Hamilton Labour Condemns NDP for Removal of Sarah Jama from Caucus for Linking Israeli Occupation and War on Gaza

Statement from HDLC

It was with sadness and frustration that the Hamilton and District Labour Council (HDLC) read that our Hamilton Centre Member of Provincial Parliament, Sarah Jama, has been removed from the Ontario NDP Caucus.

The Hamilton and District Labour Council has been a long-time member of the party, holding seats at the party’s Provincial Council and conventions. We will soon have the opportunity to decide on the future of our relationship with the party.

In a statement last week, the HDLC called “for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East and re-affirmed our position for an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories.” This occupation of Palestine didn’t start or end with a single Hamas attack in 2023. Palestinians have been oppressed in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem for 75 years.

That MPP Jama was called out for a statement exposing the continuing historical apartheid and colonial occupation instead of just the events of the previous couple of days, was definitely her prerogative, factually accurate, and has been proven to be on point in the intervening time.

Two weeks ago Jama called for peace and a “ceasefire and de-escalation.” Now other politicians across the country are joining those ranks upon seeing what Jama suspected was coming as a response to the Hamas attack, including ongoing barrages of missiles against Palestinian homes and a hospital in Gaza. It seems being prescient scores a MPP no points in the Ontario NDP or Ontario in general. Calling for peace results in a punitive action. We’d hoped for better from the party.

If the Ontario NDP is going to solve its PR problems through a historical reading of the conflict in the events of the past two weeks only, then perhaps it does not deserve to have a member of Sarah Jama’s calibre in their ranks. For decades, the party has done everything it could to quash any discussion of the apartheid and occupation at every convention and Council meeting only to hurriedly piece together an emergency motion for the most recent federal convention.

We urge the party to make a final effort to repair its relationship with Jama, Palestinian Ontarians, and those who stand in solidarity with them, including the working class people of the Hamilton and District Labour Council who also stand firmly by our Member of Provincial Parliament from Hamilton Centre. We will work to ensure she is re-elected whether she stands under a party banner or not. A call for peace is not cause for punishment. •

On behalf of the Executive of Hamilton and District Labour Council. Published on facebook.com/hamiltonlabour page, 24 October 2023.

The Ontario NDP Shivs Sarah Jama Over Opposition to Genocide

The Ontario NDP is addicted to sucking. That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn when watching Marit Stiles and her staff figure out how to navigate the difficult Canadian political terrain of opposing genocide.

Canada’s political establishment is clear in their consensus: Israel has the right to drop more than 7000 bombs on 2.2 million people in just over a week; people who live in an area the size of Montreal and who Israel refuses to allow to leave. Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford, the legislature of Nova Scotia, François Legault – they all call this the right of Israel to defend itself.

And they are very serious about it too. Doug Ford is so afraid of Hamilton-Centre MPP Sarah Jama, so threatened by her power, that he moved a motion to censure her, robbing her of her right to speak and sit on committees in the legislature. The motion passed on October 23rd.

But when the definition of self-defense is bombing Palestine off the map, at some point, people need to speak out.

Don’t expect those people to be in the NDP though. In fact, expect these people to be the first that the leadership of the NDP shivs.

Not only was Jama censured today by the Ontario legislature. She was also kicked out of the ONDP caucus. Here is why: “She has undertaken a number of unilateral actions that have undermined our collective work and broken the trust of her colleagues. Some of Ms. Jama’s actions have contributed to unsafe work environments for staff.”

Jama, the youngest member of their caucus, has made the work environment unsafe. Jama, who has been attacked constantly by Doug Ford, who hasn’t been able to keep her office open for regular hours because of threats – she is the one attacking staff. I wonder who thought that this was the argument to go with, rather than just saying that they’ve chosen the side of the occupier, the oppressor, the literal bomber.

That, of course, doesn’t sound as good as the idea that a Black woman has made the work environment unsafe for some people (who? White men? White women? No one is believing this, folks).

We could argue whether or not the ONDP is driven by cowardice or committed Zionism but what is clear to this: the party will not survive this decision.

Jama was elected under the banner of the ONDP. Her opinions on Palestine have never been hidden and indeed, formed part of the arguments in favour of voting for her. By welcoming her into the party, they benefited from her election and now, are throwing her under the bus. The party has demonstrated that even when it can win, and has won, they are still committed to losing.

This past weekend, millions of people worldwide took to the streets to demand an end to the occupation of Gaza. The death toll is north of 4600 people, half of whom are children, and the worst night of bombardment since the current campaign waged by Israel happened last night.

There is urgency here. With the nations who have the power to intervene and get Israel to stop dropping bombs announcing the total support for Israel’s crimes (couched in the language of ‘the right to self-defense’ – as if babies threaten the existence of Israel), the short-term future seems very, very bleak for the people of Gaza.

At the heart of it all is Israel’s illegal and unjustifiable siege of Gaza. And yet, as I write such simple and straight-forward words, there is a campaign in Canada to silence everyone who says what I have just said.

Now, it’s one thing when that campaign is being coordinated by someone like Brian Lilley – a man who knows very well who butters his bread and who has used his column to call on Canada’s law firms to not hire students from Toronto Metropolitan University who had the audacity to use their free speech to support Palestine – but it’s another entirely to watch the dregs of social democracy in Canada throw their own bombs directly at their own feet.

No thinking person in Canada is watching what’s happening in Gaza and saying to themselves: what this situation really needs is for Israel to have even more steadfast support. No thinking person sees Israel’s retaliation for Hamas’ attacks and says – this is proportional. This is self-defense.

No, the average person is horrified by what is happening. And the average person needs to see something break the political consensus that Israel can do no wrong. The average person hasn’t transcended bourgeois politics yet; they need someone they can feel good about supporting politically. And yet, despite the place in politics that they occupy, the ONDP clamors to become a pale version of the Liberals and then even then, fails spectacularly.

The ONDP is addicted to losing. It’s been addicted to losing for ages. And what’s even more clear is that its addiction to losing has made it impossible for the party to do the bare minimum of what is needed from them. And time and patience is wearing out. The only question is will this precipitate a crisis within the NDP? Or will the party just continue along the path of irrelevance until one day, we don’t even notice they’re gone. •

This article first published on the Noraloreto.Substack website.

Nora Loreto is a writer, podcaster, and activist from Quebec City. She is the author of Take Back the Fight: Organizing Feminism in the Digital Age (Fernwood 2020). She maintains a reader-supported publication at noraloreto.substack.com. Follow her at @NoLore.