Fairfax County

Tweet by Fairfax Co. School Board Member Sparks Backlash, Support

School Board Member-at-Large Abrar Omeish tweeted in support of Palestinians and criticized Israel

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A Fairfax County school board member has received strong support and strong backlash for a tweet about violence between residents of Israel and the Gaza Strip.

School Board Member-at-Large Abrar Omeish, a woman of faith, tweeted on May 13, "Eid Mubarak! Congrats on 30 days of worship! Hurts my heart to celebrate while Israel kills Palestinians & desecrates the Holy Land right now. Apartheid & colonization were wrong yesterday and will be today, here and there. May justice + truth prevail."

Dawn Weiss Smith, a Jewish mother with kids in the school district, said her daughter reported that the tweet made her uncomfortable.

"My daughter said, 'For the first time in a long time, I actually feel unsafe and I don't want people to know I'm Jewish.’ That was horrifying for me as a parent,” Smith said.

Omeish was set to be recognized Thursday by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington for championing faith, equity and unity in schools.

Following her tweet, the group rescinded the offer saying, "Ms. Omeish broke that unity by tweeting a one-sided, inaccurate, and hateful statement that smeared Israel, defamed Israelis, and disenfranchised the thousands of Jewish families in her district."

Ben Ruebner, a Jewish man who supports Omeish, said the criticism of the Israeli government is not a criticism of Judaism or Jewish people.

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"Nothing that Abrar expressed was anything against Jewish people as Jewish people,” he said.

The next day, Omeish tweeted, saying in part, "War is terrible for everyone. I hear those hurting. I'm here for you." 

She ended it by saying, "I look ahead to robust and empathetic engagement with Jewish leaders."

Some on social media were critical of a school board member weighing in on the topic. Ruebner disagreed with that criticism.

"Why would we criticize an elected official for expressing their point of view about a matter of public concern?” Ruebner asked. 

Omeish said she wasn't available for an interview Thursday ahead of the school board meeting, where some will celebrate her and others will call for her resignation.

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