vrijdag 20 april 2007

British Journalists' union boycotts Israel

Een verfrissend journalistiek commentaar op de Israël-boycotcampagnes van links, die helaas zelfs al een Britse journalistenvakbond in hun greep hebben gekregen...

Meer over Israël boycots hier:
Toby Harnden   Toby Harnden in Washington DC

Journalists' union boycotts Israel

Posted by Toby Harnden at 14 Apr 07 09:36 

It takes some skill to do something that is at once inane, ineffectual, counter-productive and insulting to the intelligence. But that is what the National Union of Journalists has managed to do by voting to boycott Israeli goods because of the "savage, pre-planned attack on Lebanon by Israel".

Israeli soldiers
The NUJ should refrain from criticising Israel

I am a member of the NUJ, though at times like this I wonder why. A union battling for better pay and conditions is one thing. But why should my dues be spent on anti-Israel posturing of which I and many other members want no part?

You could say that this kind of thing is what gives British trade unions their Loony Left image. But in a way it's even worse than that. Although Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mineworkers in the 1980s, was an unreconstructed Marxist, at least he was fighting for what he saw as the best interests of miners.

As Craig McGinty asks , how the hell does boycotting Israeli goods benefit journalists? Dadblog jokes about the other boycotts the NUJ could go for but his underlying point is serious - if the NUJ is going to go in for this sort of posturing, how about boycotting goods from countries that really abuse human rights?

A glance down the list of NUJ motions reveals a childish fixation with trendy-Leftie causes. It reminds me of the time I was JCR President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford and I was forever being mandated, after verbose motions carried by acclamation, to write to Margaret Thatcher to protest about this or that.

But that was forgivable - we were idealistic students who had not yet entered the real world. We had an outsized sense of our own importance and an impatient reluctance to bother ourselves with considering the complexities of life outside. We have since grown up.

A glance down list of motions shows that the NUJ, despite celebrating its centenary, is still an adolescent. There's a Guantanamo motion that expresses "concern" (that'll make a difference) about "the systematic violation of human rights by the US Military".

Another "applauds the advances made by the Venezuelan people and government in redistributing the country's wealth" and condemns "disinformation" that encourages "unjustified stereotypes of the Venezuelan president as a dictator who is repressing the local media".

So the NUJ is now dictating that its members should all write that Hugo Chavez is a great chap? Clear the front pages. And if you read the anti-Israel motions, you will spot a complete absence of any sense of journalistic impartiality. The "slaughter of civilians" by Israel is condemned (no mention of suicide bombings or human rights abuses by Palestinian militias, needless to say), as is the "savage, pre-planned attack on Lebanon by Israel" and "continued attacks inside Lebanon following the defeat of its army by Hezbollah".

What kind of language is this? It is tendentious and politically-loaded propaganda that would be rightly edited out of any news story written in a newspaper that had any pretensions of fairness. Israel "defeated" by Hezbollah? That is at best debatable - it's the kind of wording smacks of a juvenile combination of unedifying gloating and wishful thinking.

Israel's "savage, pre-planned attack" on Lebanon? Er, am I missing something or wasn't last summer's conflict sparked by Hezbollah firing rockets and mortars at Israeli border villages and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers (who still have not been released) and killing three other troops?

Much has been written about the media's shortcomings in covering events in Lebanon and Israel in 2006 - check out Matthew D'Ancona and Marvin Kalb for starters - but journalistic standards of fairness, professionalism and objectivity seem to be of no concern to the NUJ.

The case of Alan Johnston, the BBC's Gaza correspondent, who was kidnapped by an unknown Palestinian group more than a month ago and has not been seen since, illustrates the dangers of reporting from Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Doing one's best to remain impartial in the most volatile and divided part of the world is incredibly difficult. Every single sentence or utterance by a journalist is scrutinised by both sides. Which can be a great thing (and something which I believe is extending across all journalism as the blogosphere spreads) but also adds to the pressure.

Foreign journalists are regarded by most Israelis as partisan advocates of the Palestinian cause. There's clearly some justification for this. It's scarcely breaking news to say that elements of the British press can be strongly anti-Israel.

Remember the Jenin "massacre", when the Guardian compared Israeli actions to 9/11? But most British journalists based in Jerusalem - and I was one of them - have a mix of sympathy for the terrible plight of ordinary Palestinians, a belief that there will be a two-state solution and even sneaking admiration for what Israel has achieved in terms of nation-building in its short history.

So what does the NUJ motion do for its members there? It helps smear them all as being biased and anti-Israel. Bravo NUJ for encouraging people to view your members as partisans in a region when charges like that can be damaging to one's health.

Propagating biased assertions, endangering the safety of its members, singling Israel out for criticism above all other nations, dictating what we should write. It's high time for the NUJ to take a long, hard look at itself if it wants to avoid being consigned to ridicule and irrelevance.


Posted by Toby Harnden at 14 Apr 07 09:36

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