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Storm erupts when Tarek Fatah accuses media panel of racism

Media personality Tarek Fatah (right) confronts Jonathan Kay, managing editor of the National Post, during a panel discussion last week. Fatah accused Kay, along with Michael Coren, Sun TV; Carole MacNeil, CBC; and panel moderator Avi Benlolo of racism. Media personality Tarek Fatah (right) confronts Jonathan Kay, managing editor of the National Post, during a panel discussion last week. Fatah accused Kay, along with Michael Coren, Sun TV; Carole MacNeil, CBC; and panel moderator Avi Benlolo of racism.


TORONTO – Media personality Tarek Fatah stormed out of a panel discussion about media perceptions of the Middle East last week after accusing three prominent journalists of being white racists.

Fatah was on a panel with Michael Coren (Sun TV), Carole MacNeil (CBC) and Jonathan Kay (National Post) last Thursday at the University of Toronto.

Avi Benlolo, president and CEO, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies (FSWC), moderated the FSWC event.

Fatah became enraged after panelists used the term “fixer” to describe people who are hired to help journalists working in foreign countries.

Fixers can arrange security, facilitate border crossings, set up meetings, or act as interpreters.

Fatah dubbed the term racist and said Western journalists in foreign countries sit in expensive hotels while local journalists do their work for little money and no credit. He said he had been a fixer in Pakistan.

“The term used to be the ‘stringer,’” he said. “The stringer today is...disgustingly called a fixer, almost as if he is the pimp over there, getting the cab and the drinks and arranging everything.”

When the other panelists disagreed, Fatah became infuriated.

As Kay spoke positively about using a fixer in Ramallah and added that he had spent $500 on gifts at the woman’s store, Fatah interjected, “I’m shocked by your racist view!”

The three journalists and Benlolo laughed in seeming confusion, as did the audience. Fatah stood up and shouted that he was leaving because of racism.

“She’s a fixer?” Fatah demanded. “She’s a hooker? What do you mean? You four white people telling me that a racist term of a fixer, you’re laughing at it?...I thought that white people had gone beyond that. You have not moved an inch.”

Kay responded, “This woman in Ramallah was white.... Why is this a bad thing? And fixer is not like the n-word, it’s not like the f-word.”

“White?” hollered Fatah. “She was white? How was she white in Ramallah?”

Just as the situation was calming down and Fatah was leaving, his daughter Natasha Fatah stood in the audience and shouted, “Jonathan, you shouldn’t have made that remark about buying gifts. She’s not a prostitute.”

Kay responded, “She’s an entrepreneur at a shop; it’s one of the finest shops in Ramallah.”

Tarek Fatah screamed, “You do this sh*t here in this university?...No racist ever meant harm. Who meant harm to me ever? No, I’m a f***ing fixer,” and stormed out.

Kay said, “I can’t believe I’m even having this conversation. I talk about a commercial transaction at a store, I brought it up to refute the idea that somehow any dealing with someone who helps a journalist is inherently racist, which itself is crazy.”

After Natasha Fatah left, she wrote on her Facebook page that it was a terrible night “...when people you thought were good and decent, reveal their racism, and you find out your offence isn’t worth their time because you’re just another Paki.”



  • Lee0521

    ….and there you have it folks….another race-baiter in full throttle! Fatah should get down on his hands and knees and kiss the feet of every “white racist” who enabled him and his family to immigrate to Canada. Instead, what does this victicrat do? He yells at the very people who support and laud him for his efforts in combating Islamic terrorists. GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY YOU PIG…and stay out.

    • Tarek Fatah

      Thank you for your kind words. Of course there are no white racists in Canada other than those who address me as “PIG” or who ask me to “GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY.”

      • david in north burnaby

        All this railing about “white people”. Tsk, what a racist this Fatah fellow is.

      • Anonymous

        “I stand educated as well as enlightened by the discourse on these pages of the “Jewish Tribune” and its readers. Absolutely enlightening.”

