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

The call for the NUJ boycott of Israel has become worldwide news and has, in some quarters, been seen as a manifestation of media bias against Israel and Jews generally. I think this is wrong, not least because only 66 members of a union of 40,000 voted for the motion. Granted they were delegates who spoke for their branches but I suspect in few cases had members specifically discussed this motion.

The NUJ itself has issued a statement on the vote and it is pretty clear that the leadership is embarrassed and frustrated by the motion and is virtually begging members to overturn it.

Leigh in the comments on my earlier post argues passionately and coherently in favour of the ban. I still disagree with him. Yes, the NUJ passed motions condemning China and Russia but there was no call for a boycott of their goods. This isn't a trivial distinction - it's quite right for a journalists' union to note and condemn breaches of press freedom. Calling for a boycott is something quite different (and even Israel's opponents acknowledge that it has a free and vigorous press).

Israel has done things that deserve criticism but I don't believe that Leigh's comparison with apartheid South Africa holds water. If the NUJ really thinks it should be in the business of boycotts, there are many, many countries more deserving of this treatment than Israel.

Personally, though, I think that, whatever we may think of a particular regime, journalists have a duty to engage with it and tell the truth about it, rather than turning our backs.

Leigh also argues that unions that take strong 'stands on international issues are more likely to defend members vigorously. I'm not convinced. The Israel motion has distracted attention from the good work the NUJ has been doing on low pay, contract work and so on. That hasn't helped underpaid, hard-pressed journalists.


unseen said...

ENGAGE have set up a list for anti-boycott NUJ members to plan their response.

People can sign up here:

Spread the word!

For more on the boycott, see www.engageonline.org.uk