Wednesday, 18 April 2007

NUJ and boycotting Israel

Interesting the reaction that the NUJ's new Israeli boycott policy has caused. Judging from a trawl of the internet, there isn't much support for the new position. There's a good discussion on the UK Press Gazette blog which gets into the question of whether unions should be passing these kinds of resolutions, as opposed to the more central work of defending members (of course they don't preclude each other).

I have to say the language used in the resolution does irritate me a bit. Clearly some of the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is despicable, but I am not at all clear that it is comparable with Apartheid South Africa. And speaking as an ex-journo something about it feels wrong in terms of impartiality - this is quite clearly taking sides in a complex conflict. It's particularly bizarre to pass it at the time when the NUJ is working with its Palestinian counterpart to push for the release of kidnapped BBC journo Alan Johnston, who has apparently been abducted by Palestinian militants.

More broadly one has to question what impact a boycott of this kind will have, if it can even be practically implemented (as others have pointed out, laptops include technology developed by Israelis). Does it help Palestinians to economically damage Israel, or does it harm them? In a situation like Burma there is no realistic alternative to economic sanctions, because the regime is undemocratic, but that's not the case with Israel.

It's also reminiscent of the first wave of shareholder activism, which sought to get investors to sell their shares in 'bad' companies. It might feel like 'doing something', but unless a lot of people do it then there is very little impact on the share price, plus you give up your voice. As a result 'engagement' developed as an alternative strategy, based on the idea that you have more influence if you actually own the company than if you don't.

So all in all this NUJ policy just seems like an empty gesture to me.

1 comment:

John Gray said...

Dear NUJ
By just kicking Israel and leaving Arab extremists off the hock, what on earth do you think you will obtain?

No wonder journalists have such a bad reputation in this country