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Ontario MPP apologizes after Israel-Gaza comment sparks calls for resignation


An Ontario NDP MPP whose statement on the Israel-Gaza war garnered condemnation from Jewish groups and calls for her resignation by Premier Doug Ford has apologized.

In a response to her controversial Tuesday post on X, formerly Twitter, Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama said she had heard “many voices” who raised concerns about the views she expressed.

“I hear them - and above all, I understand the pain that many Jewish and Israeli Canadians, including my own constituents, must be feeling. I apologize,” Jama said in a reply to the post that first triggered the backlash.

"To be clear, I unequivocally condemn terrorism by Hamas on thousands of Israeli civilians. I also believe that Israel’s bombardment and siege on civilians in Gaza, as was also noted by the United Nations, is wrong."

In the original post, Jama called for a ceasefire in the area of the conflict and demanded an end to what she described as the apartheid of the Palestinian people.

Jama did not address the recent surprise Hamas attack on Israel, which the Israeli military said left more than 1,000 people dead.

Following the post, Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles called on Jama to take it down and said the statement was not approved by caucus.

After Jama apologized, Stiles issued a new statement which said she had been working with the MPP to “understand the personal impact that this is having on her as someone with Palestinian family members.”

“At the same time, I have made it clear that all members of our caucus condemn Hamas’ terror attacks, and we stand in support of the federal NDP’s position in calling for an end to further bloodshed. MPP Jama has reaffirmed her commitment to this,” Stiles wrote.

Jama’s apology came after Ford called on the rookie MPP to step down following her comments.

“Her views do not represent Ontario. They have no place in the legislature, and they have no place in this province,” Ford wrote on Wednesday.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B'nai Brith Canada, and the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) all condemned Jama’s remarks and called for her removal from the Ontario NDP caucus.

In a statement issued Wednesday evening, the FSWC acknowledged Jama's apology, but said it was "much too little, much too late."

"Given her longstanding record of causing hurt and harm to the Jewish community in Hamilton Centre and beyond, we stand by our call for Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles to do the right thing and remove her from the Ontario NDP caucus," a spokesperson said.

Prior to Wednesday’s apology, Jama had reposted a statement from the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which said it had become “targeted by a highly organized pro-Israel lobby” following statements on the issue by CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn.

“In the true tradition of trade unionism, CUPE Ontario will always choose justice over injustice, side with the powerless over the powerful, and support the colonized over the colonizer,” the Union said in their own post to X.

Hahn had previously said he was thankful for the “power of resistance around the globe” the day after the Israel attack.

Since then, the Ontario union president said the suggestion that he was endorsing violence is “horrific.”

Sarah Jama, 23, a disability justice advocate who has cerebral palsy, poses for a portrait at her home in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power Top Stories

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