Hate speech disguised as an opinion article

"This profoundly insulting opinion article does not respect the basic journalistic standards of fairness, accuracy, and balance. To put it simply, it is hate speech covered up as an opinion article."

December 22, 2023


Warren Kinsella, Columnist, Ottawa Sun

Nicole Feriancek, Editor-in-chief, Ottawa Sun

Christina Spencer, Opinion, Ottawa Sun

Dear Warren Kinsella, Nicole Feriancek, and Christina Spencer,

I am writing to express concern about the opinion article: “Weak political will allowing antisemitism to rise in Montreal,” published on December 20 in Ottawa Sun.

This profoundly insulting opinion article does not respect the basic journalistic standards of fairness, accuracy, and balance. To put it simply, it is hate speech covered up as an opinion article.

Let me go over all the problematic elements in this piece that doesn't even deserve to be published as an opinion.

First, it describes pro-Palestine protesters and protests as “jihadist behaviour” and talks about “Islamic radicalization.” It is deeply offensive to read that people who are protesting for a ceasefire and the liberation of Palestine are described as such. Not only are they simply expressing a right protected under the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, but this is an intentional mischaracterization since they have always been diverse and peaceful. It is a senseless lie but also a form of banalized violence against Muslims.

Second, in line with my first point, Kinsella's misrepresentation of the protests and protesters deliberately excludes Jewish People who are part of them. It also seeks to accuse the rallies and protestors of being antisemitic and responsible for the rise in antisemitic actions around the city. It is hurtful and false. It is misinformation that is harmful to both communities.

Third, Kinsella doesn’t accurately depict the call of the Montreal Muslim cleric. The cleric didn’t call for God to kill Jews “and spare none of them.” He denounced “Zionist aggressors” and “enemies of the people of Gaza.”

Fourth, Kinsella doesn’t present a balanced picture of the situation. Antisemitism is unfortunately on the rise, but Islamophobia as well. While he denounces one, he does it clumsily by fomenting anti-Muslim rhetoric.

In addition, the fact that Beryl Wajsman is quoted saying hateful words and presented as “the articulate and passionate editor of Montreal’s award-winning newspaper The Suburban” furthers my point. Beryl Wajsman is a pro-Israel voice. One can look at his social media to make the same conclusion.

The fact that his description of pro-Palestine protesters as a “pro-Hamas crowd” or “pro-Hamas fanatics” was even published is another example of this opinion piece being one-sided and not respecting the basic standard of not inciting hate.

Fifth, whether we agree or not, Montrealʼs Mayor, Valery Plante, has been vocal about antisemitic incidents more than Islamophobic ones. She has condemned the second shooting at a Jewish elementary school, Yeshiva Gedola. She has also increased police presence and security measures.   More can be done to ensure the safety of both communities, and it should be done, but to say there’s no political will is not entirely accurate and highly debatable.

Sixth, this opinion piece included unverified claims. You write, quoting Wajsman:

And they’re paid to do so. […] Pro-Hamas protesters can get up to $50 for each protest they attend, […] and they’ve divided the city up into grids, with leaders responsible for each grid. […] Most of the protesters are non-residents and students from Arab countries.

As someone who attended a pro-Palestine protest, I can assure you that I joined a diverse group of people like me who did it of their own will and were not bribed to do so. To make such a claim without providing any evidence is laughable, considering that, on the contrary, there is some evidence to prove that some college kids were offered $250 to attend a pro-Israel rally in DC. 

Seventh, again, by quoting Wajsman, this article writes that “intifada” and “from the river to the sea” are antisemitic messages and that people should be deported for chanting them. Intifada means resistance, while from the river to the sea only calls for the liberation of Palestine and equality with Jewish people. There is nothing antisemitic about them. These false accusations are highly dangerous, and more so because, as I explained, Jewish people are part of the protests. Ironically, Wasjmanʼs statement is antisemitic, which this opinion piece is trying to denounce.

Eight, it is highly inaccurate to quote someone saying that Israel has a right to self-defence. In fact, under a 2004 ICJ decision, Israel doesn’t. It is considered an occupying power. This is deeply disturbing as an ongoing genocide is unfolding in Gaza, and this same excuse is used to justify it.

Unfortunately, antisemitism is on the rise, as is Islamophobia. It should be denounced, and measures should be implemented to protect both communities. However, if this article were really about hate, it wouldn’t contribute to antisemitism and fuel hate against another religious group, Muslims. This opinion article is simply a disgrace to journalism.

Therefore, I ask for an apology and corrections, although this opinion piece will be brought to the NNC as it deeply violates basic journalistic standards.

I expect better coverage from Ottawa Sun and hope it will not add more fuel to any form of hate in the future.


Fatima Haidar,

Media Analyst, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East