        I doubt it! Just to be clear, that’s a straight answer to what I interpret to be your sarcastic comment. And since you’re into defining, parsing and interpreting words, neither of the definitions of the many you say there are, were being used by any of the other panelists or the moderator. To me, and I think the vast majority in the audience a fixer is someone better than yourself who you pay to fix things. It’s a commercial transaction. If you fix your own plumbing and fail you might get wet, but if you fix your own electricity and fail you might get fried. Electricians make more in their transactions than plumbers. You said you were a fixer in Pakistan and never got credit. I understood that to mean your name didn’t appear on the copy. Perhaps that’s a term of the contract in the commercial transaction that you should have negotiated. If the other party says that’s non-negotiable, then don’t take the contract OR THE MONEY! sarc on….. But we conservatives just don’t like you as you’re a communist/socialist/NDP who thinks all this paperwork and negotiation is something the union leaders/government officials should deal with and let you have you petulent little way. sarc off

        As to your perhaps slander at the “Jewish Tribune” there isn’t a word in the article that isn’t true, or that you didn’t say. There were also many which you did say which weren’t included. Joanne Hill is a lady of integrity and I know she has the tape to back it up. Just a little “taquiya” Tarek?

        Let’s get something else clear by definitions. You don’t know the guy who called you Pig is white, they could be Phillipino, or Indian(Hindu) or…… as well you aren’t certain that they are racist. They just might be bigots who distrust Islamists and by your actions of being offended by words when your co-religionists behind the Quaranic curtian are killing one another and Christians by the score.

        • Serge

          Really, that’s your answer — contractual freedom and a dictionary definition of what is it to “fix” something? Hatman, you are out of your deph here. Fatah got way too worked up about it, but he’s right.

          Western journalists parachute into foreign countries, don’t speak the language, and don’t understand what’s going on around them. They find local “fixers” to figure out what their story should be and who to interview to tell is. The fixers conduct the interview. Then the journalist files a summary of what they just witnessed, it goes out under the journalist’s byline, and the fixer — who is responsible for most of the story and most of the spin — goes unmentioned. That’s dishonest, hides the real source of the story, and shouldn’t be stood for by ethical media outlets. It harms those newspapers’ readers, who are not getting the whole story. It also harms the market for journalists in those countries, since western media outlets come in throwing around money that skilled local journalists can ill afford to ignore — and have as much contractual freedom to do so as your average consumer would in the absence of consumer labelling laws and so on in Canada.

      • mike

        As an Atheist i feel your pain, this happens to me all the time, I do not want religion shove down my throat but its done to me on a daily basis , and when i say something about it i normally get insulted with ugly names , I have found that when i choose my friends or the people i acquaint myself with i try to stay away from right-wingers , they are the most volatile and hypocrite of the bunch there real good at hiding there true agenda.

        There very good at saying , what ? what did i say ?, some of my best friends are ,Muslims /gays/ Indian/Atheists / black.

    • Sanfru

      Is it being racist when you are ignorant of the fact that a word is offensive? Methinks Fatah protests too much. He could have taught the panel a valuable lesson but instead chose to act like a 2 year old. I’ve often thought better of him.

    • Serge

      Are you for real? And why, by the way, do you think it is “white racists” who enabled him and his family to immigrate to Canada? It it was people like you deciding who immigrates to Canada, I am quite certain it would never have happened. Ironic that the outlet for your toilet talk is the comments page of the Jewish Tribune, run by an organization started in part to ensure that the “white racists” who controlled Canadian immigration policy could never again get away with turning away immigrants fleeing tyranny. News flash, Lee0521: it’s not your country. If you want to stay in it, you have to learn to share it. Or, you know, find somewhere else to trashtalk your countrymen.

  • Gary in Calgary

    I didn’t attend this discussion but I have seen Tarek Fatah on the old Michael Coren show many times. I didn’t agree with him every time, but most of the time I did. But that is not the point. One thing stood out clearly: Tarek Fatah is a man of integrity. And so, I would venture to say, are the other panelists. There must be some grievous misunderstanding of the term ‘fixer’, which to me is a neutral word. But apparently it conjures up an entirely different meaning, a very dark meaning, to Mr. Fatah. I am sorry that they all didn’t just decide for sensibility’s sake to choose an alternate word. I think something went terribly awry that should be mended. It would be tragic if this falling out is not repaired quickly, especially when it came about through innocent misunderstanding, not denigration. Let us hope. They all stand to lose.

  • Pygormus


    Warms my heart to read such tolerant views… (<— sarcasm, in case you didn't get it)

    • Anonymous

      Phone the PC police already u white liberal bed wetter.


    It’s true, I’ve also felt “chastised” by Tarek on other occasions for the crime (of being a dumb, uninformed Canadian) I don’t believe I had committed, and this is just by being in the audience. He looked wounded as if fighting an old ghost. Despite all his personal limitations and own prejudices, Tarek has something unique and original to offer and I happen to value that. (I figure after all, we’re on the same side in this war.) Natasha, his daughter on the other hand, exposes very shallow self when she opens her mouth as she makes herself sound like those spoiled, dumb, uninformed Canadians.

