Friday, 20 April 2007

NUJ boycott of Israel: outbreak of commonsense at 'The Guardian'

Norm has got in first (doesn't he always?) but I completely agree with him that today's Guardian leader on the proposed NUJ boycott of Israel is a (surprising, refreshing) model of good sense. The whole editorial is eminently quotable, but this is particularly well-put:

If it were press freedom in the Middle East that truly concerned delegates, Israel - which has a comparatively open and robust domestic press - would hardly be the obvious starting point. One might, for example, rather focus on Iran, Libya or Syria. If, on the other hand, the journalists' union prefers to busy itself with individual governments' foreign policies then, again, there is no shortage of unsavoury regimes around the world which might merit some form of consumer boycott.

The editorial is all the more welcome, given the newspaper's recent track record. As someone who's been a dedicated reader of The Guardian since the age of 16, I've recently had cause to consider taking my custom elsewhere, thanks to the paper's regular habit of giving over its comment page to supporters of totalitarian groups and regimes. (I long ago gave up on that other mainstay of my youth, The New Statesman: 'Blair's Bombs' indeed).

I'm in favour of liberal newspapers creating a forum for a diversity of voices but, as the good people over at Harry's Place and at Pickled Politics have argued, if you're going to allow a voice to Middle Eastern reactionaries, then to be consistent you'd need to provide a platform for homegrown versions such as the BNP (don't - please). The final straw (almost) came the other month when the comment page was given over to an article by Azzam Tamimi, a well-known apologist for Hamas and its use of suicide terrorism. Even worse, there wasn't a single protest in the next day's letters pages.

That was it: I was never going to buy The Guardian again. Trouble was: what was I going to read instead? The Independent was out, for obvious reasons (having an even worse record of flipping straight into 'it's all our own fault' mode following any fundamentalist outrage). I finally settled on The Times, but in spite of a few good columnists, it just wasn't the same, and in a few days I was back with the good old Grauniad, trying not to mind that the person they invited to comment on Iran's kidnapping of British service personnel was a regime apologist who blamed the whole thing on Britain's support for the Shah thirty years ago. Ah, well, so it goes...Now, I just try to skip quickly over the comment pages and on to the reviews and obituaries. Today, however, I'm rather glad that I didn't.

1 comment:

unseen said...

Engage have set up a place for NUJ members who oppose the boycott to organise. You can sign up here:

http://www.mailmylist.co.uk/nuj

Also see their blog for updates http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog