Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the favorite to take over as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, campaigned in 2009 for a Libya-born activist who once called on Palestinians to embrace “the jihad way” in order to get free of Israeli control.
The activist, Esam Omeish, a former candidate for Virginia state delegate, has also praised one of the founders of Hamas and commended the work of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Omeish’s positions had been publicized when Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, headlined the July 2009 fundraiser for Omeish, who served as president from 2004 to 2008 of the Muslim American Society, a Muslim Brotherhood-linked group.
“The very fact that you have ran a honorable campaign in this heated primary shows victory. Don’t stop working, lay it all on the line,” Ellison said at the event, according to Omeish’s campaign website.
Photos from the event show Ellison chatting with Omeish and other activists, such as Nihad Awad, the founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Progressive liberals, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have pushed for Ellison to be named as head of the DNC. But Ellison’s critics have pointed to his links to extremist organizations such as the Nation of Islam — he first ran for office in 1998 under the name Keith Ellison-Muhammad — and his comments regarding Israel as cause for concern.
The Washington Free Beacon reported further on Monday that Ellison, who entered Congress in 2007, also took a trip to Mecca, the Islamic holy site, in late-2008. The junket, which cost $13,500 and sparked a House Ethics investigation, was paid for by the Muslim American Society (MAS). (RELATED: Keith Ellison Failed To Dislose Trip To Mecca Financed By Group Tied To Muslim Brotherhood)
It is unclear if Omeish was in charge of MAS when Ellison took the trip.
A year before, Omeish was forced by then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to resign his position on a state immigration commission after video footage from 2000 surfaced showing him condemning Israel and endorsing “the jihad way.” (RELATED: Democrat Has Ties To Muslim Activist Who Condemned Israel)
“We the Muslims of the Washington metropolitan area are here today…to tell our brothers and sisters in [Palestine] that you have learned the way, that you have known that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land,” Omeish told the crowd, which included protesters holding signs equating the Star of David to a Nazi swastika.
“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 2007, after announcing that Omeish would be replaced at the Virginia immigration commission because of the video.
Omeish, who ended up losing the Virginia delegate contest, spouted fiery, anti-Israel rhetoric again at a rally held in Oct. 2000 in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington D.C. There, he praised an intifada the Palestinians were waging against Israel.
“We need to congratulate our brothers and sisters in Philistine [Palestine] for their bravery, for their giving up their lives for the sake of Allah and for the sake of Al-Aqsa.”
Omeish was referring either to the Al-Aqsa intifada, a deadly campaign in which Palestinian suicide bombers carried out attacks against Israelis, or the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist group that formed in the West Bank in 2000.
In 2004, after he took over at MAS, Omeish praised Ahmed Yassin, one of the founders of Hamas, the terrorist group.
“Bullets and bombs are going off upon our brothers in Philistine [Palestine] and we are sitting here and saying [Arabic phrase], instead of feeling that this is our tax money and it is our dollars that killed our beloved Sheikh Ahmed Yassin,” Omeish said during a speech in Overland Park, Kan.
Israeli forces killed Yassin in a targeted airstrike in March 2004.
Ellison’s office did not respond to a request for comment.