Society of Authors rejects ‘one-sided’ Gaza motion

Jewish writers relieved as union votes against ‘divisive’ anti-Israel motion


The UK’s largest authors’ union has voted down a motion demanding the body issue an official statement condemning Israel’s military action in Gaza.

The proposal submitted by Fossil Free Books and 66 SoA members demanded that the UK’s oldest literary trade union call for a ceasefire in Gaza and condemned the “targeting of civilians and cultural infrastructure”, but was criticised fo not mentioning Hamas, or the Israeli victims of October 7.

Jewish writers slammed the motion as “one-sided” and “extreme” and the SoA leadership committee advised against the resolution on the grounds that it went beyond the union’s remit.

The Israel advocacy group UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) advised that the resolution was unlawful since large parts of it went outside the SoA’s constitution. 

The vote went ahead as planned earlier this week and an electronic ballot conducted during an online meeting on Thursday saw 786 members vote for the motion, 883 against, with 239 abstentions.

Several Jewish members have shared their relief over the result.

Writer and SoA member Hilary Freeman said, “It is very heartening to know that most people are not happy to put their names to a statement that is so one sided, and they want the society to be much more measured. Commenting on politics in the Middle East is not the society’s remit.”

A spokesperson for the SoA said: “We appreciate that discussions around Resolution 3 have been particularly challenging. But although many members care deeply about the issues raised in the resolution, there is no consensus among you.

“Ahead of the EGM, while some expressed frustration that the SoA has not already made a statement on Gaza, others have described Resolution 3 itself as ‘divisive’ and ‘alienating’. This evening’s vote confirms that division.

“Although a majority of Members voted against Resolution 3, we cannot overlook the fact that many of you (over 47% of those who took part) voted for it. The SoA is your trade union whichever way you voted.”

Some anti-Israel members have taken to social media to express their disappointment over the vote, and several have said they will resign from the SoA.

Freeman said, “Since the motion was passed, I have seen three or four people calling for a boycott of the writers who voted against the resolution, which goes completely against what [the proposers] said about writers being protected. If this is about free speech, it should be about free speech for everyone.”

Members also voted in favour of two other motions during the EGM that called for the SoA to publish statements against the use of copyrighted material to train artificial intelligence systems and for the book industry to divest from fossil fuels.

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