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UK: Jewish widow accused by Labour of antisemitism threatens to sue party

Diana Neslen, an 82-year-old practicing Jew, says Labour is illegally discriminating against her based on her belief in anti-Zionism
Neslen has been accused of antisemitism over tweets she posted about Israel and Zionism (Social media)

An 82-year-old disabled Jewish widow, who is being investigated by Labour for alleged antisemitism for the third time in less than three years, is threatening legal action against the party, claiming it has illegally discriminated against her based on her belief in anti-Zionism.

Diana Neslen, a practicing Jew who lives in east London, has been accused of antisemitism over tweets she posted about Israel and Zionism.

The Guardian reported on Monday that in a pre-action letter to Labour, Neslen's lawyers, Bindmans, say the party’s investigation is totally unjustified and disproportionate as it rests on a single tweet from 2017, which said: “the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavour and I am an antiracist Jew”.

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The lawyers argue anti-Zionism is a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act and Neslen has been “subjected by the party to discrimination and harassment related to her protected philosophical belief”.

A fervent Zionist during her youth, Neslen became disillusioned after witnessing the treatment of Palestinians during a trip to Israel at the end of the 1950s. 

Born in South Africa, she is a lifelong anti-racist campaigner and a member of the Labour Party.

In February, she was given a “formal NEC [National Executive Committee of the Labour Party] warning relating to your conduct”, the Guardian said. 

Bindmans told the newspaper all but one of the tweets cited in the latest investigation, of which she was notified in August, were excluded under party rules, either because they were before she rejoined the party in 2015 or were considered in the previous investigation.

In September 2018, Neslen received a formal warning about her conduct, accompanied by a list of her social media posts. These included the statement that the former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "making shameless political capital out of the Holocaust".

In an interview with Middle East Eye last year, Neslen said that in 1991, a member of the BNP (British National Party) was jailed for beating up her son. "I know what real antisemitism looks like," she said.

'Administrative persecution'

A report published in August said that Labour, under its present leader Keir Starmer, was “purging Jews from the party” with Jews almost five times more likely to face antisemitism charges than non-Jewish members.  

The report stated that British Jews were experiencing "discrimination, victimisation and harassment" inside the party.

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The statements were found in a submission by Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). 

A left-wing, pro-Palestinian Jewish group, JVL was founded in 2017 and has been a consistent supporter of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The group said it was submitting its report to the EHRC because it believes its members "increasingly experience administrative persecution by the Labour Party as a form of discrimination".

Neslen is threatening to sue Labour if it does not apologise and promise not to pursue further investigations against her in respect of her beliefs.

The Guardian said that Labour had not replied to letters from Neslen's lawyers and had not responded to a request for comment from the newspaper.