Muslim on Va. Commission Quits After Videos Surface

In videos posted online by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Esam S. Omeish is seen speaking in support of Muslim causes.
In videos posted online by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Esam S. Omeish is seen speaking in support of Muslim causes. (Youtube)

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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 28, 2007

RICHMOND, Sept. 27 -- A prominent Northern Virginia surgeon and Muslim activist appointed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to a state immigration commission was forced to resign Thursday after videos surfaced of him referring to the "Israeli war machine" as well as statements he made seven years ago in support of the "jihad way" in the Middle East.

Last month, Kaine (D) appointed Esam S. Omeish, chief of the division of general surgery at Inova Alexandria Hospital, to a 20-member panel that is spending six months examining whether Virginia needs to do more to curtail illegal immigration.

On Thursday, videos surfaced showing Omeish, who is also president of the Muslim American Society, giving speeches about Israel's relationship with its Arab neighbors.

After reviewing the videos, which were brought to Kaine's attention by a caller to his live monthly radio program, Kaine asked for Omeish's resignation from the Virginia Commission on Immigration.

"Dr. Omeish is a respected physician and community leader, yet I have been made aware of certain statements he has made which concern me," Kaine said in a statement. "Dr. Omeish indicated he did not want this controversy to distract from the important work of the commission."

The resignation could be embarrassing for Kaine as he tries to respond to calls to do more about illegal immigration. Republicans are using the overall issue to try to win votes in this fall's campaign for control of the General Assembly.

Kaine has taken a measured approach, placing blame on the federal government's failure to secure the borders and enact immigration reform. He has said he wanted the 20-member immigration commission, which the General Assembly created this year, to develop recommendations. House and Senate leaders appointed 10 members of the committee; Kaine appointed the other 10.

Omeish, of Fairfax County, is also on the board of directors of the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church. He graduated from Georgetown University. He was unavailable for comment.

In one of the videos, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lajn3zOoWt4, Omeish is shown speaking in August last year at a rally on the Mall in opposition to Israel's invasion of Lebanon that summer. Omeish demands that Israel release Lebanese political prisoners and condemns President Bush's use of the phrase "Islamic fascism."

"The invasion of Lebanon, the destruction of its infrastructure and the deliberate targeting of civilians during the barbaric and disproportionate Israeli war machine is indeed criminal and must end now," Omeish says on the video.

In another video, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6t5QkFtks4, Omeish is speaking at a "Jerusalem day" rally in Lafayette Square. In the clip, dated Dec. 22, 2000, he urges the crowd to stand with Muslims fighting in the Middle East.

"We, Muslims of the Washington metropolitan area, are here today in subfreezing temperatures to tell our brothers and sisters that you have learned the way, that you have known the jihad way is the way to liberate your land," Omeish says. "And we, by standing here today despite the weather, we are telling them we are with you. We are supporting you." The clip shows 38 seconds of Omeish's speech, so the context of his remarks about jihad are unclear.


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