Hamilton Centre NDP MPP Sarah Jama has issued a formal apology after making controversial remarks regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict. Jama’s initial statement expressed her support for the people of Gaza, prompting strong reactions from both critics and supporters.
Premier and Party Leader React
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles were among the first to respond to Jama’s remarks. Ford demanded Jama’s resignation, emphasizing that her views “do not represent Ontario. They have no place in the legislature, and they have no place in this province.”
On the other hand, Stiles initially stated that Jama’s views did not reflect the party’s stance but later confirmed that Jama would not be removed from the caucus.
Apology and Clarification
In response to the controversy, Jama said, “I heard many voices yesterday raising concern about my post. 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.”
— Sarah Jama (she/her) (@SarahJama_) October 10, 2023
While she condemned “terrorism by Hamas,” Jama maintained her belief that “violence against civilians is never justified and there is no military solution to this conflict.”
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. As a member of the Ontario NDP caucus,
— Sarah Jama (she/her) (@SarahJama_) October 11, 2023
In her original social media statement, Jama called for an immediate ceasefire and an “end to all occupation of Palestinian land.” She did, however, fail to directly mention the Hamas attacks that killed over 1,000 Israeli civilians.
Civic and Party Response
Several organizations and political figures have since weighed in on the issue. Groups like the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and the Canada-based Legal Centre for Palestine (LCPal) expressed their support for Jama, viewing the NDP’s initial reaction as censorship.
On X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, the CJPME said, “We thank [Jama] for insisting on an immediate ceasefire AND calling for an end to the oppressive structures of occupation and apartheid.”
In contrast, The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre criticized Jama for ignoring “the brutality waged against Israeli civilians by Hamas terrorists,” and The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs called for her removal, deeming her comments “heinous.”
This is not the first time Jama has faced criticism for her remarks on Israel. During the Hamilton Centre byelection campaign earlier this year, B’nai B’rith Canada urged the NDP to reconsider Jama as a candidate due to past criticisms of Israel. At the time, Jama condemned “antisemitism in all of its forms” and expressed remorse for her previous “harmful” comments.