The UK Labour Party has dropped an investigation into 82-year-Jewish woman, Diana Neslen, for alleged anti-Semitism after she threatened to sue the party for unlawfully discriminating against her based on her belief in anti-Zionism.
Neslen is said to be on of 46 Jewish members of Labour Party who have faced or are facing disciplinary charges relating to allegations of anti-Semitism following the election of Keir Starmer. The Labour leader’s reign began with what critics have described as a witch-hunt of party members critical of Israel.
Neslen, who regularly attends her local synagogue and keeps a kosher home, was being investigated by the party for the third time in less than three years for tweets she posted about Israel and Zionism. She has said that “the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavour and I am an antiracist Jew.”
Under the highly controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism adopted by Labour, Neslen’s anti-Zionist stance places her at odds with the party. Seven of the 11 examples of anti-Semitism including in the IHRA conflate criticism of Israel with racism towards Jews.
In a letter to the Labour Party, Neslen’s lawyers, Bindmans, said that the investigation was unjustified and disproportionate, resting 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”.
The letter said that if Labour did not back down, Neslen would bring a lawsuit for discrimination and harassment, claiming anti-Zionism is a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act.
“It is a big victory,” said Neslen following Labour’s decision to back down. “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 had described herself as a “committed Zionist” but a visit to Israel changed her views. “I want the conversation to continue, I want Jewish people to be able to be as free talking about anti-Zionism as they are about Zionism,” she said. “You shouldn’t silence people who you disagree with, and although Zionism is for many Jews a sense of identity, [it’s] not for all and we all have a right to our views.”
Neslen’s trouble with Labour began in 2018, following the party’s adoption of the IHRA, despite warnings from critics that it would have a chilling effect on free speech. In the four years since, a consensus has emerged amongst leading human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch over Israel’s status as an apartheid state.
Under the IHRA definition, Labour members who share the views of Amnesty or the many reports by rights groups exposing Israel’s apartheid policies on social media, could fall foul of party rules. Thus far Labour has not commented on Amnesty’s report, nor has it explained how it will treat its members that share details about Israel’s apartheid nature.