Canada's Laith Marouf scandal: When anti-Zionism runs wild
Justin Trudeau's Minister of Diversity & Inclusion hired Laith Marouf to train Canadian media in "anti-racism." What did they know and when?
Montreal - 09/25/02 -- Concordia university student Laith Marouf of the school's Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights club, protests with other students during a lunch-hour demonstration at the Hall building by various clubs, organized by the Student Union. (Phil Carpenter/Postmedia.)
Note From the Editor, Vivian Bercovici:
Just over a week ago we dropped William Kolbrener’s takedown of antisemitic academics masquerading as “progressives.” His particular focus was on those who feel impelled to share every critique they have of the State of Israel and their performative agony in deciding whether to participate in academic life in the country.
Today, we offer an essay by a renowned Canadian author, journalist and social commentator on another iteration of questionable treatment of Israel – and, by extension, Jews – that is so in vogue at the moment. The scandal that Terry Glavin writes about has been covered in Canada and certain international media, particularly in the U.K. This “incident,” which is ongoing, is exposed here as only Terry can do.
While in Canada in August I also chimed in on the Marouf scandal in a guest column in the National Post newspaper which you can read here.
And here's the tweet in which Marouf slams me personally for “directing” my “dogs” to attack him on Twitter.
As Canadian scandals go, this past summer’s unmasking of an unambiguously antisemitic and transparently racist federal consultant was a strangely short-lived affair. That's because there's a lot more to it than has been generally reported.
When the Laith Marouf story broke, it was newsworthy mostly because of the irony in it. Marouf, the senior consultant with a group called the Community Media Advocacy Centre, was revealed to be bringing in a tidy income from the Trudeau government’s Anti-Racism Action Program, and yet there he was on Twitter, over and over again, coming off like an olden days demagogue from Der Stürmer, or a shouter from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or some neo-Confederate white power pamphleteer.
“Life is too short for shoes with laces, or for entertaining Jewish white supremacists with anything but a bullet to the head.” – Laith Marouf
But that’s just where the ironies begin. The full story sheds unwelcome light on something deeply disturbing about the milieu and the mindset around Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s avowedly anti-racist, feminist and progressive Liberal government: It’s not quite what it says on the tin.
The Marouf scandal surfaced on August 19 with a Canadian Press article about his “disturbing tweets” and about Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen’s pledge to instruct the grant-doling bureaucrats under Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez to “look closely at the situation.” Here’s some more irony for you. It was only weeks before the scandal broke that Hussen himself was praising Marouf’s project – a country-wide series of “consultative” events titled Building an Anti-Racism Strategy for Canadian Broadcasting: Conversation & Convergence.
Hussen had lent his name and his praise to a joint press release with Marouf’s CMAC outfit, which was gifted $133,000 to run the project, and Hussen had also been alerted to Marouf’s obscenities at least a month before he first said anything publicly about the situation. Hillel Neuer from United Nations Watch has an ear for irony. Taking on Marouf to build an anti-racism strategy for Canadian broadcasters, Neuer said, was like “paying Jack the Ripper to run a women’s shelter.”
In that first CP story, just one Marouf outburst was cited: "You know all those loud mouthed bags of human feces, aka the Jewish White Supremacists; when we liberate Palestine and they have to go back to where they come from, they will return to being low voiced bitches of [their] Christian/Secular White Supremacist Masters."
You could say that was one of Marouf’s milder missives. Others slandered Indigenous people, Quebeckers, Black people and Kurds. Another irony: Twitter had already suspended Marouf once for his racism before he was taken on by the federal Anti-Racism Action Program. His Twitter account has since been shut down.
If you can, set aside for the moment Marouf’s antisemitic vulgarities, like this one: “Life is too short for shoes with laces, or for entertaining Jewish white supremacists with anything but a bullet to the head.” Here’s another irony for you.
It has been barely reported at all, but over the six years prior to the scandal's eruption in August, Marouf had raked in nearly $600,000 from the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission. And while he was taking lucrative CRTC contracts to tell Canada’s federally regulated broadcasters how to behave themselves, Marouf was a regular on the Kremlin’s Radio Sputnik, every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and on Tehran’s Press TV programs, and on podcasts hosted by prominent Kremlin-anointed propagandists, serving as a megaphone for Syria’s Bashar Assad.
