A controversial appointment made by Senator Tim Kaine during his tenure as governor of Virginia has come under new scrutiny in the wake of his selection by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as her running mate.
Kaine has what some are calling a “nuanced” position on Israel. While amassing a generally pro-Israel voting record, he emerged last year as a particularly robust supporter of the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal and was one of the first Democratic lawmakers to announce he would boycott Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress on the subject.
And while the left-wing NGO J Street was a major financial contributor to his Senate campaign committee and he was one of 13 Senate Democrats who earlier this year chose not to sign a strong bipartisan letter urging increased annual military aid, Kaine grilled U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power during her confirmation hearing, using his entire question time to elicit assurances from Power that she would defend Israel at the UN.
But the 2007 decision by then-governor Kaine to appoint Esam Omeish, a Libyan-born physician and then-president of the Muslim American Society, to Virginia’s Immigration Commission is what immediately raised red flags in the pro-Israel community after Clinton’s announcement that Kaine was her vice-presidential choice.
Kaine’s appointment of Omeish came despite the latter’s ties to and expressions of support for radical Islam and Jihadist terrorism.
Omeish is a longtime member of the board of directors of the Dar Al Hijrah mosque, which two of the 19 terrorists responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks attended as friends of the mosque’s imam.
That imam was Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Salafist cleric who later fled the United States and joined al Qaeda after settling in Yemen. In 2010, President Obama placed al-Awlaki on the CIA “kill list,” citing his orchestration of deadly terror attacks against Americans. In 2011 a U.S. drone strike killed al-Awlaki in southeast Yemen.
Omeish was not merely a congregant at the mosque where al-Awlaki preached; in 2000, as vice president of the mosque, he was responsible for vetting and hiring the radical cleric as the mosque’s imam.
The Muslim American Society, then headed by Omeish, had close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2004, a description later confirmed by a federal report describing the group as “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.”
In addition to Omeish’s ties to radical Islam, his recorded comments prior to the appointment by Kaine made his support for Jihadism even more explicit.
During a December 22, 2000 speech at a Jerusalem Day Rally in Lafayette Park in Washington D.C., Omeish praised “the Jihad way” to “liberate your land.”
“We, the Muslims of the Washington metropolitan area, are here today in subfreezing temperatures to tell our brothers and sisters in Filastine [Palestine] that you have learned the way, that you have known that the Jihad way is the way to liberate your land. And we, by standing here today, despite the weather, and despite anything else, we are telling them that we are with you, we are supporting you, and we will do everything we can, inshallah [Allah willing], to help your cause.”
And in 2004, Omeish explicitly praised Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Kaine’s selection of Omeish was criticized by state Republicans, who said the governor had failed to properly vet the appointee. Kaine and his administration brushed off the criticism as stemming from Islamophobia, but Omeish’s activities and beliefs quickly became apparent and Kaine forced him to step down. Critics were left to wonder why Kaine had made the appointment in the first place.