Tracy-Ann Oberman on fighting anti-Semitism: ‘I was prepared to throw my career to the wall for this’

Jayne Cherrington-Cook
·5 min read
Tracy-Ann Oberman thinks social media networks should do more to deal with abuse on their platforms (Image: Getty Images)
Tracy-Ann Oberman thinks social media networks should do more to deal with abuse on their platforms (Image: Getty Images)

Former EastEnders star Tracy-Ann Oberman has been extremely vocal about the levels of anti-Semitism she frequently receives on social media and has admitted she didn’t care if speaking out ruined her career.

Chatting to Kate Thornton on White Wine Question Time, the actress, who is currently starring in It’s A Sin on Channel 4, said while speaking out is a brave thing to do, it was time to take action.

“There was something in me that just thought this is a line that is unacceptable,” she said.

“I'm prepared to throw my career to the wall for this because I believe so strongly in it. As an actress who relies on employment, I did a brave thing. I had so many people writing to me behind the scenes go, 'Oh my God, you're so brave! I believe in everything you're saying, but I'm too scared to say it.’”

Listen: Tracy-Ann Oberman opens up about how being trolled on Twitter really made her feel

As someone who comes from a family of Holocaust survivors, the award-winning actor said talking to one of her surviving relatives made her determined to fight against anti-Jewish feeling.

“I had one surviving great uncle, who had survived the concentration camps,” she stated.

Watch: How to embrace social media without letting it consume your life

Read more: Auschwitz survivors warn of rising anti-Semitism 75 years on

“I always remember trying to talk to him and saying, 'How did it happen?' And he said, ‘Because basically good people looked away.’ I always swore that I would never be one of those people.”

Last year, Oberman was one of many celebrities who called for British rapper Wiley to be banned from Twitter after he posted a series of anti-Semitic tweets.

She says social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook have a duty of care when it comes to situations like this.

“I think social media companies have had to start to take responsibility about who they give a megaphone to” she told Thornton.

Read more: Auschwitz survivors warn of rising anti-Semitism 75 years on

As well as banning haters like Wiley, Oberman also thinks that people who set up social media profiles should have more accountability.

“I do think that anyone on social media shouldn't be allowed to hide behind an anonymous profile, if they're going to throw hate and abuse” she lamented.

“I just don't think it's acceptable. If you're not prepared to say it in real life to somebody's face, why should you be able to hide behind an anonymous account and have a pile on group?”

The long-time Labour supporter was also concerned that the rise of anti-Semitism in her much-loved political party had become a place where “so many Jewish people and women did not feel comfortable.”

Read more: Rachel Riley and Tracy Ann Oberman drop libel case against barrister

Speaking up about these issues has made Oberman a target for vile abuse on Twitter - she has been accused of being everything from a paedophile to a tax dodger. The abuse though has made her stronger.

“It's made me who I am today - braver, stronger, wiser, more loving of myself, more loving of other people,” she revealed. “I feel I've got - for all the hatred - an enormous sense of allyship from our industry and beyond.”

One of those allies is Countdown star Rachel Riley, who along with Oberman, took various people to court for their anti-Semitism tweets.

TV presenter Rachel Riley has become like a sister to Oberman after their fight against anti-Semitic tweets together (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
TV presenter Rachel Riley has become like a sister to Oberman after their fight against anti-Semitic tweets together (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

“We became kind of sisters through fire because the abuse that she got and I got,” she revealed.

“What's the point of having a public profile if you can't use it for positivity? And I thank Rachel Riley every day because she had a massive social media platform - and she so didn't need to - but she really came out and has been hammered and I just admire her so much for doing that.”

Despite her experiences on Twitter, Oberman refuses to leave the platform as she believes her views can help make people think twice.

Read more: Starmer says Corbyn knew that anti-Semitism comments would see him suspended

She told Thornton: “People have said to me, ‘Why do you stay on there?’ And I'll tell you why… It takes people like you and I to shatter through echo chambers.

“To fight and say, ‘No! Absolutely COVID is a thing. Anti-vaccine is nonsense. David Icke isn't right. Hitler wasn't a good man. And talking about Rothschild and rich Jews controlling the media and filthy rich Jewish whores is not acceptable.’”

Hear Tracy-Ann Oberman talk about why she hated the fame that EastEnders brought her in the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.

Watch: Tracy-Ann Oberman discusses Wiley’s anti-Semitic tweets