The Israel boycott movement was dealt a major blow this week with the overwhelming rejection of a motion by the National Union of Journalists.
The motion – which notes Stephen Hawking’s backing for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign – condemns 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”.
But, after delegates were told by general secretary Michelle Stanistreet that journalists working in the Middle east would be put in jeopardy if the motion passed, the motion was soundly rejected on Sunday.
A spokesman for the anti-boycott Fair Play campaign, a joint project of the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, said: “We welcome the decision by the NUJ’s General-Secretary, Executive and Delegates to overwhelmingly reject a boycott of Israel. Seven years ago, the NUJ voted to boycott Israel, provoking a major backlash from serious journalists in Britain and around the world. Today, the Union has renounced this path and has chosen another, better way that’s true to the journalistic values of neutrality and fairness. ”
BICOM CEO Dermot Kehoe added: “That both union’s leaders and members were so overwhelmingly against demonstartes their understanding that such boycotts are not only inconsistent with journalistic ethics but also counterproductive to the search for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Two days ahead off Sunday’s vote, Ed Miliband called for members to vote against the motion in an interview with the Jewish News.
The conference passed another motion condemning the Israeli authorities for “preventing the movement of of Palestine journalists between the West Bank and east Jerusalem and the refusal to accredit journalists with press cards,” according to the union. The motion committed the union to renewing the campaign led by the International Federation of Journalists to convince Israel to recognise its press card in the territories.