Marouf was a Concordia student during the 2002 protests. He’d insisted he couldn’t be prosecuted, owing to diplomatic immunity – at the time, he was the son of a Syrian diplomat assigned to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Montreal headquarters.
Within a week of the scandal breaking into the mainstream press Hussen announced that Marouf’s Community Media Advocacy Centre would have its funding cut. Hussen has since declared that the government’s anti-racism program officers will receive training in how to identify racist applicants, as well as in anti-racism and antisemitism awareness. No anti-racism funding, Hussen now says, will go to organizations that promote hate. That’s three more ironies right there.
The Marouf scandal “reflects a failure in the vetting system,” Hussen said. But the Marouf scandal wasn’t a mere matter of insufficiently attentive “vetting” of federal contractors over a period of roughly six years. A tendency to lurid antisemitic, “anti-Zionist” and anti-western histrionics is pretty much the only thing Marouf is known for, going back 20 years.
The story only came to light from the diligence of Mark Goldberg, a university lecturer, telecom industry specialist and co-founder of the GST Conferences’ annual Canadian telecom summit. Goldberg had been alerting the CRTC about Marouf’s bloodcurdling outbursts as far back as the summer of 2021. It was only after Goldberg’s observations came to the attention of independent journalist Jonathan Kay, who wrote about the affair in the webzine Quillette, that any mainstream public attention was paid to the story at all.
Kay had remembered Marouf from the violent protest against Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to speak at Montreal’s Concordia University in 2002, when Concordia’s Jewish students were harassed and pushed around. The antisemitic violence saddled the university with years of effort to rebuild its reputation. Marouf was a Concordia student during the 2002 protests. He’d insisted he couldn’t be prosecuted, owing to diplomatic immunity – at the time, he was the son of a Syrian diplomat assigned to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Montreal headquarters. Looking back on those days, Marouf recently observed: “At least we broke a window when they claimed Kirstallnacht.”
Despite a comfortable livelihood from federal contracts in Canada, Marouf has been living mostly in Lebanon for the past two years with his wife, Dr. Gretchen King, an assistant professor at the American University of Beirut. Her research work there, in the family tradition, is funded partly by federal tax money – a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Marouf became a citizen of what he calls “Apartheid Canada” only two years ago.
But the Marouf Affair isn’t a one-off thing. It’s more of a reflection of the weird milieu the Trudeau government has nurtured in what it claims is necessary “anti-racist” policy and programming. The Trudeau government’s recent federal budget set aside $85 million over the next four years on its anti-racism strategy and its efforts to combat “hate.” But the whole project is clouded by a redefinition of racism in such a way that it can be staring you straight in the face, and you’re not allowed to see it.
The Muslim Association of Canada, which is openly aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, is a case in point. While the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs announced its satisfaction with the federal response to the Marouf Affair, CIJA is perplexed that federal anti-racism program funding has also been doled out to the MAC. The organization has more than once hosted conferences that featured speakers who had “proselytized misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ2+, antisemitic, and often violent beliefs,” CIJA says, “ideologies we believe most Muslim Canadians reject.” Among the speakers invited to MAC’s annual conference three months ago – one has advocated the death penalty for gay people, another condones wife-beating and another says Christian Arabs who protect Jews from murderers are traitors.
Trudeau’s Liberals are not above engaging in anti-Israel histrionics of their own.
It’s not evident exactly what Hussen’s proposed anti-racism training for Heritage Canada’s program officers and grant-dispensers will look like. A Global Affairs Canada anti-racism training document that came to light last year says it’s a “myth” that people of color can be racist, and that racism is a pathology afflicting only white people. Antisemitism isn’t mentioned in the document once.
And no matter how far “left” you are, you’re not going to be a concern of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, a high-profile beneficiary of the Trudeau government’s Anti-Racism Action Program. “The far left wants equal rights for all,” the CAHN declares. “The far-left fantasy is saving the environment, ending racism/misogyny (etc.), basic needs for all.”
As anyone even vaguely familiar with the trajectory of “far-left” politics in recent years will be well aware, left-wing antisemitism is a very real phenomenon. It’s what came close to destroying the British Labour Party during the Jeremy Corbyn years, for instance, and it’s almost invariably coupled with a virulent and obsessive “anti-Zionism.” Recent tendencies on the “left” have only doubled down on the morbid antipathy to Israel that was central to the “anti-war” movement of this century’s first decade. In its current iteration, the antipathy characterizes Israel in the same way the far left situates Canada, as an illegitimate, racist, colonial-settler state.