    • Serge

      Oh, for God’s sake. People were saying terrible things to her father. How would you have reacted? Please.


    To Gary in Calgary: It’s very decent of you. But how about Tarek just get over it, and get a grip of his own emotions. THAT would be really worthwhile for himself and for others, in my humble opinion.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Fatah lost a golden opportunity to teach us ignorant Canadians about his feelings. He does not seem to understand what a discussion consists of. He should have used his TWO ears and then his ONE mouth. Before being involved in a discussion, he and his daughter should have removed the “chips on thier shoulders”

  • john s


  • Anonymous

    What Canada needs is more Salim Mansur and less Tarek Fatah.

  • john s

    gary : you might be right about the word, but fatah lost his credibility by suggesting that the use of the word made those people racist. Even if the word has negative connotations, the use of the race card over a word is rediculous. In Adam Corolllas words: “calling a polish guy a polack isn’t racist, refusing to hire him because he is polish is”

  • Tarek Fatah

    I can suggest ESL classes all over this city where they could learn the meaning of the word “Fixer”.

    Here are just two of the many meanings of the word “Fixer”.

    1. a person who arranges matters in advance through bribery or influence.
    2. a person who sells narcotics to addicts.

    I’m just an immigrant from Pakistan, but I do know when a derogatory and disrespectful word is used against me or the many journalists in third world countries, who, just because they are not White, are called “fixer”. They get paid 1/10th the wage of the celebrity “foreign correspondent” (who is invariably White) and are considered not deserving to be called by their name, their profession or simply as “colleague” or “partner”.

    Mile to go…

    • Levi Sankar

      What is racist is Mr. Fatah accepting a Canadian Jewish Book Award and refusing to be educated by the well-meaning members of the Bene Israel community.

    • Cameron

      Is the term “fixer” used by Western journalists to describe those who do the same job in Pakistan, Angola, Brazil, Serbia, or the Czech republic, or the Ukraine. If it is the term isn’t racist, it is an industry term. Discriptive or derogatory, depends on those involved. Mr. Fatah took a professional resentment and utilized what he understands is an effective weapon against well-meaning whites, a charge of racism.

  • Becky

    After reading Mr. Fatah’s comment here I can see why he was upset, its too bad he didn’t articulate it better at the time, but it obviously triggered something in him and that is understandable. It wasn’t that long ago people from Pakistan were given a real hard time in Canada & by some still are. Lets give some love and understanding to this man who has done the same for Jews.

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  • John70

    I think Fatah lost any credibility when he became a communist.

  • Tarek Fatah

    Remember 1967 when sports journalists would refer to Muhammad Ali as Cassius Clay and insist there was nothing racist or derogatory or even disrespectful about it. Then one day in 1967 Muhammad Ali in Houston beat the crap our of Ernie Terrel, taunting him with chants of “What’s My Name? What’s My Name?” The sad part of this discussion is that today some Jews are shrugging their historic responsibility and legacy of standing up to any form of racism by insisting the term FIXER is just an innocent use of a term. Why don’t your guys call the Lobbyists on the Hill “FIXERS” and then we’ll see the reaction. Try it.

    Now there is a “John” calling me a COMMUNIST. Hopefully it is better than the label of PIG.

    Thank you Jewish Tribune.

    • bob

      Dear Tarek, this adolescent tantrum of yours, prolonged insistence on offensive meaning of particular term and racist accusations indicate utter luck of self confidence and self respect. Please, take a grip on yourself, people used to respect you, why don’t you do the same.

  • Skeptical

    This newest outrage pales in comparison to Tarek Fatah’s problematic whitewashing of Islam, specifically his attempt to lie about the Hadith referring to Aisha’s marriage to their prophet.

    Fatah was challenged by Wafa Sultan and even though the words contained within the Hadith are indisputable, Fatah instead of denouncing the Hadith as authentic, a dubious claim in itself, tried to paint Sultan as an Islamophobic liar and completely making it up.

    So forgive me for not tripping over myself to accommodate another perceived outrage by a so called “secular” Muslim, while his brethren are currently violently rampaging globally over the burning of their book.

  • Brad Brzezinski

    Tarek, I was dismayed to read that this had happened and do not understand it.

