A motion promoting a boycott of Israel will be debated by the National Union of Journalists next week, amid warnings that it may compromise reporters if passed.
Seven years after the union adopted a widely-criticised boycott position, community leaders this week urged members to roundly reject the controversial text, which is on the agenda at the NUJ’s delegates meeting.
The motion – which notes Stephen Hawking’s backing for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign – condemned settlement construction among what it called other “outrages” that have resulted in “bloodshed” and suggests BDS could work in the same way as it did with apartheid South Africa.
The London Magazine branch calls on the meeting to instruct the union’s National Executive Council to “encourage members to boycott Israeli products and back lecturers and other professionals who refuse to co-operate with Israeli institutions” and to “write to the BDS movement declaring the union’s support for the campaign”.
A statement from the Fair Play Campaign Group, a joint initiative of the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies to tackle boycotts, said: “NUJ should be embarrassed it will be debating another boycott of Israel. When it passed something similar a few years ago, the union became an international laughing stock.
“Journalism should tell the truth and shouldn’t pick sides. We call on all journalists and NUJ members to oppose this motion that will only undermine their journalistic integrity and independence.”
It is understood the group and partner organisations are working with journalists and others to fight the motion. Trade Union Friends of Israel’s Steve Scott said: “We strongly urge NUJ delegates to oppose the motion. This policy would compromise journalists working in the region and hamper those who work for impartial media organisations.”
Three months after the union adopted a boycott motion in 2007, its NEC voted to take “no further action” on implementing the resolution. An NUJ spokesperson said this week: “As part of the democratic process, all union branches are able to put forward motions. The NEC will discuss its position on the motion at its meeting before the conference.”
It is understood, however, that the relevant sub-committee has recommended opposing the motion. Also on the agenda for the upcoming delegates’ meeting, which was last held in 2012, is a motion reiterating support for efforts of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate for “the removal of obstacles” to journalists’ freedom of movement.
It instructs the NEC to help “keep the pressure on the Israeli authorities to recognise the International Federation of Journalists press card”. Meanwhile, there are concerns UNISON, which has 1.3million members providing public services, could soon follow suit in debating a boycott.
Although it is not known which motions will be debated at its June conference, one put forward for consideration urges the national executive committee “to further our role in the BDS campaign in support of the rights of the Palestinian people by developing, through the bargaining agenda and with lead negotiators across the public service, a strategy on public procurement to give effect to this policy”.
Another complained the union appeared to have overlooked part of previous Unison motions “to develop guidance for branches on campaigns to stop public service contracts being let to companies which are complicit in Israeli violations of international law”.
A third motion, welcomed by community leaders, calls for support for engagement with the Israeli Histadrut and Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions “and encourage both to maintain their strong relationship as an important aspect of bridge-building for the peace process”.