Thursday, March 12, 2009

The new antisemites & the CBC

I've received a reply from the Manager of Moderation at the CBC (posted below), and I think his reply shows they're taking the issue of antisemitism seriously.

In an earlier email to the moderator, I suggested the CBC follow the Globe and Mail's example and entirely close down comments on stories concerning the Middle East, and the CBC moderator now says they will revisit this option.

Good. Even apart from the open antisemitism (which the CBC is now seriously trying to block), the majority of people posting at the CBC demonize Israel as an evil, racist, terrorist, apartheid entity that has no right to exist.

These Israel-haters will argue that they aren't old-fashioned antisemites. Yes, they have an irrational loathing of Israel. Yes, half the Jews in the world happen to live in Israel. Yes, the Israel-haters often extend their loathing to Israel's supporters, thus including the other half of the world's Jews. But, they will argue, they're not racists. They've nothing against Jews who convert to their religion.

I think that's true enough; the Israel-haters aren't old-fashioned racist antisemites; they're post-Holocaust anti-racist antisemites.

But for Jews, this is a distinction without a difference.

Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran don't bother to disguise their Jew-hatred or their desire to wipe Israel off the map. And even when they’re not directly propagandizing on behalf of these terrorists (which they do often enough), our contemporary antisemites are busily inventing a rationale for the genocidal intentions of Iran and company.

For its part - courtesy of Canadian taxpayers - the CBC provides Canada's most important forum for Israel-haters to promote their views, in effect for promoting genocide. That's why I say, close it down.

CBC Responds

Here's the reply from the CBC's Moderation Manager (i.e., the person in charge of the team that screens what gets posted on the CBC's message boards)

Apologies for the delay in responding. Thank you for your e-mail of February 17, once again drawing our attention to anti-Semitic messages you found in the audience comments pages on CBC.CA.

I acknowledge that on a handful of highly controversial topics - the Middle East, among them - it continues to be a challenge for us to provide an open and lively forum for Canadians to share their often strong opinions, while at the same time, maintaining a space where people feel safe and comfortable participating. We have not always been successful.I have read the comments and users you pointed out in your e-mail and agree that many contravene our submission guidelines. I have once again reviewed them with the moderation team.

Moreover, since my e-mail to you a month ago (February 4), we have taken additional steps to tighten up our procedures respecting abusive posts. We have requested our technical team to make a number of changes to the system designed to improve the quality of our moderation. The changes will make it easier for the moderators to assess pending comments, and to deal effectively with problematic users. As an example - and as you suggested - one of those changes
will automatically highlight the posts of known problem users. Our procedures include banning users - and we do. (Although, we have found that it has not been particularly effective, since the user will simply register another account. This puts the moderation team at a disadvantage because we don’t know who to look out for. We also find these re-registrants can return with decreased community spirit.) But we have also adopted a new procedure that will allow us to issue a temporary suspension, or “time out,” for users who fail to follow the guidelines, in order to give us more time to assess their contributions. We have made more changes, as well, and posted them here:

Despite our precautions, when dealing with a projected 1,500,000 comments this year, our efforts will minimize problematic comments from appearing but cannot totally eliminate them. If comments appear that fall outside our guidelines, we will remove them as quickly as possible.

We are continuing to reinforce our procedures and strengthen our team. We believe there are good reasons for not banning comments entirely on Middle East stories, for example, as some other news sites do, (including The Globe and Mail), but that is a decision we will continue to review.

Finally, yes, the Moderation Manager uses a generic name because of the sensitive nature of the position. Thank you again for writing us. I hope my reply has reassured you of the continuing integrity of our service.


CBC Moderator

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The CBC bans Jew-haters

Until recently, the CBC was Canada’s largest publisher of antisemitic material.
In some ways, it still is.

The problem hasn't been the CBC reporters; it's the audience, posting antisemitic attacks on the CBC website.

Courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer, antisemites can reach far more people by posting on than through the wacko sites that specialize in Jew-hatred. Worse, they can preach to a mainstream audience, not just their fellow bigots.

