Britain's National Union of Journalists denounced Israel on Friday for its "military adventures" in Gaza and Lebanon, called on the government to impose sanctions and urged a boycott of Israeli goods. By a vote of 66 to 54, the annual delegate's meeting of Britain's largest trade union for journalists called for "a boycott of Israeli goods similar to those boycotts in the struggles against apartheid South Africa led by trade unions, and [for] the [Trades Union Congress] to demand sanctions be imposed on Israel by the British government." Some of the union's 40,000 members decried its "trendy lefty" agenda. Other motions before the four-day meeting in Birmingham, which ends Sunday, included condemnations of the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and support for Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.
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The boycott motion was the third clause of a larger anti-Israel resolution proposed by the union's South Yorkshire branch that condemned Israel's "savage, pre-planned attack on Lebanon" last summer and the "slaughter of civilians in Gaza" in recent years.
Motion 38 also called for supporting the NGOs Jews for Justice, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and the Council for the Advancement of British-Arab Understanding.
After an hour of debate, a motion to sever the boycott clause from the condemnation motion was adopted. The motion condemning Israel's "savage" behavior toward Palestinian civilians in the wake of "the defeat of its army" by Hizbullah passed by a wide margin.
Following two abortive hand counts, the boycott motion passed by 66 to 54.
The Daily Telegraph's Washington correspondent, Toby Harnden, characterized the vote as "inane, ineffectual, counterproductive and insulting to the intelligence."
"Why should my dues be spent on anti-Israel posturing of which I and many other members want no part?" Harnden wrote on his Telegraph blog, condemning the motion as "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."
Craig McGinty, a freelance journalist and member of the Union of Journalists asked on his blog, "How boycotting any nation's goods, whether it's Israel, China or Umpah Lumpah Land will help improve the lot of both staff and freelance journalists."
Former Guardian reporter and Yahoo Europe news director Lloyd Shepherd quipped that he now looked "forward to similar boycotts of Saudi oil (abuse of women and human rights), Turkish desserts (limits to freedom of speech) and, of course, the immediate replacement of all stationery in the NUJ's offices which has been made or assembled in China."
On the same day the National Union of Journalists condemned Israel, the organization's international affiliate, the International Federation of Journalists, called on the Palestinian Authority to secure the release of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, who was kidnapped five weeks ago by Palestinian gunmen in Gaza.
IFJ general-secretary Aidan White urged the "Palestinian government to do everything in its power to make sure [Johnston] is released immediately."
The kidnapping had done "great harm not just to journalism but to the development of the region in general by making it impossible for journalists to work safely and report on developments there," he said.
Johnston's kidnapping was not on the NUJ's agenda.