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April 19, 2007

Comments on NUJ Boycott Decision

The Foreign Press Association in Israel, which describes itself as "representing some 400 journalists who are employed by international news organizations and report from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip," has weighed in on the British National Union of Journalists' decision to boycott Israel, saying:

The FPA condemns the recent Resolution of the British National Union of Journalists which called for the boycotting of Israeli goods. The FPA believes such a resolution runs counter to the core journalistic values which we are here to uphold and defend, namely objectivity and balance. The FPA is made up of professional journalists who cover this story on a daily basis, and we reject any resolution that so clearly takes sides. At an ethical level we do not feel it is appropriate for a body representing journalists to take such positions.

Individual journalists have similarly criticized the decision.

On, journalist Chas Newkey-Burden writes:

The British public’s perception of journalists has sunk so low that when I am asked in social situations what my job is, I am sometimes tempted to pretend I am part of a more respected profession – like drug trafficking. ...

... the British media has long been absorbed by a blind hatred of Israel. ...

There was certainly nothing balanced about the NUJ boycott motion.

An April 19 Wall Street Journal editorial notes:

For years, British journalists have as a group been notoriously unsympathetic to Israel, so much so that BBC correspondent Barbara Plett actually admitted publicly to weeping at Yasser Arafat's funeral.

But now that the NUJ has put an institutional stamp on her kind of journalism, it will be more difficult for some of the leading organs of British journalism to deny, as they frequently do, charges of bias.

In the April 18 Times (London), MP and writer Michael Gove writes:

I have been a member of a trade union for nearly 20 years now. ...

But now, reluctantly, I fear that I will have to part company with the union, even as I continue to respect the men and women who went out on strike, in its name, in Aberdeen nearly two decades ago. Because the NUJ recently passed a motion at its conference calling for a boycott.

This boycott is not of a repressive state that outlaws free expression (of which, sadly, there are still too many) but of one of the few states in the Middle East with a proper free press: Israel.

As we noted yesterday, Toby Harnden, a member of the union and an editor for the UK's Telegraph, says about the boycott motion:

It is tendentious and politically-loaded propaganda that would be rightly edited out of any news story written in a newspaper that had any pretensions of fairness.

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland writes:

... I cannot let last week's vote by the annual conference of the National Union of Journalists to boycott Israeli goods and services go unremarked. I have been an NUJ member my whole working life, like my father before me: we have 73 years of NUJ membership between us. It is my union and I feel it has made a bad mistake. ...

Fine, boycott Israel for its wars and military occupation, but why just Israel? Why not other international offenders, engaged in much more lethal conflicts? Sudan and Darfur come to mind, along with Russia and Chechnya. More to the point, surely the NUJ should boycott all goods from the US (and Britain for that matter), in protest at their - our - occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. If occupation is wrong, it's always wrong, no? ...

The casual reader, unaware of the humdrum realities of trade union politics, assumes that this is a democratic, collective declaration by British journalism that Israel is beyond the pale, in a category of untouchability all its own. (That was the way the academic boycott was understood, too). The result is a damaging blow to the credibility of British journalism. Foreign audiences will ask: 'How can we trust what you write or say about the Middle East? You're members of a union that boycotts the very country you're writing about.' We can try explaining that the NUJ passes lots of motions about lots of places, but it won't do any good. A boycott is in a different category.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger says: "It was a misguided motion."

And in the Jerusalem Post, Donald Macintyre, NUJ member and correspondent for the UK's Independent, is quoted saying: "The job of the NUJ is to protect journalists and not adopt political postures, right or left."

Posted by GI at April 19, 2007 03:24 PM


You can always find a few Zionists to support a racist state. They condemned us when we opposed apartheid in South Africa, you condemn us when we oppose similar policies by Israel. The fact is that a mass democratic organisation has called the illegal acts of a rogue state to account.

Posted by: Simon at April 20, 2007 06:41 AM

And you enable a system to censor comments you don't like. Very democratic.

Posted by: Simon at April 20, 2007 06:41 AM

The NUJ boycott decision is perverse and would have made more ethical and moral sense if they had boycotted the Palestinians -- routine violators of basic human rights and with no free press. As for "racist state", try Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Robert at April 22, 2007 02:45 PM

... and, as Simon's comments show, you can always find a few people who believe that the Jewish people are the only group in thw world who shouldn't be allowed to exercise their right to self determination.

Posted by: jones at April 23, 2007 02:06 PM

You can be certain whatever they boycott will be selective and won't include anything Israel produces or has conceived that benefits them.

Posted by: Ira Ross at May 23, 2007 12:21 AM

Fight back against this blatant attack on Israel.
The Boycott
- is counter to the universal principle of academic freedom

- is a form of prejudice & discrimination; it unfairly singles out Israel

- is counter-productive to peace & reconciliation

- stifles scientific advancement, which depends on international interaction

join thousands and sign the offical petition

Posted by: gabe at June 2, 2007 04:48 PM

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