UK reporters in Israel ignore boycott

BBC Jerusalem bureau chief: Kidnapped reporter more important than boycott.

reporters 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
reporters 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A motion to boycott Israeli goods that was passed by Britain's National Union of Journalists on Friday is being ignored by Israel-based UK journalists. Most British correspondents working in Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not members of the NUJ. One who is, Donald Macintyre of The Independent, said he did not know anything about the union's actions until he read it in the Israeli media. "The job of the NUJ is to protect journalists and not adopt political postures, right or left," Macintyre told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "It certainly won't affect my job or my professional outlook." "We are here to report on Israel as well as the Palestinians. If they [the NUJ] want to get involved in Middle East issues, they should join the brave campaign for [kidnapped BBC Gaza correspondent] Alan Johnston by the brave Palestinian journalists supporting him," he said. The BBC's Jerusalem bureau chief, Simon Wilson, said Johnston's situation was far more important and pressing than the boycott call. "I have a missing journalist in Gaza," he said. "I have no time for anything else. Besides, [the boycott] is not something we would comment on." British TV's Sky News Jerusalem bureau chief, Yael Lavie, told the Post: "I can speak for everyone working for Sky News [here] and none of us will be boycotting any time in the near future." The boycott, approved in a 66-54 vote at the National Union of Journalists's annual delegates meeting, is intended to protest Israel's "military adventures" in the Gaza Strip and its "savage, pre-planned attack on Lebanon" last summer. Its language would appear to require that union members here be restricted to the PA territories so they do not contribute to the Israeli economy. "If that is the case, the boycott is absolutely ridiculous, but I can't even say if that's what they are in fact calling for because I haven't been sent a text of the motion," a Jerusalem-based British journalist said. The motion was stoutly defended by the NUJ's public relations director, Tim Gopsill. He told the Post: "Who can condemn the NUJ's boycott when the EU and USA are boycotting the Palestinians and leading to worse economic situations for those in the [PA] territories? Members' sympathies lie with the people in Palestinian areas." Gopsill blamed the Palestinian economic situation for Johnston's kidnapping. "Taking Alan Johnston [captive]," he said, "demonstrates the Palestinians' desperate way of drawing attention to their problems." NUJ member Toby Harnden, the Daily Telegraph's Washington reporter and a former Jerusalem correspondent, called the boycott "insulting to the intelligence," adding, "This kind of thing is what gives British trade unions their loony Left image." Tom Gross, a former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, said British trade unions had taken a fashionably left-turn in their views over the past few years, echoing the positions taken by the "international Left" in targeting Israel. "With Britain as the base for influential international media such as the BBC, Financial Times, Economist magazine and Reuters news agency, British media lies about Israel have ramifications far beyond Britain," he said. "If British journalists really want to boycott Israeli goods, they better give up their desktop and notebook computers and their mobile phones, all of which have components developed and manufactured in Israel." Opponents of the boycott have asked in various Web postings why Israel is being targeted by journalists who should be working without restrictions or preconception, and/or why other countries and regimes are not being similarly boycotted. Notably, some critics wrote, despite the Johnston kidnapping, there has been no move to boycott the PA. Other Web postings, meanwhile, have endorsed the action, some praising it as similar to an NUJ boycott of apartheid-era South Africa.