Meanwhile, Canada’s New Democratic Party, which props up Justin Trudeau’s minority government, remains mired in what B’nai Brith Canada (the country’s oldest Jewish service and advocacy organization) calls a “morbid preoccupation with Israel” at the expense of human rights tragedies facing the Uyghurs of Xinjiang and the people of Myanmar, Syria and Hong Kong. In August, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh penned a 13-point policy on Israel-Palestine, and each point faulted Israel and absolved the Palestinian side, placing the onus entirely on Israel to secure the peaceful two-state solution New Democrats claim to want.
Read "Woke Academics Invited to Israel: Stay or Go?"
Trudeau’s Liberals imagine themselves to be more sophisticated than that, cleaving to a kind of passive-aggressive standpoint. It’s sometimes difficult to discern whether it’s deliberate or something more calculated.
In February of last year, for instance, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed an order declaring the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network a terrorist organization in its own right, not just in its intimate association with the terrorist-listed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Israeli authorities had long warned Ottawa that Samidoun was operating freely in Canada, functioning as the PFLP’s international propaganda, recruitment and fundraising proxy. Samidoun’s headquarters are in Vancouver. Three days after Gantz’s order, on March 3, 2021, the federal Corporations Canada agency approved Samidoun’s registration under the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act.
Trudeau’s Liberals are not above engaging in anti-Israel histrionics of their own. This past April, Hamas busied itself with hair-raising scare stories about Jews preparing to “storm Al-Aqsa” in Jerusalem during Ramadan, and urgently summoned Palestinians to mobilize at the Haram al-Sharif to protect the sanctuary from the Jewish invaders. The alarm was contrived from incitements and conspiracy theories that go back to the time of the Third Reich’s principal Arab ally, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in the 1920s.
Too predictably, hundreds of young Palestinian Arabs fell for it. But so did several Liberal cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament. During the rock-throwing melee that ensued, increasingly shrill denunciations were uttered by one Liberal caucus member after another, hectoring the Israeli authorities to restrain themselves and leave Muslim worshippers alone.
Mélanie Joly, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, kicked it off, imploring the Israeli authorities this way: “Violence in & around al-Aqsa is unacceptable. The sanctity and status quo of holy sites must be respected.”
Then came Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra. “Violence inside the Al-Aqsa mosque especially during a holy period is extremely upsetting and is unacceptable.”
Then Liberal MP Jennifer O’Connell: “Excessive force used by the Israeli police is unacceptable and takes us further away from peace.”
Then Jenna Sudds, Parliamentary Secretary for Women, Gender Equality, and Youth: “Palestinians have a right to worship in peace and safety, a human right which was provocatively violated by Israeli forces during today's raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque. These dangerous actions are an affront to the sanctity of holy places.”
Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden: “It is unacceptable that Muslim Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem are once again being attacked during the holy month of Ramadan.”
It went on and on like this.
On the plus side, this past summer the Trudeau government pledged that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism will be incorporated into its anti-racism strategy. “Anti-Zionism” that delegitimizes and demonizes that Jewish state is to be understood as an unequivocal expression of antisemitism.
Laith Marouf was displeased. “Heritage Canada will now require organizations it funds, including Indigenous organizations, as well as media, culture and arts initiatives, to subscribe to a supremacist political ideology and swear allegiance to a foreign Apartheid Colony, before they can receive any funding.”
Marouf has been busy in recent weeks, granting audiences to fawning “progressive” interviewers, appearing on “progressive” panels, and raising money for what he calls a legal defense fund, to oppose the IHRA “loyalty oath” being imposed in “racialized or Indigenous media.”
The point, he says, is to see that his own sad story is “the last time Zionists can use the media to defame supporters of Palestinian liberation.”
As if Palestinian liberation has anything to do with it.
And here we have the final irony in a Canadian scandal that should not have been so short-lived.
A federally funded firehose of spittle-flecked antisemitism, highbrow anti-Zionism and back-alley racism, out in the open, going back years – and he’s the victim here. Having availed himself of hundreds of thousands of Canadian tax dollars and platforms provided by Khomeinists and spin doctors for Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad, the Canadian mainstream press finally notices him. He gets outed.
And when that happens, he blames the Zionists.
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