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Selina Robinson under fire for calling Gaza ‘a crappy piece of land’

Robinson has since apologized for her comment, made during a Zoom conference
Selina Robinson during a panel discussion on Jan. 30, 2024. (Screenshot)

BC NDP minister Selina Robinson has issued an apology after coming under fire for calling Gaza a ‘crappy piece of land’ during a virtual speakers panel among other Jewish politicians.

The comment was made Jan. 30, during a nearly two-hour panel discussion streamed on YouTube and hosted by B’nai Brith Canada, which featured Robinson, who is B.C.’s post-secondary education minister, as well as Senator Marc Gold, Ontario Solicitor General Michael Kerzner and MP Ben Carr.

Near the end of the discussion, Robinson and others were asked to respond to a question centred around the adoption of the definition of anti-Semitism as laid out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

“There has been a fair amount of implementation, but it is not enough. If the adoption had been adopted consistently, uniformly and implemented effectively then we wouldn’t have the problems we are having today,” says the speaker, a member of the IHRA delegation for Canada.

“The question becomes how do we get more adoption of the definition? How do we get better implementation of the definition, particularly in universities where it is a big problem?”

Robinson was the last panelists to answer, and responded first by stating that adopting the definition is one thing, but actioning it is also important, which she said can be done through education.

“We know that it is 18-to-34-year-olds that have no idea about the Holocaust, they don’t even think that it happened. They don’t even understand that Israel was offered to the Jews who were misplaced, displaced, so they have no connection to how it started.

“They don’t understand that it was a crappy piece of land with nothing on it – you know, there were several hundred thousand people but other than that, it didn’t produce an economy. It couldn’t grow things it didn’t have anything on it, and that it was the folks that were displaced that came and had been living there for generations and together they worked hard and they had their own battles.”

Robinson goes on to say that while “many don’t know that history,” specifically younger adults, there are people in her community who remember when Israel was formed.

“Eighteen to 34 [year-olds] only know Israel as a very powerful country and they don’t understand the history.”

She finishes her statement by drawing a comparison to two Indigenous groups fighting over land in B.C.

“Would we weigh in as regular people? The answer is no. It’s between these Indigenous nations.”

In a statement on social media platform X on Thursday, Robinson apologized for her comments after a video posting of the comments circulated online.

“I want to apologize for my disrespectful comment referring to the origins of Israel on a ‘crappy piece of land’. I was referring to the fact that the land has limited natural resources. I understand that this flippant comment has caused pain and that it diminishes the connection Palestinians also have to the land. I regret what I said and I apologize without reservation.”

In an emailed statement, Premier David Eby said her recent comments were “wrong and unacceptable.”

“It has caused deep hurt and distress to Palestinians, Muslims, and many others. I thank her for withdrawing the comments and apologizing unreservedly.”

Sanjiv K. Gandhi, the BC Greens’ former deputy leader, called out Robinson’s comments on X Thursday evening.

“A sitting Minister of Higher Education has made flagrantly racist statements that should disturb everyone, regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. Not a “like”. Not a “retweet”. Videotaped statements,” Gandhi said.

Gandhi was fired from the party in November after he had liked a social media post comparing Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry to the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.

“A few months ago, I made a stupid social media mistake. I errantly “liked” an inappropriate tweet. The backlash from the NDP & the media was immediate & unforgiving.”

At the time, Gandhi was called out by Robinson for liking the tweet. She said it was “absolutely outrageous,” adding that the Greens were “demonstrating some true colours.”

BC Greens Leader Sonia Furstenau said on X that the premier has a responsibility to stand up against hate in all its forms.

Speaking to Black Press Media, Furstenau said she agreed with comments in which he condemned hate of any form. “So the question for him right now, is how does he respond to his own words with action?” When asked what she considered the most problematic part of Robinson’s statement, she said any statement that makes “broad sweeping statements about people is problematic.”

She added those in positions of public office and leadership “have an extra burden of care and responsibility that we need to apply to the things that we say and how we say them and we cannot allow for hatred or discrimination.”

When asked whether Robinson should resign, Furstenau said that is a question for her to answer. When asked whether Eby should fire Robinson, Furstenau said that is a question for him to answer.

READ MORE: Green deputy leader Gandhi fired after liking tweet referencing Nazi doctor

The comments by Robinson come as the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza strip nears four months, with death tolls surpassing 27,000 Palestinians and more than 66,000 wounded.

The State of Israel was established in May 1948, following 30 years of fighting between Jews and Arabs and marking the end of the British rule in Palestine.

The establishment of a Jewish home state for the survivors of the Holocaust during the Second World War triggered the the first Arab-Israeli war, involving neighboring Arab countries, which ultimately led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, known as the Nakba, who flocked to territories in neighbouring countries, including what is known as the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Both territories fell under Israeli control in 1967 during the Six Days’ War. Israel surrendered direct control of the Gaza Strip in 2005, but continues to occupy the West Bank.

Black Press Media could not find any research published recently that reflects specifically the 18-to-34-year-old demographic and their knowledge of the Holocaust. However, a 2019 survey released by the Azrieli Foundation, found that 15 per cent of Canadian adults and 22 per cent of those under age 34 said they haven’t heard about or are not sure if they have heard about the Holocaust.

In 2023, B.C. announced it would be making education abut the Holocaust mandatory starting in 2025.

READ MORE: B.C. to make education about Holocaust mandatory starting 2025-26