The Guardian April 13, 2007, 5.15pm breaking news
The National Union of Journalists has voted at its annual meeting for a boycott of Israeli goods as part of
a protest against last year's war in Lebanon.
Today's vote was carried 66 to 54 - a result that met with gasps and a small amount of applause from the union
The vote came during a series of motions on international affairs and reads: "This ADM [annual delegate meeting]
calls for a boycott of Israeli goods similar to those boycotts in the struggles against apartheid South Africa led by trade
unions and the TUC [Trades Union Congress] to demand sanctions be imposed on Israel by the British government and the United
The motion was originally brought by the union's South Yorkshire branch and opposed by the Cumberland branch,
which said it was too political and was not tied closely enough to journalistic matters.
After a show of hands twice failed to give a clear result, union scrutineers were called in and the doors
to the conference room closed.
The vote on the motion was taken after it was split from a larger motion that condemned the "savage, pre-planned
attack on Lebanon by Israel" last year.
This motion, known as Composite B in Order Paper 4, was carried by a large majority and also condemned the
"slaughter of civilians by Israeli troops in Gaza and the IDF's [Israeli Defense Forces] continued attacks inside Lebanon
following the defeat of its army by Hezbollah".
The motion called for the end of Israeli aggression in Gaza and other occupied territories.
The union's national executive committee has been instructed to support organisations including the Palestinian
Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice in Palestine and the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding.
The above boycott decision is inconsistent with motion number 30, passed at the 2006 Annual
Delegates Meeting of the NUJ, which reads as follows:
ADM reiterates the union’s fundamental commitment to diversity of views and pluralism in the media,
and its commitment to support journalists and ethical journalism in particular in non-mainstream media, political newspapers
and magazines, and in alternative media.
ADM recognises that the union has a long and proud tradition of defending the right of individual journalists
to have access to information and events and to report freely without hindrance from authorities.
ADM believes that such a right must be conditional on a clear separation of our role as journalists from
participants in the action or events we are covering.
ADM therefore calls on the Ethics Council to examine cases where journalists are involved in direct action
and issue guidelines for those journalists and their use of the press cards in such circumstances, in particular where their
role as journalists and as participants may become blurred.
ADM instructs the NEC not to lend support to organisations that do not recognise the importance of distinguishing
between the role of reporter and the role of participant.
Tim Gopsill's reply to the open letter (in the left hand column)
Subject: RE: NUJ boycott of Israeli goods
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2007 14:03:59 +0100
Thread-Topic: NUJ boycott of Israeli goods
To: "MAURICE" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hello - thanks for the message -
don't have time to reply in full to all I'm getting but here is an NUJ statement explaining the decision.
Below is a copy of the statement which was sent by Mr. Gopsill as an attachment
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.
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
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.