before it folded. They also argued that IAP’s annual conference was repackaged as AMP’s annual conference two years after the first organization folded, attracting the same audience, featuring the same speakers, and operating under the same management.

The lawsuit has generated concern within the American Muslim community, with the Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) highlighting its role in defending AMP against the Boim family’s lawsuit. Neither AMP nor MLFA have responded to queries from Focus on Western Islamism.

The ruling comes at a time when Islamist organizations in the U.S. have fallen under intense scrutiny for their pro-Hamas activism in the aftermath of the October 7 massacre in Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,200 Israeli civilians. If the Boim family is able to impose the $156 million judgement on AMP, it could very likely result in the bankruptcy of the organization. The annual report for the organization indicates it has just over $1 million in assets.

“The case has been and will continue to be important for establishing the validity of the Anti-Terrorism Act and the significance of organizations in the United States providing support to Hamas,” said Daniel I. Schlessinger, an attorney with Jaszczuk P.C., the Chicago-based law firm representing the Boim family.

Note: This article was updated on January 22, 2024 to include information from the plaintiffs’ attorney.

Second Note: Christina A. Jump, civil litigation department head for the Muslim Legal Fund of America has responded to a media inquiry. She states that MLFA will appeal McShain’s ruling. She adds:

The order even as it exists at the moment does not bring American Muslims for Palestine “one step closer to bankruptcy” as you erroneously state –  this is an interim order on a discovery dispute and is not in any way, shape or form a finding of liability.

American Muslims for Palestine remains fully solvent and in fact just had its most successful annual convention in its 18-year history this past November.

And, the order applies only to records from 2011-2018. It also allows for redacting personal information from the production. 

And Magistrate Judge McShain’s order also specifically states that the production does not equal a judgment on  “whether or not the small-dollar donor records will ultimately support plaintiffs’ claims.”

The Boims have yet to prove any of their allegations against AMP. We remain confident they will not, because they cannot.

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