    I have to say that in my lexicon, a “stringer” is a local journalist whose work is used by foreign news outifts. (Usually without attribution.)

    A “fixer” is a local person who arranges things for a foreign visitor, especially a journalist. There is nothing racial or racist about it. They’re just words used to describe functions and I’ve known them for years.

    I urge you to reconsider your position because I cannot see that there was any racist thought or intention from the other panelists and you are too important a personality in Canada to have you upset over this matter.

    PS: I notice there is a slang usage of “fixer” that might imply underhand methods. Journalists don’t use it that way and in any case, even that is not racist.

  • Paul

    I was in the audience and confirm that the writeup is very accurate. Whereas Mr. Fatah’s response was undoubtedly very emotional, I do not agree with the other panelists’ overt refusal to listen respectfully to Mr. Fatah’s explanation for his indignation.

    Putting this into our own context, I’m sure that many of us have experienced the utterance of apparently innocuous comments about Jews, within which we understand lie latently insidious connotations and potential repercussions. One example that comes to mind is statements such as “All Jews are good business people” or “All Jews are good with money.” Whereas such comments are frequently intended as a compliment, I for one do not think that such stereotypes (which are clearly untrue) have long term benefits for us as a people (to put it mildly). However, anyone who has ever tried to explain to the utterer of such a comment why in fact making such sweeping generalisations about Jews is not a good thing will recognise the mystified look of the utterer, who typically retorts simply that s/he really did not intend any harm.

    I hope that the analogy with last week’s panel discussion is clear … but I’ll elaborate anyway. I am positive that neither Jonathan Kay nor any of the other panelists felt in any way that they were demeaning either Mr. Fatah or any other “fixer” in the world through their use of that term. However, I do not agree with their complete unwillingness to listent to, and be enlightened by, Mr. Fatah’s explanation of why, from the point of view of a (presumably) significant number of other people, the connotations of the term are derogatory … and perhaps even rascist, and thus dangerous. Their refusal to listen was similarly extended to Mr. Fatah’s daughter.

    In conclusion, we all agree that there are numerous words that were once part of our daily lexicon, but that are no longer considered “politically correct”. Such evolutions occurr when people speak up and make their feelings known, either quietly or, as in the present case vociferously. The word “fixer” may … or may not … eventually become one of those “politically incorrect” terms. Time will tell; in the meantime, it behooves us (especially as Jews, who should be especially sensitive to the perils of hidden meanings and insidious implications) to listen … respectfully … to the opinions of others.

  • Wilson
  • Mar Zutra

    It is such a shame that there are so many ignorant bigots and brainwashed political panderers living in Canada today. Fatah is clearly nothing more then one of unsound mind and clearly catering a questionable agenda. No “racism” whatsoever. Fatah is nothing more then another intellectually impoverished “Edward Said” Socialist in my humble opinion without credibility whatsoever.

  • Rebecca

    I attended the lecture & noticed as the panel entered the room that Tarek was not with his usual warm smile…he looked tired, sad,& maybe in pain…just not himself.

    Jonathan Kay’s remarks about Toronto Star’s Siddiqui representing “main stream Muslim ideas” stirred up not only Tarek, but most of the audience…..Siddiqui who defends KSA, Ahmadinijad & Sharia!!!

    It’s unfortunate that the incident with the word “fixer” occurred…emotions took over, but I understand both sides.

    In the end, we are all on the same page, fighting radical Islamofascism, & so should be supportive of courageous Muslims , who ARE SPEAKING UP….such as Fatah, Mansur,Jasser,Hamid!

  • Guest

    I guess now the conservative media will have to go back to using Irshad Manji as their token favourite Muslim. Sorry Tarek, you’ve outlasted your usefulness.

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  • Joachim_8

    Tarek, we are trying to help your people, but we need moderates like you to help us help you. I know we can get there in the end. Have a great day.

  • vmat

    People may not understand how hurtful the f-word used can be. It’s tantamount to using the n-word and then looking confused and surprised as to why a person might be upset by it. Seriously people, have we not yet learned enough from our pasts?

  • vmat

    @Serge Thanks for providing the background info. Many people don’t know the real meaning of fixer and how these journalists are used and abused. To make matters worse, they are then targeted, and sadly, often murdered by the regimes they seek to expose. For shame, those of you who are deaf to the truth.

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  • RJ

    Tarek’s outlived his utility. There are more progressive Muslims we can continue this discourse with. Au revoir.

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