Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy
Our Vision: Americans & Palestinians Freely Doing Business Together
Our Mission: Creating Business Relationships Between Americans & Palestinians
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Sam Bahour (Chairperson and co-founder) is a business development consultant based in Al-Bireh-Ramallah, Palestine. His firm, Applied Information Management (AIM), specializes in start-ups. Sam is a Palestinian-American who was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio. He was part of the core team that established the Palestine Telecommunications Company (PALTEL). Working for the Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC), the second largest private sector investment group in Palestine, he served as their MIS Manager prior to establishing their new subsidiary, the Arab Palestinian Shopping Centers P.L.C., which he took from concept to operations and then served as its Chairman. Sam also founded the Palestine Diaspora Investment Company (PDIC). Sam holds a Bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University and an M.B.A. degree from a joint international program of Northwestern and Tel Aviv Universities. He is a Director at Arab Islamic Bank, a member of the core Local Reference Group of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and a past Board of Trustees member at Birzeit University. He writes frequently on Palestinian affairs and has been widely published. Sam is co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians and blogs at www.epalestine.com.
Edward E. Thompson (President and co-founder) is a retired consulting psychologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He consulted with business executives on leadership development, executive selection, succession planning and merger integration. For 14 years, he had a solo consulting practice. Ed previously was Managing Director of Chicago area consulting offices at RHR International. He also worked for Illinois Tool Works Inc. in a corporate staff HR role. After a trip to Israel and Palestine in April of 2007, he dedicated his discretionary time to educating Americans about the realities of Palestinian life. Leveraging his business background, he co-founded AVPE to build business relationships between Americans and Palestinians.
Dima Abushaaban (Treasurer) is a Director of Corporate Strategy at Walgreens Boots Alliance, with a focus on US Healthcare. She is focused on working with key internal and external stakeholders to create mutually beneficial value propositions. Dima’s prior experience is in consulting with both private corporations and public sector clients, with a focus on stimulating organization efficiency and performance and driving important business decisions through rigorous analysis. She has also advised entrepreneurs in the development of new businesses focusing on market entry, growth strategy and sustainability. She is a Chicago-area native with experience living and working both in the US and across the Middle East, including Cairo, Beirut, Amman, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Dima is a graduate of The University of Chicago with a Masters of Business Administration (Honors) and a Masters of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies and has completed summer programs at Birzeit University in Palestine and at the University of Jordan. She also holds both a Bachelor’s of Science (Honors) in Computer Science and a Bachelor’s of Arts (Honors) in Communications studies from Loyola University of Chicago. Additionally, Dima holds the Treasurer position on the Board of Directors of Organ Transplant Support, Inc., an Illinois based non-profit, and is a President’s Circle member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Sana’a M. Hussien (Secretary) is an attorney/principal at the Law Offices of Sana’a Hussien & Associates, PC. Her practice is focused on Commercial and Corporate Transactions, Civil Litigations, Real Estate Development and Estate Planning. In addition to the practice of law, Sana’a has served as a consultant to the USAID facilitating seminars on judicial ethics for Palestinian judges in the West Bank and Gaza. She also served as a consultant with the Law Consortium for Palestinian Legal Education to foster improvements in the legal education system in both the West Bank and Gaza. She is a member of the Arab American Bar Association, St. Jude Children’s Hospital Four Stars Committee, the Arab American Business and Professional Association and the United Nations Association – USA, Greater Chicago. She graduated from the College of Law at DePaul University and received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Geoffrey H. Lewis (Compliance) practices law as a Partner with the law firm Kerstein, Coren & Lichtenstein LLP. He has extensive experience in family law matters. He is also experienced in civil litigation matters including business litigation and the representation of high net worth individuals and corporations in securities arbitration matters, having recovered substantial awards for his clients in the United States, Chile and Israel. He also practices in the areas of international law and business transactions. He has provided significant legal services to numerous individuals and corporations in Chile and Israel and is engaged in business development activities in both countries.
He has been President of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston, a member of the Board of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Chair of its Overseas Committee which among other things, oversees the allocation of millions of dollars to programs throughout the world. He has also been a national officer of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. He is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the Israel Policy Forum and a member of the board of the American Society for the University of Haifa. He graduated from the Northeastern University School of Law and has an undergraduate degree from Boston College.
Karen Koning AbuZayd is a Commissioner on the UN Human Rights Council mandated Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. Karen completed a 30 year career with the United Nations in 2011. From 2000 to 2005 she was based in Gaza as the Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and from 2005 to 2010 as Under Secretary General and Commissioner General. She worked for UNHCR for 19 years in Sudan, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Geneva (overseeing South Africa, Kenya and Somali programs before becoming Chef de Cabinet) and in Washington as Regional Representative. Before joining the UN, Karen lectured in Middle East politics at Makerere University and the University of Juba.
