Ibraheem Samirah, Democrats’ candidate in a special election for a state House seat later this month, apologized Friday for anti-Israel comments from earlier this decade, saying that while he made them, the fact that they are rising now is a “slander campaign.”

Dr. Samirah, who was born in the U.S. but calls himself a “second-generation Palestinian refugee,” said he wrote the offending comments five years ago on Facebook, and says they were the musings of his college mind, which “I sincerely regret and apologize for.”

“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,” he said in a statement Friday.