Exposed: another fake anti-Semitic plot to defame prominent pro-Palestinian group

Israeli Jews wave the Israeli flag outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on 2 June 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Anadolu Agency]

Middle East Monitor  /  September 7, 2020

Another member of the pro-Israel lobby in Britain has been reported to have faked an anti-Semitic attack in order to discredit a prominent pro-Palestinian group. According to Scotland’s Daily Record, this has prompted condemnation from legal watchdogs and a demand for compensation from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC).

Described as a “top lawyer”, the man identified by the Daily Record as Matthew Berlow is said to have played a key part in faking an anti-Semitic graffiti attack at his home then used the bogus incident to smear the SPSC. For his part in the conspiracy, Berlow is apparently facing a reprimand from the Law Society of Scotland (LSS) as well as a £500 fine. The SPSC, however, is urging the LSS to insist that the pro-Israel lawyer pays compensation to everyone he has smeared.

Berlow is an associate of Ed Sutherland, the head of religious and moral education at the Belmont Academy in Ayr, Scotland, who in August admitted to making anti-Semitic posts to discredit pro-Palestinian groups. Both men are said to belong to the Confederation of Friends of Israel, which aims to promote the interests of the Zionist state in Britain.

Details of Berlow’s part in the plot to defame the SPSC include a fake anti-Semitic social media post by someone alleged to be a pro-Palestine activist named “Stevie Harrison”. This person “Harrison” has been identified as a creation of Sutherland. Berlow promoted the story of the fantasy attack by playing the victim and commenting on “Harrison’s” post that it was “Idiocy. Typical SPSC behaviour criminal.”

A preliminary ruling found that Berlow failed to maintain the standards of behaviour expected of a solicitor. An LSS report confirmed that Berlow and “Mr Y” who was identified as Sutherland were working together to tarnish the reputation of the pro-Palestinian group.

“Mr Y, like the solicitor [Berlow], is a supporter of the state of Israel. The reporter is satisfied that Mr Y impersonates an anti-Israeli activist and in order to convince other anti-Israeli activists, Mr Y targets Israeli supporters, including the solicitor.”

Furthermore, “The reporter is satisfied that when commenting on the post, the solicitor would have known that the post was false and no vandalism had taken place. The reporter is satisfied that the purpose of the comment was to associate the ostensibly criminal act with members of the SPSC despite the solicitor being aware at the material time that no criminal act had taken place.”

Pro-Israel lobbyists have a track record of using such deception to discredit pro-Palestinian groups. At the height of the Labour Party anti-Semitism row under former leader Jeremy Corbyn, an investigation by The Electronic Intifada documented ten fake Twitter profiles posing as Corbyn supporters and issuing virulent anti-Semitic posts.

On US college campuses, pro-Israel lobby groups have fabricated accusations of anti-Semitism in an attempt to incite official crackdowns against Palestine solidarity activists.

Moreover, in July, pro-Israel news outlets ran “deepfake” op-eds in what was described as a “new disinformation frontier”. Last  December, Guardian investigation traced back to Israel a network of Facebook accounts fuelling far-right Islamophobia around the world.