British Columbia NDP premier David Eby is facing sharp criticism from several Jewish groups after the resignation of a Jewish minister amid pressure from anti-Israel activists.

Eby announced Monday that postsecondary education minister Selina Robinson would be stepping down from cabinet. Robinson will also not seek re-election as an MLA. Sources told the Vancouver Sun that the resignation came at Eby’s request.

Robinson had criticized the lack of Holocaust education among young people in a Zoom call.

She noted that several young people “have no idea about the Holocaust, they don’t even think it happened” and that Israel was built from the ground up in an undesirable locale.

“They don’t understand that it was a crappy piece of land with nothing on it,” she said. 

“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.”

The comments were subsequently condemned by anti-Israel activists and Muslim groups, who accused Robinson of anti-Palestinian racism and called for her ouster from the NDP cabinet and caucus. 

Eby also denounced Robinson, saying her remarks were wrong, hurtful and divisive. He later said Robinson’s “belittling” remarks were incompatible with her remaining in cabinet.

Before resigning, Robinson issued an apology which was rejected by activists.

Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs spokesperson Nico Slobinsky said in a statement that Robinson’s exit “sends a chilling message that Jewish leaders are held to a different standard than non-Jewish ones.

Slobinsky cited the NDP’s past tolerance of antisemitic comments as well as Eby writing “we stand with the Muslim community” on International Holocaust Remembrance Day as examples of a double standard. 

“In the past, when BC NDP politicians and staff have made antisemitic comments, the Jewish community has been asked to accept their apologies, and on every occasion, we have.”

Slobinsky also said “the loss of MLA Robinson is especially distressing as we no longer have our strongest advocate, who understands the challenges and sensitivities of the Jewish community, at the table,” something Jewish British Columbians find both offensive and hurtful.

Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver CEO Ezra Shanken called Eby’s conduct “shameful” and condemned the hate which Robinson received.

“The level of online vitriol aimed at Selina Robinson leading up to her resignation, which mirrors the reality faced by much of the Jewish community since the October 7 terrorist attacks committed by Hamas, shows worrying trends in our public discourse,” he said.

Shanken added that “it is shameful that Premier David Eby has bowed to pressure from a loud minority whose campaign to discredit MLA Robinson was centred in anti-Jewish bias and lacked the offer of grace they demand when others falter.”

Nine rabbis from the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver penned a letter to Eby defending Robinson. They also accused the premier of having bowed to pressure, and added that they will not forget what took place. 

“Premier Eby, we are very disappointed by yesterday’s announcement. We believe that you have capitulated to a small but loud group of people. This is dangerous for our community and the strength of our province’s democracy,” the rabbis wrote. 

“You bowed to pressure from the very same groups that have been at the centre of an unprecedented rise in antisemitism and hate directed at the Jewish community since the brutal and inhuman attacks of Oct. 7. It feels like you have given in to bullies for political expediency.”

The rabbis also praised Robinson, noting that she “has had an exemplary career as an NDP politician representing the people of British Columbia and should not be judged by one mistake.”

Constituency office vandalized

Robinson’s constituency office was vandalized with antisemitic messages in the wake of the controversy.

Messages that appeared on and around her office building included “there is only one solution, intifada revolution,” “Zionism is Nazism,” “No Zionists, aka Jewish supremacists, as our MLA,” and “We do not accept your apology.”

Eby condemned the “hateful” vandalism, saying, “this is wrong. Peaceful protest cannot include spreading hate.”

Eby’s office did not respond to True North’s request for additional comment.