More on the NUJ boycott of Israel

The NUJ has just published the following “explanation” or “justification” of its vote in favour of “boycotting Israel”:

Please feel free to use the comments thread to dissect, take apart, or even justify any of the points made in the statement, in order that those of us who oppose the motion may consider the best way forward to get it overturned.

The NUJ’s Centenary Annual Conference last week debated more than 200 motions on topics ranging from opposition to plans to neuter the UK Freedom of Information Act, to launching a Stand Up for Journalism campaign against low pay and job cuts throughout the media industry. The conference condemned press freedom violations in China, Russia, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, and a special session was held on the kidnapping of Alan Johnston in Gaza and the safety of journalists. Among the motions passed in the international debate was one calling among other things for the NUJ to support a “boycott of Israeli goods… led by trade unions and the TUC” in response to the situation in Palestine and last year’s conflict in Lebanon.

The call for the boycott in part related it to the kidnap of Alan Johnston. The Palestinian journalists union has given huge support to the campaign for his release – holding demonstrations and strikes against the Palestinian authority to demand more action from them. We work closely with the Palestinian union through the International Federation of Journalists and the boycott call was a gesture of support for the Palestinian people – notably those suffering in the siege of Gaza, the community Alan Johnston has been so keen to help through his reporting.

The boycott call has nothing to do with reporting. The NUJ is not telling members how to report Israel – beyond its permanent injunctions to members to report independently and fairly on all matters, and not to produce racist or discriminatory copy. The union has not and never would adopt a line on how any issue should be reported. We stand for free reporting and free speech – and we criticise those, including the Palestinian and Israeli authorities, when they act against journalists’ freedom to report.

It was pointed out in the debate that the year-long boycott of the Palestinian authority by the UK, the US and the European Union, not to mention the government of Israel, has led to a surge in the numbers of people who are unemployed, sick and dying because of the cessation of aid payments and revenue to the Palestinian authorities. This is a boycott of a democratically elected government.

The decision made by elected representatives at our conference was a decision of NUJ members as trade unionists and as citizens to try to help put pressure on the Israeli government to reverse its block of these payments, its refusal to recognise Palestinian journalists carrying the international press card and the general damage being done by the continued occupation.

This is not, as some critics have indicated, an institutional boycott. The NUJ will continue to seek to work with all its sister unions in the region, be they Israelis or Palestinians. In fact the NUJ has sought at every opportunity to find ways of making journalists on both sides of the divide work together to advance common issues that concern journalists And it will continue to act within the framework of the International Federation of Journalists for the unity of all journalists in the region.

Members who disagree with the decision can attend their branch, pass motions and seek to change the decision. The NUJ is a democratic union and it is the delegates at our conference each year – elected representatives of all the union’s branches – who make the decisions.