One of Britain’s biggest publishers, Random House, has apologised and paid significant libel damages to a Jewish activist in Manchester who is co-chairman of the North West Friends of Israel, Raphi Bloom. Mr Bloom has told the Jewish News that he intends to donate the money to Israeli charities.
The case relates to a Random House book published last year, written by James Fergusson, called Al-Britannia, My Country: A journey through Muslim Britain. In the book Mr Fergusson alleged that an unnamed individual — in fact, Raphi Bloom — had led a campaign of harassment and intimidation against a Muslim woman doctor. She is Dr Siema Iqbal, who was one of the most prominent boycott campaigners against the Israeli Kedem shop in central Manchester.
The Kedem shop sells beauty products made in Israel. The protests outside the shop began in 2014, against the actions of the Israeli government. In a a statement read out in the High Court on Monday, by barrister William Bennett, the court was told that “groups who described themselves as pro-Palestinian began to protest outside the shop in order to prevent members of the public from buying its products on the ground that they were made in Israel.”
Mr Bloom, as co-chairman of the North West Friends of Israel, had led a counter-protest.
But Mr Bennett described the claims made in the book as “seriously defamatory allegations” about Mr Bloom. It said he had carried out a campaign of “harassment and intimidation” against Dr Iqbal, which included “abusive tweets and emails” against her and “threatening and abusive phone calls”. It was claimed that he had called her a “Nazi doctor” and that police had warned him to desist from such behaviour.
The allegation were false, Mr Bennett said, and had caused Mr Bloom “significant consternation”.
In an agreed statement, Random House accepted that the allegations against Mr Bloom were untrue, offered “sincere apologies”, and agreed to pay him damages and the costs of litigation. It also agreed not to republish the allegations.
Penguin Books, which published the book under the umbrella of Random House, has now amended the book. The case was initially undertaken by lawyer Mark Lewis before his resignation from Seddons Solicitors in anticipation of his emigration to Israel. Mr Bloom paid tribute to Mr Lewis for his “sterling work” in the case.
Mr Bloom said he was “delighted” at the outcome of the action and said he believed the case had arisen from “the outrageous and antisemitic demonstrations outside the Kedem store in Manchester”.
He aded: “It gives me huge pleasure that Dr Iqbal has enabled me to make a substantial donation to Israeli-focused charities and organisations so that they can continue the vital work they are doing. To know that those who hate Israel are now responsible for helping its people even more is fantastic. If anyone wants an example of irony, that is it.”