Newly independent MPP Sarah Jama hosts office opening in Hamilton


Published November 14, 2023 at 7:42 pm

via Sarah Jama on X.

The new Independent Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama hosted the formal opening of her new office.

Jama was ousted from her seat in the NDP caucus after making social media comments in support of Palestine amid the renewed violence between Israel and designated terrorist entity Hamas. Hamas militants attacked Israeli neighbourhoods near the border of the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7.

The fighters killed nearly 1,300 Israelis during the surprise attack, which took the Israel Defense Force (IDF) completely off-guard. Targets included suburban neighbourhoods and a concert. They also kidnapped more than 200 civilians to hold as hostages.

The Israeli government quickly responded with a declaration of war and a protracted airstrike campaign. This is the fifth declared war between Israel and Hamas since the militant group seized control of Gaza in 2005. Prior to this, Israel had occupied the strip since the 1967 Six-Day War against Egypt.

When Israel pulled out in 2005, Hamas filled the control vacuum. Israel then effectively sealed the city of two million people. This blockade has long been criticized as an “open-air prison.”  Israel, with Egyptian support, has controlled most imports into the city ever since, including food, medicine and fuel. These imports were choked off following the Oct. 7 attack.

In the wake of the outbreak of violence, Jama put out a statement condemning what she called Israeli “settler colonialism” and the “occupation” of Palestine. She additionally called for an immediate ceasefire. By this time, the Israel bombardment had killed around 3,500 Palestinians in Gaza. Since then, 11,250 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and a later ground offensive.

The modern state of Israel was founded in 1948 on land that was previously part of the British Mandate of Palestine. Initially, the land was split more equally, but following various wars over the ensuing decades, Israel has grown to take up much of the region. The modern, largely unrecognized State of Palestine now encompasses the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

However, Jamas’s statement on the renewed violence did not mention the Oct. 7 attack or condemn Hamas, which prompted significant blowback. Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative government quickly called on Jama to apologize for her statement and resign.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles said Jama’s “statement does not reflect our Party’s position, which is articulated in our federal party’s statement.” She additionally called on Jama to retract it but initially stood by Jama.

Jama apologized for her comment but did not retract it. She elaborated in a follow-up post, writing: “Violence against civilians is never justified, and that there is no military solution to this conflict.” She additionally condemned Hamas and the Oct. 7 attack in this post.

Ford said Jama’s comments illustrated a “long and well-documented history of antisemitism” and alleged she supported “rape and murder of innocent Jewish people.” His government later voted to censure Jama in Queen’s Park, blocking her from speaking but she could still vote.

Following Ford’s statement, Jama threatened to sue the premier for defamation and sent him a cease-and-desist letter. Following this move, Stiles removed Jama from the NDP caucus, saying the pair “had reached an agreement to keep her in the NDP caucus, which included working together in good faith with no surprises. Our caucus and staff have made significant efforts to support her during an undoubtedly difficult time.”

Stiles claimed Jama had since “undertaken a number of unilateral actions that have undermined our collective work and broken and the trust of her colleagues.” Jama and Stiles confirmed that there was a vitriolic response to Jama’s comments, including threats of violence.

In the wake of her ousting, Jama committed to remaining the Hamilton Centre MPP as an independent and received support to do so from her NDP riding association. However, after her removal, Jama and her staff were locked out of the NDP servers and resources.

Jama soon left her NDP-affiliated office but remained visible throughout the city. She has attended numerous rallies in support of ACORN, a housing advocacy group, striking Hamilton transit workers and Ceasefire Now demonstrations.

On Nov. 14, she held an event of her own marking the opening of her new office at 630 Main St. E. She was joined by a large group of supporters, including from the CUPE union and Rabbi David Mivasair, a peace advocate who has come under fire for his pro-Palestine stance.

However, in the wake of threats received after Jama’s initial statement, her office moved to appointment only. Additionally, she does not yet have an independent riding association set up and therefore cannot accept donations for now.

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