The actor Tracy-Ann Oberman has apologized and paid “substantial damages” to a politician and academic who she falsely accused of anti-Semitism.
Oberman, whose credits include EastEnders, Friday Night Dinner, It’s A Sin and Ridley Road and who appeared on Celebrity Bake-Off last week, tweeted that Dr Philip Proudfoot, the founder of the Northern Independence party (NIP), had a “Jew block list”.
Proudfoot, an anthropologist and Middle East specialist, had used Twitter block chain, a tool that blocks all Twitter users following a blocked account, in response to being targeted by anonymous troll accounts attacking him for his pro-Palestinian views.
Oberman posted an apology on Twitter on Tuesday morning. She said Proudfoot had contacted her the day after she posted the offending tweet to explain that he had blocked all followers of an account she followed because he believed it was trolling and harassing him.
She told her more than 100,000 followers: “I accept that Dr Proudfoot has at no time had a Jew block list 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.”
The level of damage has not been disclosed. Proudfoot, a research fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at Sussex University, founded the leftwing NIP in October 2020.
On 4 April last year, Oberman, a critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism complaints while he was Labor leader, tweeted: “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 Corbyn? Seems like it. And will it end up the same way? Seems like it. Good luck all.”
Responding to the settlement of his libel claim, Proudfoot said: “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.”
His solicitor, Zillur Rahman, said: “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.”