Blog backlash over NUJ Israel boycott

The National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) decision to boycott Israeli goods has been widely criticised in the blogosphere.

The union voted 66 to 54 at its annual delegate meeting on Friday in favour of a motion brought by the South Yorkshire branch that would also demand British sanctions against Israel. But the move has been knocked by observers and members alike.

“It takes some skill to do something that is at once inane, ineffectual, counter-productive and insulting to the intelligence,” wrote Telegraph US editor Toby Harnden, blogging at It is 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.”

Writing at Dadblog, Yahoo! Europe news director Lloyd Shepherd joked: “Ah good. I look 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.”

Former ThisIsLancashire editor Craig McGinty wrote at his weblog: “I am a member of the NUJ and am wondering 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.”

Neither was dissent spared from within NUJ ranks. Writing at the union’s official centenary blog, established at with a remit to cover the meeting, Olivia Lang said: “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.”

The NUJ’s meeting came as a low-profile Palestinian militant group claimed to have executed BBC News’ kidnapped Gaza reporter Alan Johnston. The meeting had previously heard a call for Mr Johnston’s release; the BBC-led effort to press for Johnston’s release has included a BBC Have Your Say online petition which has collected almost 3,000 signatures.

A small number of online commentators backed the union for putting human welfare over salary issues and a writer at the Muslim “Empowering Us” blog said he was “ecstatically jumping with joy and glee” upon reading news of the vote. Many conservative US blogs were critical of the move, with Little Green Footballs Charles Johnson considering it an indication of “the bias and thinly disguised antisemitism of the majority of British journalists”.