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I'm a journalist, ex-national papers, now working in what we call "new" media.

So here's my union, the NUJ, voting to boycott Israel. A few thoughts:

1. How feeble and irrelevant. What difference will it make to anything?

2. The motion was passed on a vote of 66 to 54 out of a union of some 40,000 people. Democratic?

2. Why does a journalists' union need to have a foreign policy? How is it going to help low-paid journalists, or help deal with the transition from print to new media - the two issues that, quite rightly, are key planks of NUJ policy?

3. If the union does need a foreign policy, why is it singling out Israel for criticism while, as far as I can tell, having nothing to say about China, Sudan, Egypt, Iran, Cuba, Russia or any other regime where human rights are trampled underfoot? I'm generally resistant to the view that anti-semitism is alive and well in Left-wing politics, but sometimes I wonder.

3. Why do I bother belonging to a union that feels the need for this sort of pathetic, student-union posturing?

Ironically, as the NUJ is voting to boycott Israel, the Palestinian journalists' union has been boycotting its own government and presidency in protest at its failure to act to free Alan Johnston, the kidnapped BBC journalist.


The NUJ has spoken up strongly on the Alan Johnston case but the minority who voted to boycott Israel might want to consider the difference between the Palestinian journalists' act of principled solidarity and their own pissy political posturing.

Some reaction

Israel Matzav: Britain's National Union of Journalists votes to boycott Israel
Toby Harnden
Martin Stabe


Rob Artisan said...

You make more sense than all those delegates that voted for the motion put together.

Leigh said...

I was a delegate to the ADM and voted in favour of the motion. I was won over by the fact that the NUJ voted to support the boycott of apartheid South Africa in the 80's. As Israel is clearly more vicious than South Africa ever was (helicopter gunships were never sent into the townships, etc., etc.), then if we supported a boycott back then, it makes sense to do so again. ...Unless of course you think Israel is doing nothing wrong, but then we have a different argument entirely. There were Afrikaaner journos in the 80's that would have opposed a boycott as well.

Furthermore, Israel was not singled out. There were similar motions relating to Russia, China, Zimbabwe and a range of other states. Members spoke out against Cuba's detention of journos at a Latin America fringe meeting. I could go on.

It is the supporters of Israel that are singling out Israel. Many other repressive states were denounced.

The real question is whether the union should take political positions at all. It seems to me that those unions that take strong 'political' positions also happen to be the ones most likely to strongly defend their members. It is the more apolitical, conservative unions that tend to at the same time sign sweetheart contracts and generally be as accommodating as possible to employers.

I urge you to rethink your analysis of the vote for a boycott. It is in fact a rational vote when one keeps in mind the history and traditions of the union.