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Tracy-Ann Oberman pays damages for claiming academic blocked Jews online

Actor apologises to Middle East researcher Philip Proudfoot after defamatory tweet saying he had a Twitter ‘Jew block list’
Political figure and Middle East researcher Philip Proudfoot won substantial damages after actor Tracey-Ann Oberman falsely linked him with antisemitism (Rahman Lowe Solicitors)
Political figure and Middle East researcher Philip Proudfoot won substantial damages after actor Tracey-Ann Oberman falsely linked him with antisemitism (Rahman Lowe Solicitors)

British actor Tracy-Ann Oberman has paid "substantial damages" and apologised after falsely suggesting that an academic and political figure had a "Jew block list" on Twitter. 

Oberman apologised on Tuesday to Philip Proudfoot, the founder of the UK’s Northern Independence Party, after he won a High Court libel claim. 

The 55-year-old actor, who has appeared on British TV shows EastEnders, Celebrity Bake Off and Friday Night Dinner, tweeted in April 2021: “So a man called @PhilipProudfoot of @FreeNorthNow has a Jew block list. I’ve been out of the twitter politics loop for a few months but is this party continuation [former Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn? Seems like it. And will it end up the same way? Seems like it. Good luck all.”

The allegation was false, and the academic had in fact used "Twitter Block Chain", a commonly utilised anti-troll tool, after he was targeted by anonymous accounts attacking him for sharing pro-Palestinian views. 

Proudfoot, an anthropologist and Middle East researcher, launched legal action after the defamatory tweet linked him with antisemitism, falsely suggesting that he was blocking Jews from interacting with him. 

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In a statement posted on Tuesday, Oberman said that Proudfoot had explained the day after her April 2021 tweet that her “Jew blocklist” claim was untrue, and that he had used an online tool to block an account that was involved in targeted trolling.

“I accept that Dr Proudfoot has 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,” she said.

The actor, who has over 100,000 Twitter followers and a verified account, vowed not to repeat the allegation. The damages include the academic’s legal costs. 

Proudfoot is a research fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at Sussex University. He has previously spoken to Middle East Eye about the human rights implications of a Saudi-led coalition's purchase of Newcastle United football club. 

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“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,” he said in a statement reacting to the legal settlement. 

“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.”

Zillur Rahman, Proudfoot’s lawyer, said that it was unfortunate that people like Proudfoot who showed solidarity with Palestinians had been falsely accused of antisemitism, which can have a “chilling effect” on free speech. 

“I hope this case empowers others to continue to make legitimate criticism of Israel’s apartheid and occupation, particularly at a time when the Palestinians are being terrorised once more.”

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