Candidates apologize to Jewish advocacy group for ads in publication it calls 'anti-Semitic'

Candidates in Windsor West are apologizing for running full-page advertisements in a newspaper which one Jewish advocacy group has accused of making anti-Semitic comments.

According to a statement from B'nai Brith Canada, al-Forqan — an Arabic-language newspaper based in Windsor — repeatedly published comments considered hateful to Jewish people between 2016 and 2018.

NDP candidate Brian Masse said the party advertises in a lot of community newspapers "and that's no different in this situation." A full-page advertisement for Masse's campaign was published in the September 2019 edition of al-Forqan.

"I would like to apologize for any hurt that may have been caused and pledge to not run any further ads in this newspaper," Masse said in a statement.

"We want to be extra sensitive to the concerns that were expressed. It's an advertisement we didn't necessarily have to have up, so that's why we complied right away," he added.

Sanjay Maru/CBC

A second full-page advertisement was also published in the same newspaper by three candidates for the Liberal Party — Sandra Pupatello of Windsor West, Irek Kusmierczyk of Windsor-Tecumseh and Audrey Festeryga of Essex.

"As soon as we were told of the concerns raised by B'nai Brith about this publication, we immediately contacted B'nai Brith to apologize," Pupatello said in a statement, adding her apology is on behalf of all three Liberal candidates.

"We were not aware of these issues when the ads were placed, and we will not be placing ads in this publication going forward. I know the NDP has also advertised in this publication and I'm sure they similarly intended no offence."

Newspaper denies publishing anti-Semitic remarks

B'nai Brith's accusations against the al-Forqan newspaper dates back to 2016. In a statement to CBC News, al-Forqan said it has been targeted since that time for supporting "the freedom of the Palestinian people against Zionists."

"Not a single word that was written was anti-Semitic. We share the same values with many Jews around the world who condemn the Israeli occupation of Palestine," continued the statement from al-Forqan.

"As for the NDP and Liberal parties position, we understand the dirty politics they face during election time, thus we understand their decision. We do not have any further comment on this issue."

Amy Dodge/CBC

On its website, the al-Forqan newspaper points out that "the opinions expressed in the articles published on this website are strictly those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Forqan Newspaper, its publishers or employees."

However, B'nai Brith sees the matter differently. 

"There is absolutely no excuse for subsidizing Jew-hatred by placing advertisements in these antisemitic publications," said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B'nai Brith Canada, in a statement.

"Our political candidates should be the first to acknowledge this fact, and we thank them for doing so in this case."