Ottawa cancels funding for anti-racism group over consultant Laith Marouf’s violent and antisemitic online statements

Laith Marouf (Credit: Twitter)

The federal government has withdrawn a six-figure grant for an organization that employs an individual who has been accused of making multiple violent, antisemitic remarks online.

Laith Marouf, a Palestinian-Syrian activist who resides in Beirut, is a senior consultant with the Montreal-based Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC), which received $133,822 as part of Canadian Heritage’s Anti-Racism Program. 

The program is intended to promote a “range of activities designed to help address barriers preventing full and equitable access/participation among racialized communities, religious minorities and Indigenous peoples to employment, justice and social participation.”

According to his LinkedIn profile, Marouf has worked as a senior consultant with CMAC since September 2015, where he has provided “advocacy and assistance to Indigenous communities and community organizations that wish to explore licensing, funding, and launching their own non­profit community media organizations.” 

There are three consultants listed on CMAC’s website. It’s unclear how the government funds CMAC received were dispersed. 

In posts on his Twitter account—which were subsequently locked from public view—as well as a previous account that was apparently suspended for violating Twitter guidelines, Marouf has advocated for violence against what he calls “Jewish White Supremacists.” 

“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 came from, they will return to being low voiced bitches of thier [sic] Christian/Secular White Supremacist Masters,” he tweeted on Aug. 10.

Two days later, Marouf berated the left-wing group Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), which supports the boycott, divestments and sanctions movement against Israel, for its failure to “physically confront” pro-Israel organizations, arguing IJV is “staffed by people that want to make a living off our suffering.”

He contrasted their conduct with the ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect, which he called the “only Jewish group” he supports. 

On his old account, Marouf posted on July 17, 2021: “Life is too short for shoes with laces, or for entertaining Jewish White Supremacists with anything but a bullet to the head.” 

His opprobrium isn’t limited to Jewish people. In a July 8, 2022, Twitter thread, he said: “French Frogs are very tasty roasted. Go back to your franco gutter.” (“Frog” is an anti-francophone slur.)

On Aug. 22, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen announced the government will cut funding for CMAC, shifting blame onto CMAC for hiring Marouf.

“We call on CMAC, an organization claiming to fight racism and hate in Canada, to answer how they came to hire Laith Marouf, and how they plan on rectifying the situation given the nature of his antisemitic and xenophobic statements,” Hussen wrote. 

A statement from Hussen the previous day said the government is “working to rectify this matter immediately, which we take extremely seriously.” The statement called the remarks “reprehensible and vile,” without explicitly naming Marouf.

Mark Goldberg, a telecommunications consultant in Thornhill, Ont., told The CJN Daily he’s been monitoring Marouf’s social media activity for more than a year after an argument about the CBC issuing an on-air apology for using the word “Palestine” to describe the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Marouf, whom Goldberg first encountered in 2016, said at a 2021 CBC licensing hearing that this decision amounted to censorship. Goldberg tweeted at Marouf to say his characterization of the incident was “inappropriate.”

“And it’s like out of the blue, I’ve been called a racist for my statement. And that is really what triggered me to start to follow this guy’s personal social media fights,” Goldberg said. 

NDP heritage critic Peter Julian, who has put forward legislation to ban the display of explicit hate symbols and has harshly criticized Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, agrees Marouf’s remarks cross a line into antisemitism and called for his removal as a consultant for CMAC if it is to continue receiving government funds. 

“It has come to our attention that a consultant for a federally funded anti-racism project has a disturbing track record of spewing hate speech online against Jewish and francophone communities. This is completely unacceptable,” Julian said in a statement on Aug. 19.

He called for the Liberal government to “come clean about its vetting process” that allowed the organization Marouf works for to receive funds dedicated to combating racism. 

“Tolerating hate speech is complicity—it must stop. We have witnessed too much race-based violence in recent months against Canadian Jews, Muslims, Asians, Black and Indigenous peoples,” said Julian. 

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said in a statement the organization is “horrified that an individual with a history of making outrageous and hateful statements on social media is a consultant being paid using funds from the Anti-Racism Action Program.” 

“All Canadians of goodwill should be appalled,” he said, calling for Canadian Heritage to “review its oversight policies” so that public money doesn’t again go towards those who “violate cherished Canadian values.”  

Marouf and CMAC didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

Stephen Ellis, a lawyer who represents Marouf, told The CJN his client’s tweets were “referring to the reality of Jewish supremacy that exists in apartheid Israel,” not Jewish people as a whole.  

“You can’t have apartheid without some form of ethnic supremacy. In the case of Israel, it is clearly Jewish supremacy,” Ellis said.