Virginia Democrat running for state legislature under fire for past anti-Semitic remarks

A Democratic candidate who has apologized after once saying that giving money to Israel was worse than donating to the Ku Klux Klan is looking to win a seat in the Virginia state legislature on Tuesday.

Ibraheem Samirah, a dentist and Chicago native who bills himself as a “second-generation Palestinian refugee,” recently made headlines when he denounced what he called a “slander campaign” that exposed a series of old social media posts that were viewed as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

“This slander campaign is using five-year-old Facebook posts from my impassioned college days, posts that upon my reflection and with the blessing of time, I sincerely regret and apologize for,” Samirah said in a statement on Friday.

“I am so sorry that my ill-chosen words added to the pain of the Jewish community, and I seek your understanding and compassion as I prove to you our common humanity. Please do not let those who seek to divide us use these words out of context of time and place to accomplish their hateful goals.”

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In addition to the remark about the Klan, Samirah has also said the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would burn in hell. In another post, he charged Israeli teenagers were using Tinder to “cover up the murders in their names."

Samirah is running in a special election for a vacated seat in Virginia's 86th district, a suburban area in Fairfax County. The conservative website Big League Politics first reported the story, which has been picked up by Israeli media.

Samirah’s apology hasn’t been accepted by critics who say he remains virulently anti-Israel. They note in particular that he has advocated on social media for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

BDS supports Palestinian rights and opposes Israel's occupation of the West Bank. Israeli officials say the BDS movement is anti-Semitic.

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Samirah’s opponent in the race is Gregg Nelson, an Air Force Veteran whose campaign took up the issue after the story of the past posts broke.

“There is never a place for any hateful speech whether it’s in politics or daily life. Dr. Samirah owes it to the voters of District 86 to address his statement that sending money to Israel is “worse” than sending money to the KKK. The people of the 86th District look forward to hearing his response,” said a statement from Nelson’s campaign manager, Chad Brown, before the apology.