In 1996, 17-year-old David Boim, a U.S. citizen living in Israel, was killed in a hail of bullets fired by Hamas members while he was waiting at a bus stop with his high school classmates.
His parents brought suit in a Chicago Federal court against the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and other fundraising organizations under the Antiterrorism Act (ATA). The jury awarded $52 million in damages against HLF and two other fundraising organizations, the Quranic Literacy Institute (QLI) and the American Muslim Society (AMS); the trial court tripled that amount to $156 million under the ATA.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the trial court judgment in full against QLI and AMS. It held that the ATA authorizes suits not only against those who carry out violent acts of terrorism but also against those who aid and abet those acts. According to the Court, “aiding and abetting” includes providing financial support to a group one has reason to know is likely to engage in acts of terrorism. The court held that given the fungibility of money, even funding earmarked for the “humanitarian” work of a known terrorist group violates the ATA — because donating to Hamas ostensibly for humanitarian purposes allows Hamas to divert funds from its humanitarian programs to the purchase of bullets and explosives.
The appeals court also held that the ATA does not infringe on expressive activities protected by the First Amendment. The court explained that individuals are free to express verbal support for a terrorist group or to provide material support to individuals who happen to be members of a terrorist group; they expose themselves to potential liability only if they channel their material support through a known terrorist organization.
The court has remanded the case against HLF to the district court for further proceedings to determine its culpability. On remand a jury will have to determine whether HLF was just as culpable as QLI and AMS were found to be.