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Jettisoning Virginia's "Jihad Way" Doctor

Was Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine right to decide that Dr. Esam Omeish, Kaine's appointee to the state's immigration commission, had to go?

Is what Omeish has said about Israel really so different from what, say, Rep. Jim Moran of Alexandria has said?

Shouldn't Kaine's appointments operation have known that Omeish is one of the most active and outspoken members of the state's Muslim community, and shouldn't the governor's staff have warned him that Omeish is given to incendiary speeches, quite a few of which are widely available on the web? And what happened in the hours between when Kaine spokesman Kevin Hall dismissed concerns about Omeish as "whispers and smears" and when Kaine issued a statement announcing Omeish's resignation ("I have been made aware of certain statements he has made which concern me," Kaine said)?

Every hour seems to bring more questions about the Omeish episode. The ousted--technically, he resigned--member of the immigration commission is shouting back, arguing that he's the victim of "a relentless campaign of Islamophobia intimidation" by researchers and reporters who've focused on some northern Virginia Muslim groups as hotbeds of support for Muslim extremists.

But Kaine didn't feel compelled to get rid of Omeish because the doctor--he's chief of general surgery at Inova Alexandria Hospital--makes speeches blasting Israel and pleading the case of Palestinians. No, what made the governor act within a couple of hours after a caller on a Richmond radio interview show asked him about Omeish was the online videos in which the Muslim activist says things like this:

At a Jerusalem Day rally on Dec. 22, 2000, speaking to Palestinians, "The jihad way is the way to liberate your land."

At a rally in Lafayette Park on Aug. 12, 2006, Omeish spoke of "the barbaric and indiscriminate Israeli war machine," of "massacres and genocide committed against the Palestinian people," and of "an Israeli agenda that controls our Congress to keep us hostages." At the same event, Omeish said that "There is no such thing as Islamo-fascism."

At an anti-Iraq war rally in Lafayette Park on Sept. 15: "We must not forget those who have led us into this war.... Impeach Bush... Let us cleanse our State Department."

Some of these statements are the sort of thing you hear at many anti-war rallies. Some are inflammatory phrases that have been used for years to slam Israel and accuse its supporters in the United States of somehow controlling U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Is there a qualitative difference between Omeish's words about Israel and its supporters and Moran's 2003 statement--"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."

Obviously, there's a big difference between an elected congressman who is answerable to his constituents and a volunteer activist who is appointed to an unpaid position by a state's governor.

A congressman ought to be held accountable for his comments on world affairs. In the case of a doctor moonlighting as a religious activist, it's not clear that his statements about the Middle East should have anything to do with his position on a state panel on immigration.

Kaine of course wants to move on. But it's not enough for the governor's staff to say that from now on, they will vet candidates for jobs by doing a search on YouTube. There was plenty available on any Google search to raise warning flags about Omeish--and certainly no employer these days makes an offer to anyone without at least a cursory Googling, right?

It's easy enough to see what Omeish is--an angry rabble-rouser with a tired vocabulary of blame and hate. It's plain that Kaine, confronted with the activist's most incendiary remarks, wanted to get out of a mess. But the real problem here is the motive that led to Omeish's appointment in the first place. What did Kaine's staff find useful or intriguing enough to put Omeish on the commission? The appointment reeks of "Get me a Muslim" tokenism. And indeed, Kaine's statement announcing Omeish's departure made certain to include the fact that the governor will replace him on the commission with another Muslim. We end up with a problem all too common in our age--when a person is picked not for who he is or what he's accomplished, but for what category he fills, you're just asking for problems.

By Marc Fisher |  September 28, 2007; 2:58 PM ET
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Comments

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I agree with Marc something must be wrong

Posted by: oh no | September 28, 2007 3:50 PM

Is Mr. Omeish's comments anymore dangerous or inflammatory than those of senator Lieberman? His continual agitation for military action against Iran is edging the US ever closer to another colossal blunder.

Posted by: Jones | September 28, 2007 4:43 PM

Its not worth the risk to the party to keep someone who supports terrorist and suicide bombers on your staff. its just not a smart move.

His comments go past those of Moran, and all but support Hamas and killing overseas. How could Kaine keep him on staff without alienating tons of supporters. Where is the political gain?

Posted by: Jon | September 28, 2007 4:53 PM

No, Dr. Omeiesh has an opinion. One that runs counter to mainstream opinion. God forbid anyone should have a differing opinion on anything that matters. But here's MY question: in what fashion did Dr. Omeiesh's utterances affect his ability to discharge his appointed duties? Even Marc allows that "it's not clear that his statements about the Middle East should have anything to do with his position on a state panel on immigration." Which means that Dr. Omeiesh is being dismissed because he is a vocal Muslim. I would support the right of a Zionist to be vocal and assertive, e.g., Joe Lieberman. The same should be true of those who hold other faiths. People make statements concerning what "responsible Muslims" should do. Well, of the Muslims I know, all are patriotic Americans, none support binLaden, and all of them are working to be part of mainstream America. The LAST thing we need, from a national security standpoint, is to have a large number of alienated and disaffected Muslims -- can you spell "sleeper cells"? And why should Muslims bother to be mainstream when simply uttering statements THEY hold true will get you fired? You cannot bring Muslims in the tent if the price is they remain silent on matters that involve their faith.

