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UK: Labour drops case against Jewish woman over alleged antisemitism

Diana Neslen, 82, threatened to sue the party over its investigation into tweets she posted about Israel and Zionism
Born in South Africa and now living in east London, Neslen is a lifelong anti-racist campaigner and a member of the Labour Party (Social media)

The UK's Labour Party has dropped an investigation into an 82-year-old disabled Jewish woman for alleged antisemitism after she threatened to sue the party for illegally discriminating against her based on her belief in anti-Zionism.

Diana Neslen, a practising Jew who was being investigated by Labour for alleged antisemitism for the third time in less than three years, had been accused of antisemitism over tweets she posted about Israel and Zionism.

The Guardian newspaper reported in December that in a pre-action letter to Labour, Neslen's lawyers, Bindmans, had said Labour’s investigation was totally unjustified and disproportionate as it rested 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 had argued 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”.

Labour did not initially respond to Neslen’s lawyers, but later told her it was discontinuing the investigation.

“It is a big victory,” Neslen told the Guardian. “I’m pleased that they dropped it because it exposes the fact that they shouldn’t have done anything in the first place. 

"But I also feel that I would have liked the issue of protected belief to have been addressed because I believe there are a lot of people who also, like me, are anti-Zionist, believe that it’s a perfectly legitimate belief, and they have no recourse.”

Neslen told the newspaper that Labour had not apologised to her, despite her request for it to do so, and had told her she was not entitled to talk publicly about it.

However Neslen said she would not be silenced

'I know what real antisemitism looks like'

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 and now living in east London, she is a lifelong anti-racist campaigner and a member of the Labour Party

In February 2021, Neslen 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 its 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 British National Party was jailed for beating up her son. "I know what real antisemitism looks like," she said.

'Administrative persecution'

Neslen on Monday called on Labour to withdraw complaints against other party members under similar investigation. 

Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), of which Neslen is a member, says it knows of 46 Jewish Labour members, two of whom have since died, who have faced or are facing disciplinary charges relating to allegations of antisemitism, the Guardian said.

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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.

The statements were found in a submission by 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".

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