The complainant thought a column by Neil Macdonald analyzing the response to anti-semitism from left-wing activists was based on a false premise and biased.

By Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman

The complainant, Jim Wright, thought a column by Neil Macdonald analyzing the response to anti-semitism from left-wing activists was based on a false premise and biased. There were examples cited to back the analysis and the article did not violate CBC journalistic standards.


You objected to both the headline and the analysis in a column by Neil Macdonald published on The headline was “Has the activist left decided anti-Semitism doesn’t exist?” You thought the headline was “inflammatory” and did not properly reflect the body of the article. You stated:

…it is a framing statement which seems to implicitly accept the inherently inaccurate statement that there is widespread anti-Semitism in the left, and that the left ignores anti-Semitism elsewhere.

You also believe that Mr. Macdonald did not have any proof for his statement that “the left has decided anti-Semitism is an insignificant issue.” You stated that the majority of BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] activists are “rigorously anti-racist.” You added that the subject of racism and anti-Semitism is a major concern of left-wing activists. You also wondered why Mr. Macdonald, cited as proof, an article written by New York Times journalist Jonathan Weisman about his experience of anti-Semitic attacks through Twitter by followers of Donald Trump. You pointed out this would hardly be considered a left leaning source.

You believe that Mr. Macdonald is repeating accusations of anti-Semitism against the left, which you said is “merely a trope, repeatedly endlessly without evidence.” You stated that most anti-Semitism originates on the right, not the left. You added that supporters of Israel often accuse critics of anti-Semitism, which is unwarranted because it conflates different issues:

What is true is that supporters of Israel relentlessly accuse critics of Israel of anti-Semitism, and this is repeated tirelessly by many members of the media. Every campaigner for Palestine must tread carefully around a minefield of ‘no go areas’ because the pro-occupation campaign has managed to redefine almost every criticism of Israel as a criticism of Jews, and therefore anti-Semitism. It often accomplishes this by muddying the definition of religious, ethnic, political Judaism, Zionism, and the activities of the state of Israel. And it does it by diverting focus away from the occupation and against its critics.

You thought this piece was generally “ill-conceived” and should have been labelled opinion.


Chris Carter, the senior producer for Politics on replied to your concerns. He did not agree with your assessment and told you he thought that most of the objections you had raised were addressed within the column. He pointed out that Mr. Macdonald observed that anti-Semitism seemed to “be met with less public outrage” by the groups of people who helped to fight anti-Semitism in the past. He pointed out that might be the case because they are concerned it deflects criticism of Israel. He added that he gave some specific examples – the experience of a Jewish New York Times columnist, incidents on U.S. campuses, and online postings from people who support causes “that once represented the consensus of the liberal-left coalition.”

Continue reading this story on the CBC website, where it was first published.