Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict


DEIR YASSIN - startling evidence
About Maurice Ostroff
 April 19, 2007

An open letter from Maurice Ostroff
To Mr. Tim Gopsill, Spokesperson - National Union of Journalists

Dear Mr. Gopsill,

NUJ vote for boycotting Israeli goods
 I believe you clarified the motivation behind the above motion, when you told CNS that the call to boycott Israel was a gesture of support for the Palestinian people, which you referred to as "the community that captive journalist Alan Johnston has been so keen to help through his reporting". (
As the vote was carried by the narrow majority of 66 to 54 votes, may I ask whether you consider it reasonable that 60 delegates impose their views on your 35,000 members, many of whom object strongly to this political decision. I hope you will agree that a radical matter of principle of this nature deserves a 75% majority. That many of your members object to the decision is evident from several blogs dealing with journalism, such as onlinpressgazette.
The boycott vote confirms to the world what has long been suspected, namely that British journalists have chosen to support one side only in the Israel-Arab conflict and that they no longer even make a pretence of balanced reporting. 
It will be interesting to observe the extent to which those who voted for the boycott of Israeli products will observe their own exhortation by avoiding life-saving, state of the art Israeli medical devices as well as voice over the internet, internet messaging, laptop computers and cell phones which contain components invented and manufactured in Israel.
It will also be interesting to know how they reconcile the boycott resolution with contrary specific decisions of the NUJ as detailed in motion number 30, passed at the 2006 ADM. This motion reiterated inter alia a fundamental commitment to diversity of views and pluralism in the media. How can you have diversity of opinions if you oblige your members to adopt a single-minded outlook declaring your enmity to one side and your support of the other?
The boycott is also incompatible with motion 30's stress on the importance of a clear separation of the role of journalists from that of participants in the action or events they are covering. This has created a peculiar constitutional situation. In motion 30, which has not been rescinded, the ADM instructs the National Executive Council (NEC) not to lend support to organizations that do not recognize the importance of distinguishing between the role of reporter and participant.
Since the NUJ has now become a participant in the conflict by boycotting one of the parties and actively supporting the other, the NEC is obliged to withhold support from the organization of which it is a constituent.
This entire issue is important because journalists play a vital role in influencing how we perceive events and because of the heavy responsibility they bear to at least attempt to depict the truth.
True, no one is totally objective. We are all influenced by prior experience, perceptions and even bias. It is also true that adequate reporting in today's complex world in which spin abounds requires not only reporting  facts but also interpretation.
Journalistic integrity calls for critical examination of ALL the evidence, wherever it may lead.  And you cannot fairly examine all relevant evidence while condemning one of the parties and strongly supporting the other. Integrity prohibits suppression of relevant information that may contradict the writer's preconceived views.  Journalists who boycott and condemn one of the parties cannot possibly observe these standards.
Since one of the objects of the NUJ, as defined in Rule 1 (iii), is the defense and promotion of freedom of the press, it is inexplicable that it directs hostility at Israel, one of the few states in the Middle East with a truly free press. Yet the NUJ supports the party known to strictly control the media as described by Khaled Abu Toameh, the award-winning journalist and television news producer.
Toameh is in a better position to know what is happening in the PA territories than any foreign journalist who cannot speak Arabic. He is an insider with an intimate knowledge, having at one time worked as editor of the PLO's newspaper Al Fajr. He reported that the PA�s tyrannical approach and control of the media creates an atmosphere of intimidation and fear among Palestinian journalists and that foreign journalists allow themselves to be misled by some of their Palestinian consultants. He also relates that when foreigners interview Palestinians through translators, the translators often mistranslate and even reprimand interviewees critical of the Palestinian Authority. 
The reputation of British journalism will suffer seriously if this boycott is not promptly rescinded.
I would appreciate a considered response.
Maurice Ostroff

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 delegates present.

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 Nations."

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
X-MS-Has-Attach: yes
Thread-Topic: NUJ boycott of  Israeli goods
Thread-Index: AceCvEZuM0k+9bMuQxiQ+E1/euUXOACImT9A
From: "Tim Gopsill" <>
To: "MAURICE" <>

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.

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.


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