The National Writers Union has seen better days. In 1997 the organization, which was founded in 1981, successfully sued The New York Times for abusing the intellectual property rights of freelance journalists in the United States. (The paper had put articles written by freelance journalists into a fee-based electronic archive without obtaining the permission of the writers who held the copyright.) The NWU, an affiliate of the UAW, won the lawsuit. The New York Times is expected to pay a multi-million dollar payout to the aggrieved parties in 2015.
As a result of the notoriety achieved from its lawsuit against The New York Times, the NWU’s membership swelled to nearly 7,000.
Eventually, NWU’s lawsuit against The New York Times faded from the headlines and the market for freelance journalism changed drastically. The internet, which everyone thought was going to be a huge money maker for publishers, ended up causing a huge decline in print advertising, without providing new online sources of revenue.
As a result, the NWU’s fortunes changed drastically. Today, the NWU has about 1,200 members. It is simply no longer the force for writers it once was and as a result, it is struggling to maintain relevance. Predictably enough, one way it has struggled to achieve this relevance and energize its base is by attacking Israel. It’s a strategy that the leaders of mainline churches adopted during the last decade.
On July 29, 2014, the NWU posted an article by its president Larry Goldbetter condemning Israel that states in part: “As of this writing, more than 700 Palestinians have been killed, almost all civilians. Mosques, schools, and medical centers have been destroyed. Thirty-two Israelis have been killed, almost all soldiers.”
What Goldbetter omits from his condemnation is that mosques schools and medical centers that have been hit have been used by Hamas to store weapons and as staging grounds for attacks against Israel. The Washington Post reports that Shifa Hospital has “become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.”
So far, there have been three documented instances of UN schools being used to store Hamas rockets.
Goldbetter also fails to acknowledge that a number of the rockets that have hit civilian installations in the Gaza Strip were launched by Hamas. In his statement, which makes no mention of Hamas, the suffering is all Israel’s fault.
Goldbetter’s statement about the 700 Palestinians who have died being mostly civilians is also irresponsible because as this article published by Time.com by CAMERA’s Steve Stotsky reveals, most of the Palestinians who have died were males between the ages of 17-40, indicating that many of them have in fact been combatants.
Moreover, approximately seven percent of the Palestinians who have died have been adult women. If Israel were attacking indiscriminately, as Goldbetter would have his readers believe, the number of females killed would be much closer to 25 percent.
IFJ Highly Politicized
Clearly, the IFJ, of which the NWU is a member, has also been compromised in its approach to the conflict. In this statement, IFJ President Jim Boumelha accused Israel of “brutally murdering” a Palestinian journalist and his daughter in a bombardment.
Non-combatants, journalists included, are tragically killed in conflicts throughout the world, but their deaths do not constitute murder.
The propagandistic nature of the IFJ’s statement is particularly evident in this passage:
“We repeat our demand that the Israeli forces who continue to defy humanitarian and international law by attacking journalists and their families on a daily basis answer for their crimes,” [Boumehla said].The latest violations add to the ever increasing toll of atrocities being carried out by Israel against media workers and journalists in Gaza, with five media workers now having lost their lives since the conflict began.
In their attacks on Israel, both the NWU and the IFJ ignore growing evidence that Hamas is intimidating reporters covering the conflict from the Gaza Strip. Reporters who have written about Hamas firing rockets from near schools and hospitals have been threatened and harassed by Palestinians, a reality that both the NWU and the IFJ have failed to address in a meaningful manner during the current conflict.
Full disclosure: Dexter Van Zile is a former member of the National Writers Union. In addition to serving as a chair of the union’s local in Boston, he served as a grievance officer for the NWU.