By Cathy Nugent
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted 66 to 54 at its recent annual delegate meeting for a motion brought by the South Yorkshire branch which says, among other things, that the union should call “for a boycott of Israeli goods similar to those boycotts in the struggles against apartheid South Africa led by trade unions, and the TUC to demand sanctions be imposed on Israel by the British government and the United Nations.”
The decision has been lambasted (by anti-boycott journalists) in the press. The forum page of the website Engage, (which campaigned to overturn a decision to impose an academic “boycott” by the university lecturers’ union) has been inundated with NUJ members threatening to resign. Whether that reflects a general feeling of disgust in the union is anyone’s guess.
The decision was rather disingenuously “explained” by the union’s General Secretary Jeremy Dear in a press statement.
“The call for the boycott in part related to the kidnap of Alan Johnston. The Palestinian journalists union has given huge support to the campaign for his release ... 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 motion was not a “thank you” to Palestinian journalists. It was put on the agenda by politically motivated “left” members intent on pursuing an absolute “anti-Zionist” campaign, part of which involves equating Israeli people with whites in South Africa under apartheid.
But Dear ends his statement with reasonable advice to anyone who wants to overturn the decision — get to branch meetings, argue the case, pass motions etc.
That’s what members of the NUJ at the BBC have done. Unfortunately they argue against the new policy on the grounds that it will undermine their “impartiality” as journalists.
“ As members of a corporation which prides itself on providing impartial news coverage, we cannot associate ourselves with a move which involves taking sides in any conflict.”
This is apolitical nonsense. Of course journalists, as trade unionists at least, should take sides in conflicts. A campaign which argues against the politics of the boycott is required.