Now based in Chicago ( where her two grandsons reside), Karen participates in a number of national and international boards, including the Middle East Policy Council, the American Friends of UNRWA, the International Organisation of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection and ICCO. Her B.Sc. is from DePauw University (which awarded her an Honorary Doctorate and a Medal for Public Service) and her M.A. in Islamic Studies from McGill University.
Albert Asfour has a B.Sc. in mechanical engineering. After starting in aerospace, he worked for 30 years in the automotive industry as an International Business Development Manager and as an International Sales Manager for a component company. Following his retirement, he started an engineering consulting business working with clients in the automotive industry located in the Far East and Europe.
Al was born in Jerusalem and has extensive contacts in Palestine and Jordan. He has been active in organizing mission trips for young people from Palestine and from America. He has worked with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land as well as with the Southeast Michigan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He is Vice President of the Executive Committee of the Synod Council and has been active in programs for youth.
Arnold R. Cowan is Wells Fargo Professor in Finance at Iowa State University, where he chairs the College of Business Faculty Executive Council. He is the creator of Eventus software, which is used in academic business and economic research worldwide, and leads Cowan Research LC, the company he founded to market and develop software and services. Arnie’s research areas include corporate finance, financial regulation, and econometric research methods. He teaches international finance, research methods and corporate finance. His research appears in Financial Management, Journal of Banking and Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis and other major academic journals.
Arnie serves on the board of directors of the Midwest Finance Education Foundation and is a past president and current advisory board member of the Midwest Finance Association, former editor of a prominent academic research journal, The Financial Review, former associate editor of the International Journal of Finance, past editorial board member of the Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, and past board member of the Eastern Finance Association. Arnie frequently presents at academic research conferences and seminars. He holds Ph.D. and master’s degrees from University of Iowa and a B.A. from Augustana College (Illinois).
Walid Issa is an award-winning economist and executive director of The American Palestinian Hope Project (TAP hope). He is an associate lobbyist at Solomon Strategies Group. Walid is co-founder and senior advisor to the Shades Program on Negotiation and the Liaison at St. Cloud State University for Civic Engagement, Dialogue, and Diversity. An inspirational speaker, Issa is an active member of the Minnesota Peace Project (for congressional representatives towards new policies minimizing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). Walid has created Palestinian-business roadshows to the USA. He has also hosted American legislators and faith/community leaders in the Palestinian Territories.
Issa holds a B.S and M.S in Applied Economics. He is the youngest of nine Palestinian siblings born and raised in the Dehesha refugee camp and the youngest of three in his Minnesotan family that "adopted" and supported his education in the United States.
Nisreen S. Musleh is the Founder and Managing Director of RITAJ Managerial Solutions in Ramallah. She established RITAJ in 2003, during one of the most complex economic and political periods in Palestine. Under Nisreen’s leadership, RITAJ has grown into a market leader in professional training management and translation services. She believes in results-based management and utilizing management tools to achieve tangible deliverables.
Having earned a Master’s degree in American Studies, and a BA in English Education, Nisreen went on to complete the Business Executive Program at Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, which led her to be a Human Resources Fellow at Coca-Cola Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Nisreen’s unique mix between academic excellence and practical experience, coupled with a burning desire to self-develop, placed her on a solid foundation to serve Palestine’s business community.
Having started her career in teaching before launching her own business, today, Nisreen is a sought-after businesswoman leader who regularly coaches emerging entrepreneurs in developing their businesses and professional skills. Her own dynamic and diverse career path with a clear focus on economic empowerment through business generation has been recognized both locally and globally. Currently Nisreen serves on the boards of the Arab Islamic Bank (AIB) and the Palestinian Trainer’s Association (PTA) to contribute to the advancement of corporate leadership and economic development in Palestine.
Kais Salhut is the Chief Executive Officer of iConnect Technologies, a software development and outsourcing company that operates out of Ramallah, Palestine and Chicago, IL.
Kais grew up in Jerusalem, received his education in the US and worked for a few years in a market research firm before moving back to Palestine where he spent 4 years building 2i Software, an outsourcing company that currently has its Palestine operation as part of iConnect.
While in Palestine, Kais was very involved in building the Palestinian technology echo system where he toured Palestinian universities to promote technology, sat on the board of Peeks (Palestinian Geeks), the largest Palestinian grassroots organization aimed at building a sustainable knowledge-based economy in Palestine. He also worked with the Palestinian IT Association of Companies (PITA) on numerous initiatives to link Palestinian IT companies with potential partners in MENA, Europe and the US.
Kais resides in Chicago. He is a member of the Arab American Business and Professional Association, Palestinian-American Chamber of Commerce, PITA, Executives Club of Chicago and Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and international business from Dominican University.