National Union of Journalists Rejects Israel Boycott

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Just before HonestReporting went on Passover break, Britain’s National Union of Journalists voted against a controversial motion to support the BDS movement and boycott Israeli goods.

Judging from an NUJ statement, the prevailing reason for the rejection is that a boycott would make it more difficult for journalists to cover Israel.

I assume this refers to the fear of UK reporters losing their Israeli press credentials, or the unseemly sight of members having to purge their laptops and smartphones of “blue and white” software, apps and security features.

But the Jewish Chronicle adds:

The proposal, which was put forward by the London Magazine branch, was rejected after NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet told delegates that it would put the lives of journalists working in the Middle East in danger.

That’s a stretch. If the NUJ members really believe a boycott would endanger their lives, they don’t really know Israelis. (This might explain why The Guardian and BBC branches voted against the boycott, according to Fair Play.)

The correct, more honorable reason to oppose this motion is much simpler, as I argued when the motion first hit the NUJ agenda. It’s okay for journalists to have their own views on Israel. But journalists who actively support BDS cross a line. They go from being neutral observers to active participants in the events they cover. That’s journalism with zero credibility. Period.

With most British journalists opting not to be active members of any unions anyway, the NUJ has limited clout. A boycott wouldn’t necessarily have been representative of the UK media industry, but it would’ve been a loud and messy affair for British reporters both in and out of the union. That’s what happened in 2007 when the NUJ voted to boycott Israel and then scrap the boycott three months later.

I’d rather believe that the pro-boycott delegates climbed so far up a tree, Stanistreet’s logic was the only ladder that would allow everyone to climb down.

But who knows? Stranger things have happened.


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