Just weeks after the Writers Guild of America displayed solidarity by ending a monthslong strike and voting overwhelmingly in favor of a new contract with the major entertainment companies, the union is being roiled by a fight over its lack of a public statement condemning the Hamas attack on Israel.
On Oct. 15, eight days after the attack, a group of screenwriters signed an open letter to the Writers Guild asking why it had not issued a statement condemning the attack. They noted that other major Hollywood unions had issued such statements. The letter now has more than 300 signers, including Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Sherman-Palladino (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) and Gideon Raff (“Homeland”).
It questioned why the Writers Guild had previously made public remarks in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and #MeToo reckoning but remained silent “when terrorists invaded Israel to murder, rape and kidnap Jews.”
On Friday, 75 members of the guild took part in a Zoom meeting to discuss what to do about the silence. Options included withholding dues until the guild leadership convenes a proper conversation on the issue with its membership, according to a person who attended the discussion and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of its delicate nature. Other members are considering resigning from the guild by filing for financial core status, in which they would pay reduced dues and still receive the contractual benefits of the collective bargaining agreement.
Later Friday, Meredith Stiehm, the president of the Writers Guild of America West, sent an email to members who had inquired about the lack of a response. “Like the membership itself, the board’s viewpoints are varied, and we found consensus out of reach,” she wrote in the letter, which was viewed by The New York Times. “For these reasons, we have decided not to comment publicly.”
Calls to the union on Monday were not returned.
Jewish leaders have encouraged Hollywood’s biggest voices to speak out in favor of Israel.
“When celebrities speak out, it sends an important message to their tens of millions of followers that this is the right side to be on,” Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in an opinion piece published in The Hollywood Reporter.
“In light of how distorting social media algorithms can present the world,” he added, “it’s even more important for these voices to cut through.”
The writers’ union is not the only Hollywood organization dealing with fallout.
On Sunday, Creative Artists Agency announced to its employees that Maha Dakhil, the highest-ranking female agent in the motion picture group, had resigned from the company’s internal board and was stepping away from her leadership role within the motion picture group after posting inflammatory remarks on Instagram that accused Israel of committing genocide.
Ms. Dakhil has apologized for her comments. According to an email sent by the agency’s chief executive, Bryan Lourd, which was reviewed by The Times, she will continue to represent her clients, who include Natalie Portman, Tom Cruise and Reese Witherspoon.