A Scottish Jewish lawyer has been found to have attempted to discredit a pro-Palestinian group in accusing it of vandalism that he was aware never happened.
Matthew Berlow, a criminal solicitor based in Glasgow, faces a £500 fine following a probe by the Law Society of Scotland, the local Daily Record newspaper reported Monday.
A preliminary ruling said Berlow did not maintain the standards of behavior expected of a lawyer.
The reporter for the LSS found that Ed Sutherland, a teacher at Belmont Academy in Ayr, had created a Facebook account with the alias “Steve Harrison” which, under the guise of being a pro-Palestinian activist, he then used to associate himself with the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC).
Sutherland is an associate of Berlow and both men have ties to a UK-based Israel advocacy group, the Record reported.
Matthew Berlow faked a graffiti attack at his Scots homehttps://t.co/nizkDVJFqy
— The Daily Record (@Daily_Record) September 7, 2020
In January the Harrison account posted a message claiming Berlow’s home in Glasgow had been vandalized with graffiti.
“A certain Jewish lawyer woke up this morning to find ‘Free Palestine’ spray-painted rather prominently — no idea who was responsible,” the post read.
Berlow, who has in the past said he is married to a Muslim, then commented writing “Idiocy. Typical SPSC behaviour criminal.”
Berlow later admitted he knew the graffiti attack was fake, reportedly telling the LSS that he played along because the Harrison persona was being used “to monitor various disruptive activities of the SPSC.”
According to the Daily Record, Berlow on Sunday claimed his actions were part of a ploy to catch someone who had been stalking him.
“Unfortunately I made it too real and named an organization I shouldn’t have,” he said. “It wasn’t my intention to blame the SPSC for a fictitious event.”
Mick Napier, chair of SPSC’s Glasgow branch, demanded that Berlow also be ordered to pay damages for defaming SPSC members.
“I believe those who have been defamed, including myself, should be awarded exemplary damages. We have been smeared as anti-Semitic and that is serious and quite unacceptable,” Napier said.
“The LSS decided no damage had been done to myself or the SPSC but I would urge it to reconsider this because the damage to our reputation, in accusing us of such criminal acts, is impossible to deny.”
It is not the first time that Berlow has fallen foul of the Law Society of Scotland with his activism on behalf of Israel.
In 2018 he was ordered to undergo “diversity training” and pay a fine over an online spat with pro-Palestinian campaigners in which he used strong language.
Berlow told The Herald at the time that he was ordered a fine of £1,750 as well as an additional £100 to University of Aberdeen lecturer and pro-Palestinian campaigner Dr. Karolin Hijazi, for calling her a “snowflake” and a “wannabe justice warrior.”
That dispute began in 2016, when pro-Palestinian activists protested an Israeli businessman selling Dead Sea products at a shopping mall in Aberdeen.
After the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign posted about its demonstration, Berlow called the activists “scummy racists” in a Facebook post, adding: “You simply found a soft Jewish target to aim your bile at.”
Hijazi, who says she is of Palestinian origin, and who was detained in Israel in 2012 and deported, had participated in the protest and was featured in photos from the event. She complained about Berlow’s post to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which referred the matter to the Law Society of Scotland, according to The Herald.