Tracy-Ann Oberman: EastEnders star pays damages in anti-Semitism libel case

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Image caption,
Oberman has starred in shows such as EastEnders and Doctor Who

Actress Tracy-Ann Oberman has paid substantial damages and published an apology to an academic after falsely accusing him of antisemitism.

Ms Oberman suggested last year that Dr Philip Proudfoot had a "Jew blocklist" on Twitter, but has now said that her "mistake" was "hurtful."

Dr Proudfoot had in fact only used a Twitter Block Chain, a common device used to deter trolls.

In a statement, he said: "Harmful defamation... is unacceptable."

Former EastEnders star Ms Oberman has agreed not to repeat the allegation and will also pay Dr Proudfoot's legal costs.

Dr Proudfoot, who is an anthropologist and Middle East specialist, is a research fellow at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex.

'Household name'

He is a supporter of Palestinian rights and in 2020 founded the Northern Independence Party, a democratic socialist party intended to tackle the UK's north/south divide.

On 4 April 2021, Ms Oberman tweeted in a now-deleted post: "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."

The allegation was untrue and Dr Proudfoot commenced a libel claim against Ms Oberman, on the basis that the tweet was defamatory and suggested that he was a racist anti-Semite who blocks Jews from interacting with him.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Dr Proudfoot used Twitter's Block Chain after he was targeted by anonymous troll accounts attacking him for his pro-Palestinian views. The tool blocked all Twitter users following the blocked account, regardless of whether or not they were Jewish.

He contended that Ms Oberman's allegation caused serious harm to his reputation, particularly given his status as a prominent academic. He said the harm was exacerbated by having come from someone who is a household name and a verified commentator on Twitter with a blue tick. Ms Oberman has more than 100,000 followers on the platform.

In her statement published on Twitter on Tuesday, Ms Oberman explained that the day after she had published the defamatory tweet, "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."

'Horrors of war'

Commenting on the outcome of the case, Dr Proudfoot said: "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 anti-Semitism, 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."

In February, Amnesty International said Israeli policies towards Palestinians and occupied territories amounted to apartheid but Israel said it "absolutely rejects all the false allegations" in the report.

Ms Oberman was most recently seen on TV screens on Channel 4's Celebrity Bake Off and has starred in shows including Ridley Road, It's a Sin and EastEnders. She is also patron of the charity Children for Peace, which aims to help Israeli and Palestinian children build friendships through arts, education, healthcare and sport.