All this does is give more ammo in the Muslim world -- that area where we are trying to win the hearts and minds of the people -- to the effect that Americans are simply anti-Islam and anti-Muslim.

And in case you are wondering, I am not a Muslim. I am a Catholic.

Posted by: RL | September 28, 2007 5:51 PM

if we were getting rid of the token appointees, half of the black and latino employees in Maryland and DC would be gone.

Posted by: Joe | September 28, 2007 6:05 PM

I find it interesting that the Democratic Party is so silent on Moran's Jew-blaming and Kaine's token Jihadist. If this was Tom Davis or Jim Gilmore, we'd be talking about another macacca moment.

Posted by: Annandale | September 28, 2007 6:12 PM

There goes marc fisher again. Like the obedient faithful AIPAC jew, spreading hate and xenophobia against muslims.

Posted by: Mark | September 28, 2007 6:19 PM

Marc,

Thank you for a bright, thoughtful and right-on-the-mark column. And for all the
"useful idiots" chiming in, what about separation of church and state? Must be something in the water here.

Posted by: Bob | September 28, 2007 7:23 PM

That Maccaca comment is dead on. I am sick and tired of Jews being the only group your allowed to hate. The double standard that muslims envoke is a joke, They call call for a nation to be murdered, but its just there political opinion so we are supposed to give it a listen.

Posted by: Jon | September 28, 2007 7:52 PM

Jon,

Good points. We are also told that to be an anti-zionist does not equate with being anti-semitic Tell that to Daniel Perl's family.

Posted by: Bob | September 28, 2007 8:26 PM

Marc...as a jew, do you feel that you must support Israel over America? Like it or not, Mr. Omeish is an american citizen and he can not be punished for his religion. You AIPAC jews are destroying this great country to protect the aparthied state of Israel.

Posted by: Mark | September 28, 2007 8:39 PM

The Democratic Party can walk around covered with swastikas and still count on the Jewish vote, unfortunately.

Posted by: Bill | September 28, 2007 10:03 PM

FOr the second time today I ask: Should we call it an Israeli peace machine?

Posted by: loulor | September 28, 2007 11:47 PM

Marc--well done and a thoughtful column. Its a shame that some like RL are so blinded by their hate and political correctness that they refuse to see the truth even as it bites them in the rear. By the way RL, of course we all believe you are "Catholic." Spare us.

Posted by: USA | September 29, 2007 1:23 PM

Once again, no one agrees with Mark's hateful bleats.

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | September 29, 2007 3:01 PM

Here is the biggest problem. The good doctor stated in an interview he looked forward to the imposition of sharia law in America.

That means the overthrow of our constitution and way of life.

I don't care if he is a doctor or a landscaper. He should be deported.

And Kaine appointed this thug.

I would suspect Kaine will be answering fewer public questions from now on. I don't think Kaine really has an issue with being associated with this type of person any more than Jimmy Carter does. But Kaine cannot stand getting called on it.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 29, 2007 6:37 PM

Only a 'head in the sand', self-hating, idiot would think that supporting Israel (small nation surrounded by hundreds of millions who want only its destruction) or bombing Iran's nuclear facilities (would be a far better option that waiting for Tel Aviv, New York, Washington, D.C., London--or any other city--to be attacked with an atomic weapon or dirty bomb) are equivalent to Dr. Omeish supporting "jihad" (however you define it) in today's climate of suicide bombers and Islamofascist radicals, who ARE NOT TOLERANT of YOU BEING a CHRISTIAN, JEW, BAHAI, etc. WAKE UP LIBERAL AMERICANS!! These people--and all who support them--ARE NOT SUPPORTERS OF YOU (a Western citizen), and WILL NEVER STOP AT TRYING TO CONVERT, CONTROL AND/OR KILL YOU NO MATTER HOW NICE AND GENEROUS YOU ARE!

Posted by: delilah doseniha | October 1, 2007 6:53 PM

I agree with Delilah--and for those who wish to stay politically neutral BUT WANT TO LEARN HOW THE HEALTH SYSTEM COULD BE SUBVERTED BY EXTREMIST POLITICAL GROUPS (OR INDIVIDUALS), I would highly recommend a new book, "Jihad and American Medicine--Thinking Like a Terrorist to Anticipate Attacks via Our Health System," by doctor Adam Dorin (see www.adamdorin.com). If we can't all agree on politics, at least we can agree to secure our precious society and resources by learning how to thwart potential attacks against innocent civilians!!

Posted by: Doctor Justin | October 1, 2007 7:01 PM

Thank you, Doctor!
I also agree that Doctor Adam Dorin's upcoming book will be a major contribution to counterterrorism in general and health care safety/security in particular!! Again, this nation needs to get over its Bush-hating, naive perspective on world affairs and realize that we are at war against radical Islam--and no amount of self-delusion, self-hating, 'love those who are actively seeking to kill you' attitude will change reality!! Remember, peace is not free!

Posted by: delilah | October 1, 2007 7:11 PM

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