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.
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