A Virginia Democrat with a history of anti-Israel activism and anti-Semitic comments was sworn in as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates Wednesday.
Ibraheem Samirah, a 27-year-old dentist, won a special election Tuesday to replace Democrat Jennifer Boysko, who was elected to the state Senate. Samirah defeated U.S. Air Force veteran Gregg Nelson, a Republican, in the race.
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The Democrat entered the election as a heavy favorite in the Northern Virginia district, but the race became more complicated after Virginia's top three government officials, all Democrats, drew scrutiny for past misconduct. The state's governor and attorney general admitted to donning blackface. Its lieutenant governor was accused by several women of sexual misconduct.
Samirah faced a scandal of his own after Big League Politics shed light on posts he made on his Facebook page in 2014. The posts, expressing anti-Israel sentiments, led Nelson to accuse his opponent of anti-Semitism.
Samirah, who was born in the United States but calls himself a "second-generation Palestinian refugee," co-founded a chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace while a student at American University.
In another Facebook post, he called for greater support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which he advocated for while an undergraduate and dental school student.
In a now-deleted post, Samirah described Israel as worse than the Ku Klux Klan.
In February, Samirah expressed contrition for the posts. He described them as "posts that upon reflection and with the of[sic] blessing of time, I sincerely regret and apologize for." He said he was "so sorry that my ill-chosen words added to the pain of the Jewish community."
In his apology, he also characterized the allegations of anti-Semitism as a "slander campaign."
In the final days of the campaign, Samirah criticized Virginia Democrats for distancing themselves from him. "I can’t lie about that," Samirah said, according to the Washington Post. "They definitely succumbed to the extreme-right propaganda machine. They succumbed to fear when we should be standing up for our values and not allowing them to divide us and conquer us."
Samirah is the second Muslim Virginian elected to the House of Delegates.