AGM '09: voting on journalists, Israel and boycotts (#8)

5:30pm  We are about to get serious – serious topics, serious votes. I'm already feeling seriously grumpy. I picked a 200/1 outsider for the Grand National in the Amnesty sweepstake. Then I missed the race (too busy protesting against forced evictions in Kenya!), but BBC online assures me that, unsurprisingly, my pick didn't romp home to the Aintree cheers…

Our friends in the National Union of Journalists never miss an Amnesty AGM and are ever vigilant to ensure that the rights of journalists, here and abroad, are closely protected. This year they have a resolution noting the increasing use of anti-terrorism laws across the EU to curb the freedom of journalists to do their jobs without fear of arrest and/or violence. The NUJ wants to team up with Amnesty in campaigning against such abuses and to strengthen press freedom. No voices of dissent are raised to this most uncontroversial of motions.

One would think that any resolution combining the words 'boycott' and 'Israel' would  be rather less uncontroversial. And so it proves, although it turns out that this resolution actually focusses on goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, rather than in Israel proper. In fact, the resolution itself doesn't even call for a boycott, but directs AIUK to ask the International Secretariat to explore such a policy and for action at an EU-level to secure clearer labelling of products originating in the settlements, etc.

Another resolution calls for a major AI campaign to urge "observance of human rights and humanitarian laws by Israel and all parties to the conflict and full accountability for human rights abuses" against civilians. Ultimately, the decision to launch such a campaign would rest with the International Secretariat of AI, rather than AIUK as a national section, but this motion would mean that the UK section would urge such a course of action. There is a healthy and civilised debate backwards and forwards before a final vote is called.

The fact that we are only 15 minutes late for dinner – despite tackling the thorny matter of human rights violations in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories – is a testament to the respectful nature of the discourse and the able chairing of Sheila Banks. However, we haven't even commenced debate on five motions which this session was due to tackle, so it looks like we will have an even busier Sunday…

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