A number of authors have left the U.K.'s Society of Authors following its vote on whether to make a statement on Gaza. The vote took place on May 2, and saw SoA members vote on three resolutions: on AI, ending fossil fuel investment in the books industry, and commenting on Gaza. The member resolution on Gaza, proposed by 66 members and organized in collaboration with Book Workers for a Free Palestine, asked the SoA to issue public statements:

  1. in support of a permanent ceasefire in Gaza
  2. condemning the targeting of Palestinian writers and journalists by the Israeli government
  3. affirming the rights of those affected to receive justice for those killed by the Israeli government
  4. affirming support for publishing workers facing direct or indirect censorship for their solidarity with the Palestinian people
  5. condemning the destruction of Palestinian cultural infrastructure by the Israeli government, including, but not limited to, libraries and universities

The resolution was opposed by the SoA management committee, which recommended that members voted against it. 786 members voted for the motion and 883 against, with 239 abstentions. In January, the SoA said that it does not comment on "general political issues," but Verso Books pointed out that this "wasn't their rationale in 2022 when, three days after the Russian invasion, the SoA—rightly—declared its solidarity with 'all Ukrainian people, and in particular with Ukrainian writers, illustrators, translators, journalists, and others whose lives and livelihoods are so entwined with the right to think, speak, write, and create freely.' " (The SoA, however, has changed its remit since then.)

Authors who have announced that they are leaving the Society of Authors include Sophie Anderson, Karin Celestine, A.M. Dassu, Nizrana Farook, Arden Jones, Jennifer Killick, Sinéad O'Hart, Vikki Patis, Anne Rouse, Sunny Singh, Rashmi Sirdeshpande, and Louie Stowell. In her resignation letter, Singh wrote: "I resign with...relief from this organization where a majority of members cannot bring themselves to critique the murder of fellow writers, or raise their voice to call for a ceasefire for an ongoing genocide." She told BookBrunch that she plans to continue her work through the Jhalak Prize, which aims to celebrate books by writers of color in Britain and Ireland.

Rashmi Sirdeshpande told BookBrunch: "The SoA has a poor track record when it comes to caring for and representing its diverse membership and this vote (the way it was conducted and the shocking rhetoric around it) was the final straw for me. I know there is great value to 'being in the room,' but how can we writers of color be in the same room as people who consider us antisemitic, 'extremists,' and 'Hamas groupies' for standing for peace?"

Vikki Patis also commented to BookBrunch, saying: "The decision to cancel my Society of Authors membership was not one I took lightly. The Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses group is vitally important to me as a disabled author, and I have been a judge for the ADCI Prize for two years, both of which do so much good. I still believe in a lot of what the SoA does, but I have been uneasy with the lack of action with regard to transphobia and racism in particular for some time now, and this vote was the last straw."

On X, formerly Twitter, A.M. Dassu added: "I don't feel the SoA is representative of its diverse membership nor does it protect them," continuing: "There is great division, and I want to be part of a trade union that is supportive of all members and manages to unite them.... There is a clear bias within management, the ManCom is not representative of its membership."

Fossil Free Books, a group of workers in the literary industry that calls for an industry "free from fossil fuels and fossil fuel finance," released a statement following the vote saying that "we are disappointed that our trade 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 U.K. who face job loss and censorship for speaking out." Since then, the organization released another statement, requesting feedback from its members to "join our next trade union working group meeting and be part of the collective decision-making process" in "evaluating the pros and cons of staying in the SoA, as well as considering forming a new chapter of another union instead."

Authors that voted against the resolution include Victoria Goldman, Marnie Riches, Francesca Simon, Sarah Ward, and Hilary Freeman, who lost a family member in the Hamas attacks in October 2023. The Guardian has reported that Freeman "consulted U.K. lawyers for Israel with a view to mounting a legal challenge against the SoA releasing a statement if the motion was carried, saying it was against the SoA's remit."

When approached by BookBrunch for comment, the Society of Authors said it was preparing a statement on the issue, but the statement has yet to be received.

This story first appeared in the U.K. newsletter BookBrunch.