Society of Authors narrowly rejects Gaza motion

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Society of Authors narrowly rejects Gaza motion

Online vote sees defeat for resolution by 883 to 786, with 239 abstentions

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

An attempt to get the Society of Authors trade union to issue a statement about Gaza was narrowly defeated last week in an extraordinary general meeting.

The EGM was called after 35 members of the 12,500-strong union, belonging to the Fossil Free Books grouping, tabled a Gaza resolution and a second motion on the use of fossil fuel in publishing.

The Gaza motion, which did not mention Hamas’s incursion into Israel, the subsequent murders of Israelis, or the taking of hostages, was supported by 786 votes and opposed by 883 ballots. A further 239 SoA voters abstained. There was extensive lobbying by the proposers of the motion to get support for it, while at the same time some Jewish authors were expressing fear at the implications if it were passed.

In the aftermath of the vote, the Fossil Free Books group issued a statement expressing “disappointment” that the union “still refuses to: condemn the genocide in Gaza, support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, or express solidarity with Palestinian writers and publishing workers here in the UK who face job loss and censorship for speaking out.”

The management committee of the SoA had formally opposed the motion. Outgoing chief executive Nicola Solomon 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 focused on the numbers of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza, citing 30,000 when the resolution was created on March 14, and aimed 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”.

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