Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

The Writers Guild of America West issued an apology to its members on Tuesday for the harm caused by its decision not to release a statement in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The guild has faced withering criticism over the last week for failing to condemn the Hamas attacks, which took the lives of more than 1,400 people.

In a lengthy statement to members on Tuesday, the guild sought to explain its decision not to weigh in on the issue. The guild explained that it has generally taken stances on domestic issues pertaining to social justice or freedom of speech, while it has avoided international tragedies.

“We did not, for example, make a comment after Russia invaded Ukraine, nor on terrorist attacks in Somalia, Pakistan or elsewhere,” the guild said. “It can be an imprecise science for a labor union to pick and choose where it weighs in on both domestic and world affairs.”

WGA West leadership also acknowledged the pain caused by that decision.

“We are American labor leaders, aware of our limitations and humbled by the magnitude of this conflict,” the guild said. “However, we understand this has caused tremendous pain and for that we are truly sorry.”

Nearly 400 writers have signed an open letter condemning the attacks and blasting the union for its silence. Another group of more than 300 creative guild members signed a second letter, urging unions to resist pressure to weigh in, which they argued could be seen as endorsing Israel’s response.

The full text of the WGA West message follows.

The Guild’s decision not to issue a statement on the events of October 7th has caused pain within our membership that we did not intend. We believe it is important to both explain our process and to attempt to rectify the situation, as well as to unequivocally state that antisemitism and Islamophobia have no place in this Guild.    
 
In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attacks, we did not issue a public statement, not because we were not horrified by the atrocities, but because it felt outside the purview of a U.S. labor union representing writers to comment on it. This was and is a difficult balance to strike. We have, as a Guild, made statements on other occasions, which could be characterized as beyond our scope and want to offer some transparency here about our thinking. Those instances fell mainly under the umbrella of defending social justice in the U.S. or freedom of expression, and where possible, were connected back to writers’ working lives. But the list of national and international tragedies we have not commented on is large. We did not, for example, make a comment after Russia invaded Ukraine, nor on terrorist attacks in Somalia, Pakistan or elsewhere. It can be an imprecise science for a labor union to pick and choose where it weighs in on both domestic and world affairs. 

Our board is diverse in its membership and points of view. The opinions from the board about whether to put out a statement did not fall along religious or sectarian lines and mirrored what we have seen play out in our membership as a whole and in the broader community. When we made the difficult choice not to make a statement, it was not because we are paralyzed by factionalism or masking hateful views. We are American labor leaders, aware of our limitations and humbled by the magnitude of this conflict. However, we understand this has caused tremendous pain and for that we are truly sorry.

All of us in Guild leadership are horrified by the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7th. The murder of so many innocent people in Israel is an abomination. We deeply mourn the deaths of innocent Palestinians ensnared in the violence in Gaza. We feel for all our members who have been affected, directly and indirectly. We hope that wisdom prevails in the region – and for the safety of all innocent people caught in the escalating violence. 

As we move forward, we ask everyone to treat each other with respect and patience in this horrible time. What any of us write and say should not put writers in peril with each other. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us.

None of this, of course, has any effect on the Israeli and Palestinian people. What they need from us is not an expression of our anger and distrust toward each other, but a shared commitment to peace and the value of every human life. 

In solidarity,

Meredith Stiehm, President
Michele Mulroney, Vice President
Betsy Thomas, Secretary-Treasurer

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