Don’t vote for Gaza resolution, union urges members

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Don’t vote for Gaza resolution, union urges members

Society of Authors says it's not its business to comment on matters "beyond our remit"

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Palestinians flee from Khan Yunis to Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Credit: SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Live News
Palestinians flee from Khan Yunis to Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Credit: SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Live News

The management committee of the Society of Authors is formally opposing a call by some of its members to make a statement about Gaza, after 66 people tabled a resolution on the issue and forced the calling of an extraordinary general meeting.

Nicola Solomon, the outgoing chief executive of the SoA, which is a recognised trade union, told Jewish News that the matter had previously been raised at the AGM in November. Those behind the resolution had been told then, she said, that “the SoA has to have a coherent policy as to when it speaks, and that is that we only speak on matters when we can make a difference for our members”. That meant, she said, areas “where we know about things, issues that are in our remit, and where we can add value”.

Simply speaking, she said, “we don’t feel it is appropriate for the Society of Authors to be making a statement on Israel/Gaza”. Ms Solomon added: “We want a situation where when the SoA speaks, it means we really have something to say”.

Later, the SoA management committee issued a statement saying “we do not comment on areas outside our remit, in order to protect the right to freedom of expression of our 12,500 individual members”.

The controversial Gaza resolution — which required a minimum of 35 supporters to trigger debate at an EGM —does not mention Hamas’s incursion into Israel, the subsequent murders of Israelis, or the taking of hostages.

Instead it focuses on the numbers of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza, citing 30,000 when the resolution was created on March 14 — a figure since revised down by Hamas to around 7,000 — and aims to commit the SoA to calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. It also claims that “the SoA believes that the relative inertia of UK publishing at a time when Palestinian authors and publishing workers continue to suffer is not acceptable. The SoA is also deeply concerned about the unprecedented levels of censorship and retribution that authors and publishing workers in the UK are facing in response to their solidarity with the Palestinian people”.

The resolution will be heard at an EGM set for May 2 online, but the SoA members have until Monday April 29 to vote. The management committee is encouraging members to join the EGM and to vote against the Gaza resolution. Two other resolutions, one on AI, and the other on fossil fuel use in the publishing industry, due to be heard at the EGM, do have management backing.

Ms Solomon said that one of the issues for her successor, Anna Ganley, and the management committee to consider, might well be a revision of the SoA bye-laws requiring only 35 members to trigger an EGM. “We made those rules at a time when it was very difficult for people to contact each other —it was a different world”. When meetings can be held online, she said, it was likely that the minimum number would be revised upwards.

Andrew Franklin, a publisher and the founder of Profile Books, said the proposed resolution was “incredibly damaging and divisive for organisations to go beyond their purpose, no matter what your politics are. The purpose of the SoA is to look after the interests of authors, make sure they are fairly treated. That’s their job and they shouldn’t go beyond it”.







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