The antisemitic attacks reached a crescendo during Israel’s recent war with Hamas, but this problem of Jew-haters using the CBC as their message board stretches back for years.

Last April, I wrote about the antisemitic comments that greeted a story about Steven Harper laying a wreath at Auschwitz ( For example, a reader calling himself “baltzera” asked which would be cheaper vacation, “a day pass to Disney’s theme park or Dachau?”

Similar filth greeted a story about B’nai Brith’s 2007 audit of antisemitic incidents in Canada, with one reader asserting that Jews are “despised for all the right reasons here and globally.”

Back in 2004, writing in the Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente noted the problem with antisemitic reader comments at the CBC, and quoted this one: "Jesus may have been a Jew himself but I know for a fact that he didn't take part in the eating of blood-filled pastries made from the blood of Palestinian children."

The theme of Jews thirsting for blood resurfaced during Israel’s war with Hamas. For example, a reader identifying himself as “LoranHayden” portrayed Jews as racist, genocidal baby-killers, savouring “Muslim juice.”
In Canada, anti-Jewish extremists like this are part of the lunatic fringe. On the CBC message boards, they represent the majority.

For example, 536 readers clicked on the link to recommend a comment by “sandy411” in which he compared Israel’s assault on Hamas to the Holocaust and added a reference to Israel wanting “pounds of flesh,” like Shylock the Jew.
“Sandy411” added: “How many tons of Palestinian women and children will settle your account, Israel?” It was the most popular comment of the day.
I wrote to the CBC to complain, citing eight of the most odious comparisons of Jews to Nazis, all of them taken from reader comments on a single story published December 27.

While I waited for a reply, the Hamas war got into full swing and readers began posting more than 1,000 comments a day on the topic. I collected 50 more examples of antisemitic attacks: everything from “DrDavid” referring to Jews as vermin and praising Hitler to “FRTknocker” denigrating Canadian Jews as “zionazis” and telling us to get out of Canada.
I could have found hundreds more, but I took my 50 examples and submitted another complaint.

Two weeks later, the CBC replied. They’d reviewed the comments I’d pointed out and agreed the “vast majority” were unacceptable. They reviewed other comments posted by the same users, found many were just as bad and removed them, too.

Even better, management showed the moderators who screen reader comments the antisemitic attacks that they'd allowed through, made them “aware of the problem users,” and refreshed them “on the issue of anti-Semitism in general.”
Moreover, the CBC agreed that comparisons of Israel (and Jews) to the Nazis and of Gaza to a concentration camp “fall outside acceptable discourse on the topic.”

In short, it was an outstanding, highly professional response. And I wasn’t satisfied.

A glance at recent stories showed the moderators were still allowing some gross antisemitism and Holocaust-taunting to slip through. Besides, though the CBC would block or remove a comment suggesting Jews are baby-killing Nazis, the reader was welcome to come back with some more subtle Jew-baiting.
So I wrote and complained again (

I’m still waiting for a reply but not impatiently, because in the meanwhile – to their great credit – the CBC has gotten better at screening out antisemitic attacks.

Also, they’ve posted a new policy, stating that people who offend the CBC’s policies may have their account suspended. In other words, Jew-haters can get themselves banned.

Most readers commenting at still demonize Israel. They call it racist, terrorist, apartheid; they're still preparing a rationale for wiping Israel off the map, still in the business of supplying a warrant for genocide.

But the CBC has finally drawn a line. Explicitly attacking Jews is going a step too far. So is comparing the Nazi Jew-killers to the Jewish state. That sort of thing used to get posted at the CBC all the time. Not anymore.

Earlier versions of this piece appeared in the 3 March 2009 Jewish Tribune, a community paper published by B’nai Brith Canada, at Harry's Place in Britain - where lots of people commented, and on Honest Reporting Canada blog. "Scaramouche" takes issue with me here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Al-Jazeera north

Earlier versions of this article appeared in the 17 June 2008 Jewish Tribune (, a community paper published weekly by B'nai Brith Canada, and on the Engage website (

To the great surprise of no one, Tony Burman, former editor-in-chief of the CBC has accepted a senior position at Al-Jazeera’s English language news service.

