The Ontario NDP is distancing itself from a newly elected MPP’s reposted social-media message that mourned the death of a Palestinian hunger striker associated with a terrorist group, saying that neither the party nor the member of the provincial Parliament share those views.
Sarah Jama, who was elected in March to replace former leader Andrea Horwath in the riding of Hamilton Centre, retweeted a post on Tuesday about the death of Khader Adnan. Mr. Adnan was a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militant organization, which is listed as a terrorist entity in Canada.
The original tweet, from American human-rights attorney Noura Erakat, called Mr. Adnan, who died after an 87-day hunger strike in Israeli custody, a “martyr for freedom.” His May 2 death sparked an exchange of gunfire between Israel and armed groups in Gaza, before three Palestinian officials said the sides had agreed to a ceasefire. He was the first Palestinian hunger striker to die in Israeli custody in more than 30 years, according to Reuters.
Jason Wager, a spokesman for the NDP, said Wednesday that neither the party nor Ms. Jama endorse the tweet.
“Last night, the MPP for Hamilton Centre retweeted a tweet by an American academic Noura Erakat concerning the death of Khader Adnan and later un-retweeted it. The content of the tweet does not reflect the views of Ms. Jama or the Ontario NDP,” he said.
Prior to Ms. Jama removing the tweet, B’nai Brith Canada criticized her for sharing it. “Khader Adnan was not a martyr for freedom. He was a convicted terrorist and member of PIJ: a listed entity in Canada. Endorsing such a narrative is an affront to his innocent victims and is unbecoming of an elected official,” the organization said.
B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn told The Globe and Mail that the organization appreciated the NDP distancing itself from the tweet but said the incident calls into question what Ms. Jama’s views are and called for an apology and explanation from the MPP.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also condemned the tweet, calling it “unconscionable.”
“Subsequently deleting that content doesn’t address the egregiousness of her post,” said Noah Shack, vice-president of the Greater Toronto Area at CIJA.
Ms. Jama’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Her Twitter account was offline for a period on Wednesday, but then it returned.
Michael Bueckert, vice-president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, defended Ms. Jama and said it was disturbing to see the NDP MPP “unfairly attacked” for retweeting Ms. Erakat’s statement.
“It would be wrong for the ONDP [Ontario NDP] to punish their MPP for drawing attention to a powerful example of non-violent struggle against Israeli apartheid,” he said.
The MPP, who won the Hamilton Centre byelection with more than 54 per cent of the vote, also faced controversy during the campaign over her past comments about Israel. But NDP Leader Marit Stiles defended her as a strong advocate for human rights.
Solicitor-General Michael Kerzner, who is Jewish, told The Globe that Ms. Jama is “tripling down” on her past views.
“The Jewish community is absolutely disgusted with the fact that she’s continuing to sow seeds of antisemitism,” Mr. Kerzner said.
“And she has to be called out by her leader. Marit Stiles has to call her out and say, ‘This is not what Ontario represents.’ This is toxic to our democracy.”
Ms. Jama, a disability and civic-justice activist, has been an outspoken defender of Palestinian rights. She previously faced calls by B’nai Brith to step down and apologize for her past comments about Israel and previous support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes economic sanctions against Israel.
The BDS movement has been called antisemitic by Jewish groups and condemned by Conservative and Liberal politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In a 2021 video that circulated online during the byelection, Ms. Jama spoke about Hamilton police protecting “Nazism” and targeting Black Muslim Palestinians, and suggested Israel is funding the killing of people globally and locally.
Dan Panneton, director of allyship and community engagement at the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies, said Wednesday that Ms. Jama’s actions show her disregard for Jewish citizens.
“It is disturbing to see a member of Ontario’s Parliament promoting the glorification of an Islamic Jihad terrorist associated with the murder of Jewish civilians in Israel. Not for the first time, Sarah Jama’s ill-informed and reckless behaviour shows her disregard for Jews in her riding and across the province,” he said.
“The Ontario NDP must take meaningful action this time instead of merely more vague assurances that it takes this concerning situation seriously.”