Tracy-Ann Oberman has apologised and agreed to pay “substantial damages” after accusing an academic of having “a Jew blocklist”.
The former EastEnders actress, who recently appeared on The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up 2 Cancer, said she appreciated that her comments were “hurtful”.
Oberman had accused anthropologist and Middle East specialist Dr Philip Proudfoot, who is a research fellow at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex and founder of the Northern Independence Party, of using an online tool which blocks Jews from interacting with him.
In a now-deleted post, she wrote: “So a man called @PhilipProudfoot of @FreeNorthNow has a Jew blocklist. I’ve been out of the Twitter politics loop for a few months but is this Party continuation Corbyn? Seems like it. And will it end up the same way? Seems like it. Good luck all.”
In a statement shared on Twitter after the settlement was reached, Oberman wrote: “On April 4 2021 I tweeted that Dr Philip Proudfoot ‘has a Jew blocklist’.
“The following day Dr Proudfoot explained that this was wrong and that he had used ‘a tool to mass block an account I followed that was involved in targeted trolling, which also blocks followers.’
“He has since assured me that this was an account which he believed was trolling and harassing him and he had not deliberately blocked Jewish accounts.
“I accept that Dr Proudfoot had at no time had a Jew blocklist and apologise for stating otherwise.
“I made a mistake and appreciate that my comments were hurtful.
“I have therefore deleted my tweet, agreed to pay substantial damages and legal costs.”
Dr Proudfoot launched a libel claim against Oberman, claiming her allegation caused serious harm to his reputation, particularly given his status as a prominent academic, according to his solicitors.
Dr Proudfoot said in a statement: “When I founded the Northern Independence Party, I expected public scrutiny. Harmful defamation, however, is unacceptable.
“Outside of my political life I am a humanitarian researcher. I’ve seen the horrors of war in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. It is for this reason I am a supporter of the struggle for human rights in Palestine. And it is for this reason I am appalled and disgusted by antisemitism, and all forms of prejudice.
“But it is harmful to allow the fear of false accusations to prevent us from speaking out against apartheid in Israel. Speaking out against injustice is also a fundamental political right.
“We must defend our rights, defend Palestinians, and never allow defamation to scare away solidarity.”
His lawyer, Zillur Rahman, of Rahman Lowe solicitors, said: “I am delighted for Philip, it really is a resounding victory.
“Antisemitism is a serious problem in our society and it is unfortunate that some people, like Philip, who show solidarity with the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom from Israel’s oppression, have been falsely accused of antisemitism, which can have a chilling effect on free speech against injustices and human rights violations.”
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