Burman was always a fan of Al-J. In November 2007 while still in charge of all CBC news and current affairs, Burman published an essay applauding Al-J and arguing that Canadians should get to watch its new English language service (

Millions of people around the world already watch Al-J in English, and cable companies could make it available in Canada, too. But they don’t because the Canadian Radio and Television Commission ruled that cable companies must insure Al-J conforms to broadcasting regulations that forbid “abusive comment.”

Al-J’s Arabic service features guests who are open Jew-haters and Holocaust deniers – material that might constitute a criminal offence in Canada, never mind a mere breach of broadcasting regulations.

In his essay published on CBC’s website, Burman remarked that Al-J “had been accused by some Canadian groups of ‘anti-Semitism.’” Apparently Burman couldn’t see the antisemitism or didn’t have a problem with it, because having noted the accusation, he ignored it.

What’s more, after watching the first few days of Al-J’s English language service, Burman wrote: “I couldn’t detect any pattern of overt ‘bias’ in its handling of the key issues.”

The rest of the world sees Al-J’s anti-Israel and anti-Western bias. But not Burman. Apparently Al-Jazeera tells it the way Tony Burman sees it.

Burman isn’t the first CBC journalist to join Al-J. Talking bubblehead Avi Lewis announced his move to Al-J months ago. At the CBC, Lewis hosted a string of failed talk shows with a distinct loony left bias. Al-J had no problem with his track record of cancelled shows. I wonder why.

For his new employer, Lewis heads up a program called “Frontline USA,” which is following the U.S. elections. One of Front Line’s first programs looked at the so-called Israel lobby, which Front Line implied, has American politics and media pretty much under its thumb (

By way of proof, Front Line examined media reaction to Louis Farrakhan’s endorsement of Barak Obama. Farrakhan leads the Nation of Islam and is infamous for saying that Jews have a “gutter religion” and similar charming remarks.

An endorsement from a notorious bigot – no matter how unwelcome – was news, and the media pursued Obama for his response. But Front Line suggested there was something extraordinary about the media’s reaction. Front Line’s apparent message: look how Obama is forced to fall all over himself to appease the Jews.

The program had a certain stink about it, but that can’t be – Lewis is Jewish himself, right? No wonder Al-J loves him.

Some other CBC journalists write as if they’re auditioning for Al-J. Perhaps they are. Neil McDonald, for example, who for now, still works for the CBC, keeping track of the Jews on our dime.

A recent article of McDonald’s, “Is Obama anti-Israel?” concerned anti-Obama emails circulating on the internet. These emails allege that Obama asked to be sworn into the U.S. Senate on the Quran, that he refuses to recite the American pledge of allegiance, and similar nonsense (

McDonald writes: “The messages are aimed principally at American evangelical Christians and American Jews.” McDonald seems to have simply invented this claim. Certainly, he cites no proof, and in fact, emails like this aren’t “aimed” at anyone. They spread virally: people who like the email forward it to everyone in their address books.

Who forwards anti-Obama emails? People who dislike Obama of course, and mostly that’s not Jews. According to polls at least 60% of American Jews support Obama – compared to 45% of all Americans.

But McDonald wants to pretend that, if Obama has been tainted as anti-Israel, it’s because of reactionary Jews and conservative Christians.

He notes that usually closer to 80% of Jews support the Democrats, not just 60%. “A shift of 20 percentage points can matter a great deal in places like Pennsylvania and Florida,” McDonald claims.

Hardly. Florida’s population is 4% Jewish. Twenty percent of that is less than 1 percentage point. Pennsylvania is just 2% Jewish – as is the United States overall.

Jews never decide American elections. However it’s true that Obama’s attitude toward Israel does affect his chances of winning, but that’s because in America, close to 80% of everybody subscribes to basic Zionism. Liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, atheist, Christian or Hindu – support for Israel is part of the American national consensus. That’s a fact McDonald just doesn’t want to report.

But hopefully McDonald is burnishing his resume. I’m sure Al-J would snap him up, and the CBC’s loss would be our gain. Go, man. Go!