Tuesday, 3 July 2007


This Friday the National Executive of the NUJ meets – and the row over the Israel boycott will be on the agenda.

We have spent the last two and a half months expressing our dismay at our union’s foolish decision to take a one-sided view of the conflict in the Middle East - just the latest excursion into politics by a union which should be concentrating on looking after the interests of journalists.

Just as a reminder, this was the key paragraph in the motion passed at ADM:

“This ADM 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 to demand sanctions be imposed on Israel by the British government and the United Nations.”

A number of branches responded by passing motions critical of the policy, and the Broadcasting Industrial Council also condemned the boycott. Over 350 NUJ members have signed an online petition with this wording:

"As NUJ members we are dismayed at the passing of a motion at ADM calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. As members of a profession which prides itself on providing impartial news coverage, we cannot associate ourselves with this policy. We believe motions that take sides on geopolitical matters divide the union's membership and undermine the solidarity it needs to defend our professional interests and campaign for the freedom, safety and welfare of fellow journalists around the world. We call on the union to hold a ballot of all members to see whether they support the view taken at ADM on an issue which could have a profound effect on the way all British and Irish journalists are viewed at home and abroad."

We now wait to hear whether the National Executive will respond to the genuine concerns of many members who believe their reputation for impartial reporting is endangered when their union is so obviously seen to take sides.
We are already being warned that the Executive is powerless to intervene because ADM is the supreme policy-making body of the union. But I don’t think many of the officials understand how strongly members feel – and how damaging it will be if their concerns are ignored. We expect a serious discussion of this issue - and a proper response.

And please tell more NUJ colleagues about the petition - we don't have any access to members' emails so we're very dependent on word-of-mouth to spread it:


martincloake said...

I don't think there can be any doubt the NEC has listened. But, and please forgive me if this is too cynical, the tone of this latest post suggests that in this case "listen" actually translates as "agree with our position". So if, as I hope it does, the NEC declines to rip up the union constitution by overturning a decision made at ADM, I sincerely hope there won't be howls of outrage here. There is a faintly threatening ring to “we expect a serious discussion and a proper response”. I am sure the NEC will seriously discuss and “properly” respond to all the business on the agenda - I just hope the discussion on this issue doesn’t sweep all the industrial stuff off the agenda.
The facts are that there is no boycott for the NUJ to get members to support. There could be criticism that the NUJ has not, as instructed, "called for" such a boycott. My personal view is that "calling for" a boycott is a meaningless gesture incapable of implementation as things currently stand. So, even if you agree with the line being pushed that having an opinion on anything means journalists automatically lose our ability to do our jobs properly - and I don't - there is precisely nothing being done which compromises any NUJ member.
It's also interesting to note that the majority of the dwindling number of posts on this blog now seem to be those which take issue with the line being pushed by the people who set it up. I'm conscious that some may use this as evidence that the so-called "silent majority" is being even more vociferously silent, but it just may be that people don't consider this to be quite as cataclysmic as we've been led to believe.
I've continued to post on here in order to challenge some of the wilder statements, and to argue that energies would be better directed towards involving people in the many industrial campaigns we are involved in.
Later today I am going to a meeting about building support for the Stand Up For Journalism day on Nov 5th. I really hope people will involve themselves in this, and that we can focus on the positive work this union does, rather than continuing to push the entirely false and damaging notion that the NUJ is unrepresentative and uninterested in industrial work.

martinshankleman said...

Martin Shankleman writes.
Let's take issue with some of your comments, Mr Croake.
It's frankly bizarre to see
our request for a "serious discussion and a proper response" as in any way " threatening". Our wording is in fact the very essence of moderation, a concept you may or may not be familiar with.
Secondly you have chosen to misunderstand our position. We are not just objecting to the israel boycott, but also to the decision of our union to take sides in geo-political disputes. This is a very grave step for the union take, as it impunes the reputation of british journalism. This is far removed from "having an opinion about on anything" which are the words you chose in order to wilfully misrepesent our position. The 500 members who have signed our petitions are in my view much more representative of the true feelings on the Union than a handful of "activists" such as yourself. Your contempt for the moderate members of this union and their genuine concerns is palpable.
Good day

martincloake said...

I'm aware that sometimes it is difficult to correctly assess the tone comments are written in when they are read on screen, but your reply does seem rather aggressive and contemptuous. To address your points, and ignoring what I hope is a typo and not some schoolboyish attempt at poking fun at my surname…
When you talk of waiting to hear if the NEC will "respond to the genuine concerns" of members, the clear implication is that you expect the response to be the one that you want - not just a response. When you point out that you've been told the NEC is powerless to overturn an ADM decision and go on to say you think this shows it doesn't understand how strongly members feel, you are again clearly implying that you don't just want a response, you are demanding people agree with you.
You misunderstand, whether deliberately or not I have no way of telling, my comment about journalists being able to hold opinions while also taking an overview. You say I do this in order to misrepresent your position. I don't, but there also seems to be some confusion as to what your position is. On the masthead of this blog, it says "A campaign for a ballot of NUJ members about the union's policy on a boycott of Israeli goods." Now you say "We are not just objecting to the israel boycott, but also to the decision of our union to take sides in geo-political disputes." That is a very different, much wider issue. You are not making it clear, for whatever reason, exactly what you are pushing for.
We can argue until the cows come home about whether I, the 500 members who signed the petition, you, or anyone else is more or less genuinely representative of the average member. The fact is you know little about me because as far as I know we've never met. You seem to have painted a picture of me for yourself as some kind of cartoon militant with disdain for the wider membership. I suggest you ask your colleague Nick Serpell for his assessment of me - you may get a surprise.
I don't have contempt for any members of this union - even the ones I disagree with. Nick will tell you this too.
In every post on this blog I have attempted to argue my position clearly, and address the points others make. I've done the same in a private email to Rory, which I sent after receiving the round robin you circulated. I've also invited you to recognise and participate in the industrial work this union does, and which you imply is neglected.
None of these points have been responded to.
To most neutral observers, moderation would appear to be an accurate description of the manner in which I have conducted this debate. I'm not sure the same could be said for the way you have written that last post.
I do hope we can raise the tone a little.