February 25th, 2024

Jewish groups decry Robinson’s cabinet exit, as Eby slams ‘hateful’ office vandalism

By Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press on February 6, 2024.

A national advocacy group says the Jewish community is offended and hurt by the exit of Selina Robinson from the B.C. cabinet over remarks that Israel was founded on "a crappy piece of land." Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, Selina Robinson, speaks during an announcement in Delta, B.C., on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VICTORIA – B.C. Premier David Eby has criticized what he’s calling the “hateful” vandalism of the constituency office of former minister Selina Robinson that came hours after she resigned from his cabinet over remarks that angered pro-Palestinian groups and others.

Her exit on Monday has been deplored by Jewish groups, but wasn’t enough to satisfy some of her critics.

Video on social media showed the office covered in signs calling for “intifada revolution” and Robinson’s removal from the NDP caucus, among other messages and Palestinian flags.

“We refuse to have an MLA that’s a racist,” says a voice on the video, posted on Tuesday morning by an account called Canadian Antifa.

Eby responded with a plea for peaceful protest.

“Selina Robinson’s office was vandalized last night, which included hateful messages,” Eby said in a message posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, the same social media platform where the video of the office in Coquitlam, B.C., was shared.

“This is wrong. Peaceful protest cannot include spreading hate.”

Robinson, who is Jewish, stepped down as post-secondary education minister on Monday following a sustained outcry over her comments last week that modern Israel was founded on “a crappy piece of land.”

She announced her resignation from cabinet after critics called her comments racist and Islamophobic. Robinson and Eby said she would remain in the NDP caucus.

The resignation comes amid ongoing tensions and global protests over the Israel-Hamas war, in which thousands have died since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants killed 1,200 people in Israel and took another 250 hostage.

Officials at Robinson’s constituency office were not immediately available for comment.

Robinson’s exit from the NDP cabinet has caused deep concerns from some members of B.C.’s Jewish community who said they had lost an advocate who admitted her mistake and was willing to make amends.

Robinson apologized twice in the days before her resignation, saying “my words were inappropriate, wrong and I now understand how they have contributed to Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism.”

But it didn’t quell the criticism, or save her place in the cabinet.

Nico Slobinsky, Pacific vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said Robinson’s removal undermined the Jewish community’s confidence in B.C.’s government and signalled that Jewish leaders were held to different standards than others.

Slobinsky said in a statement the Jewish community had lost a strong voice at a time of increasing acts of antisemitism and anti-Israel protests.

“The community is both offended and hurt by what has happened to a great ally and British Columbian,” he said.

“Given this obvious double standard and loss of Jewish representation in cabinet, Premier David Eby must share what steps he is going to take to repair the relationship and restore the community’s trust in him and his government.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs says it’s a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and protect Jewish life in Canada and advance policy interests of Canada’s organized Jewish community.

Nine rabbis signed a letter to Eby on Tuesday supporting Robinson and expressing disappointment in the premier’s decision to accept her resignation.

“We believe you have capitulated to a small but loud group of people,” said the letter from the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver, chaired by Jonathan Infeld. “This is dangerous for our community and the strength of our province’s democracy.”

The rabbis highlighted an incident on International Holocaust Remembrance Day last month, when Eby’s social media accounts posted messages saying “we stand with the Muslim community throughout Canada on this sorrowful day of remembrance.”

Eby later called it a mistake by a staff member. The rabbis said they were deeply offended but accepted his apology.

Robinson, they said, “did not receive the same empathy.”

“We will remember this day the next time you ask for our trust and support,” said the rabbis.

Robinson triggered the uproar that ended her cabinet career with remarks on Jan. 30 during a panel discussion with other Jewish politicians hosted by B’nai Brith Canada.

She lamented a lack of knowledge by younger people about the foundation of modern Israel.

“They don’t understand it was a crappy piece of land with nothing on it. There were several hundred thousand people but other than that it didn’t produce an economy,” she said.

Eby said Monday that Robinson’s remarks were “belittling” and caused harms that were incompatible with her staying in cabinet.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2024.

Share this story:
Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments