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UK reporters union to boycott Israel

George Con­ger

Britain’s Nation­al Union of Jour­nal­ists denounced Israel on Fri­day for its “mil­i­tary adven­tures” in Gaza and Lebanon, called on the gov­ern­ment to impose sanc­tions and urged a boy­cott of Israeli goods.

By a vote of 66 to 54, the annu­al del­e­gate’s meet­ing of Britain’s largest trade union for jour­nal­ists called for “a boy­cott of Israeli goods sim­i­lar to those boy­cotts in the strug­gles against apartheid South Africa led by trade unions, and [for] the [Trades Union Con­gress] to demand sanc­tions be imposed on Israel by the British gov­ern­ment.”

Some of the union’s 40,000 mem­bers decried its “trendy lefty” agen­da. Oth­er motions before the four-day meet­ing in Birm­ing­ham, which ends Sun­day, includ­ed con­dem­na­tions of the US deten­tion cen­ter in Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba, and sup­port for Venezue­lan strong­man Hugo Chavez.

The boy­cott motion was the third clause of a larg­er anti-Israel res­o­lu­tion pro­posed by the union’s South York­shire branch that con­demned Israel’s “sav­age, pre-planned attack on Lebanon” last sum­mer and the “slaugh­ter of civil­ians in Gaza” in recent years.

Motion 38 also called for sup­port­ing the NGOs Jews for Jus­tice, the Pales­tin­ian Sol­i­dar­i­ty Cam­paign and the Coun­cil for the Advance­ment of British-Arab Under­stand­ing.

After an hour of debate, a motion to sev­er the boy­cott clause from the con­dem­na­tion motion was adopt­ed. The motion con­demn­ing Israel’s “sav­age” behav­ior toward Pales­tin­ian civil­ians in the wake of “the defeat of its army” by Hizbul­lah passed by a wide mar­gin.

Fol­low­ing two abortive hand counts, the boy­cott motion passed by 66 to 54.

The Dai­ly Telegraph’s Wash­ing­ton cor­re­spon­dent, Toby Harn­den, char­ac­ter­ized the vote as “inane, inef­fec­tu­al, coun­ter­pro­duc­tive and insult­ing to the intel­li­gence.”

“Why should my dues be spent on anti-Israel pos­tur­ing of which I and many oth­er mem­bers want no part?” Harn­den wrote on his Tele­graph blog, con­demn­ing the motion as “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.”

Craig McGin­ty, a free­lance jour­nal­ist and mem­ber of the Union of Jour­nal­ists asked on his blog, “How boy­cotting any nation’s goods, whether it’s Israel, Chi­na or Umpah Lumpah Land will help improve the lot of both staff and free­lance jour­nal­ists.”

For­mer Guardian reporter and Yahoo Europe news direc­tor Lloyd Shep­herd quipped that he now looked “for­ward to sim­i­lar boy­cotts of Sau­di oil (abuse of women and human rights), Turk­ish desserts (lim­its to free­dom of speech) and, of course, the imme­di­ate replace­ment of all sta­tionery in the NUJ’s offices which has been made or assem­bled in Chi­na.”

On the same day the Nation­al Union of Jour­nal­ists con­demned Israel, the orga­ni­za­tion’s inter­na­tion­al affil­i­ate, the Inter­na­tion­al Fed­er­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists, called on the Pales­tin­ian Author­i­ty to secure the release of BBC cor­re­spon­dent Alan John­ston, who was kid­napped five weeks ago by Pales­tin­ian gun­men in Gaza.

IFJ gen­er­al-sec­re­tary Aidan White urged the “Pales­tin­ian gov­ern­ment to do every­thing in its pow­er to make sure [John­ston] is released imme­di­ate­ly.”

The kid­nap­ping had done “great harm not just to jour­nal­ism but to the devel­op­ment of the region in gen­er­al by mak­ing it impos­si­ble for jour­nal­ists to work safe­ly and report on devel­op­ments there,” he said.

John­ston’s kid­nap­ping was not on the NUJ’s agen­da.


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