A Jewish pro-Israel Scottish lawyer has been ordered by the country’s Law Society to undergo “diversity training” and pay a fine over an online spat with pro-Palestinian campaigners in which he used strong language against an activist.
Matthew Berlow, a criminal solicitor based in Glasgow, told The Herald that according to the ruling he will have to pay 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.”
He was also told to undergo diversity training, but said he would appeal that ruling, calling it “perverse.” A new online crowdfunding campaign aims to raise £4,000 to cover the legal costs of such an appeal.
The dispute began in 2016, when pro-Palestinian activists protested an Israeli businessman selling Dead Sea products at a shopping mall in Aberdeen.
The seller, Nissan Ayalon, told BBC at the time: “We were accused of murdering, mass murdering, slaughter, criminals, we were called criminal enterprise. We were called baby killers.” He said other nearby stalls selling Dead Sea products were not protested.
He has since left the United Kingdom.
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.
Berlow responded to the complaint by insulting Hijazi, who lectures on dentistry, saying that if she was offended by his post she should “perhaps switch off her computer, avoid heated political debate and perhaps stick to pulling teeth or have a cup of tea or something.”
He said he didn’t know Hijazi “except that she is an Aberdeen dentist and clearly a wannabe social justice warrior,” and branded her a “snowflake.”
The Law Society reportedly found Berlow’s posts “blurred the lines between his private and public life,” using “derogatory language” that was “damaging to the reputation of both the profession as a whole and of the individual solicitor concerned.”
Berlow’s response to the complaint was also criticized as “derogatory and aggressive.”
He slammed the ruling, saying he “disputes it entirely.”
“For many years now I have been involved in the fight against BDS in Scotland and the demonisation of Israel that occurs in a very one sided debate here in Scotland,” he wrote on the crowdfunding campaign’s page. “Unfortunately I have been exposed to risk in that I am a member of a profession and therefore prone to spurious complaints made by those with such an agenda.
“I am a Jew, married to a Muslim who employs mostly Muslims,” he added. “I support a two state solution and I am a member of groups who promote peace and work against demonisation of either side in the conflict.”
He accepted that he used “intemperate language” and said he would pay the fine since “it’s the cost of defending Israel.”