Politicisation of the union?

There is no such thing as real objectivity, and journalists are usually the first to point this out. But does this mean the NUJ should sacrifice its neutrality and become more of a political force? Startlingly this seems to be the case. 

I was more than surprised to find a majority vote in favour of a boycott of Israeli goods, based on judgements such as the country’s conflict in Palestinian territories and with Lebanon. With a result of 66 to 54, as well as some turbulent debate, the motion did not pass smoothly – but so it should not. There is no need for such a loud political move to be taken up when the reality is that it will do little good for the union – and possibly a lot of bad.

One thing’s for sure: it is not going to make life any easier for journalists anywhere in the world.  In the current international climate, where journalists’ lives are often at threat despite their own views or neutrality, it is absolutely fundamental that the union does nothing to worsen the situation. We need to strive to maintain our objectivity when reporting and although we have a personal right to express our own views, this does not extend to the union doing the same. We are working together to protect journalists – not to endanger them.

There is another problem with this specific case. As one member mentioned, the union will ineluctably be seen by some as anti-Semitic because of this particular stance against Israel which, despite being a ridiculous misconception, is also one that needs to be taken into account. Not least because such individuals can quite rightly ask, ‘why target Israel? Why not persecute other states with bad records internationally?’ And the union has no answer.

Because, all across the world, from Vietnam to Colombia, men and women are suffering injustices. So now we have called for sanctions against Israel, what next? Do we boycott Chinese goods because of its lack of freedom of press? Do we call for sanctions on the US government because of human rights abuses in Guantanamo Bay? There are too many abuses of freedom and rights and no lack of causes out there which the NUJ could stand up and shout about. And I’m not suggesting we should ignore or forget about them. But if we become too far intertwined with such politics then we compromise our principles. It is not the union’s place to be another player on the global political chessboard; if we continue to politicise we endanger the union and our own lives.

The anti-Semitic claim has no grounding and is thus vacuous in my opinion, because the issue here revolves around unjust killing, regardless of religion or any other discriminatory variable. But the problem is that Israel’s ‘slaughter’ is not one-sided; there are a number of factions in Palestinian territorities and across the middle-east – and indeed the world – that commit such crimes. And to make such a stand against Israel at the same time as supporting links with the West Bank and Gaza, invariably suggests that we only act selectively against unlawful killing. 

I understand there are times when action needs to be taken. I am glad that the NUJ campaigned feverishly against apartheid in South Africa as it is difficult to stand back and watch such atrocities being carried out by the government against its own people and not act. But this just indicates how difficult it is to know whether or not to speak out – a quandary that humanitarian agencies have particularly had to struggle with to no apparent avail.

Being political as a union, regardless of whether it’s with a big or a small “P”, is perhaps inevitable. The way some members proudly say that we are not affiliated to the Labour party wears thin when the union refuses to be neutral internationally. And evidently if we focus and vote on every issue of this sort that rears its head then we get to the point where we are deeply embroiled in a web of political concerns. The danger therefore is that further politicisation may well have worrying implications: it could not only weaken and fragment the union both internally and externally and threaten the power of the union’s voice, but also detract it from its original purpose of representing and protecting its men and women on the ground.

Olivia Lang, Nottingham branch member


9 Responses to Politicisation of the union?

  1. Anthony Leon says:

    I am an ex-Brit now living in Israel (so excuse my prejudice 😉 and liked to think British Journalism was reasonably balanced. I seem to have been proved wrong by your colleagues vote. Everyone has their leaning, but should it really but publicised, especially by ‘neutral’ journalists. However some semblance of faith and sanity has be restored by comments, and I thank for them.

    As for the journalists who voted to boycott, I hope you will be donating anything made by Microsoft, Intel, IBM and Nokia in your posession as soon as possible.

  2. Hettie says:

    I can’t even begin to comprehend this.

  3. Mark says:

    Let me congratualted the union for their bold move against Israel. Boycotting Israeli goods is a wonderful act, but it must be followed! So, to make life easier for you I compiled a short list of companies to avoid. Watch out, there are 4500 startups in Israel and many more companies, and not following the Führer orders might be a crime.

    A Short List

    Intel based computers – Most processors are designed in Israel and manufactured in that country. All those Intel based notebooks have an Israeli code! Intel M series was originally Banias based on an Israeli river. Intel Core series was codenamed Yonah. Those Zionists …..

    Flash based cards – most of the recent technology was developed by Eli Harari (Sandisk) and most of the software designed in Israel (originally by M-Systems). The flash resieds on most cellphones and can be used on those new cameras. AVOID!! AVOID!

    All medical technology including intraoperative MRI should be avoided. GE manufactuers most MRIs in Israel AVOID AVOID

    Do not purchase in generic drugs manufactured by Teva, the largest generic drug company in the world, and don’t use Copaxone to treat your relatives MS.

    Do not buy any microchips . Remmeber, most of the machines are made in Israel by a small company called Applied Materials.

    Don’t use any turbines for geoothermal enregy – Ormat Inc. is Israelk!

    Do not use any telephone and cellphone billing software…. most are made in Israel.

    Do you have a cordless phone (Panasonic Audiovox etc…). The chipset is designed and manufactured in Israel…. DSPG!

    Are you interested in preventing viruses using a fire wall? Damn, taht was also invented in Israel and the best companies for security are Checkpoint and Aladdin.

    How about in need for magnetic resonance imaging guided focused ultrasound treatment for uterine fibroids… Thats Israel…. SO DONT USE

    How about having a colonoscopy. I bet you love it. You could have used a pill with a camera but thats Israel (Given Diagnostic Imaging System)

    Ok, so lets face it. NUJ prefers Rarab technology such as car bombs,,,, Enjoy.

  4. […] issues rather than wider politics. Journalist Craig McGinty shares this view. The NUJ’s own ADM blog contains a post by someone about this emerging […]

  5. James says:

    I think many of us would, indeed, be pleased to see the National Union of Journalists. It might leave room for some local journalists — you know, ones who actually speak the language and have not been just parachuted in from halfway around the world — to furnish accurate reporting, rather than the starry-eyed cliches of Brit narrators out for a good story.

    The international journalism of the West has consistently demonstrated itself to be colonialism’s last acceptable face. How nice for the journalists to lay it out for the natives as to what they should really be doing. But, please, do work it through to its logical end. The self-righteous, underinformed tones of UK’s pack-journalist “correspondents” are a pleasure we could really do without for a long while.

  6. faszinating says:

    To me, it seems the NUJ has always been political. But there seems to be an increase of unpolitical members in the union.

  7. eduard portnoy says:

    comments? nothing but shame.start to .. boycot sout korea. what a shame!journalists?no! pure nazis!

  8. Martin Cloake says:

    “Ok, so lets face it. NUJ prefers Rarab (sic) technology such as car bombs,,,, Enjoy.”

    What a ridiculous, racist statement. There is debate to be had here, but it seems hysterical ranting is not confined to just one side. Grow up if you want a proper debate. Olivia’s original post is a thoughtful and considered one, and deserves better than this.

  9. Capt. Glavicic says:

    Olivia is right. And it is good that there is still Fox News for the people to see the true facts reported, not CNN, BBC and thers that receive funds from arabs and have to dance by arabic music. Shame, real shame on screwed up NUJ

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