The Electronic Intifada / September 8, 2020
A pro-Israel lawyer is facing a fine from the Scottish regulator after helping fabricate a graffiti attack on his home in Glasgow.
Using a fake “pro-Palestinian” persona, a fellow pro-Israel activist claimed on Facebook in January last year that there had been an attack on Matthew Berlow’s home.
“A certain Jewish lawyer woke up this morning to find ‘Free Palestine’ spray painted rather prominently – no idea who was responsible,” the imposter wrote under the fake name “Stevie.”
Smearing the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Berlow replied in a comment underneath that the graffiti was “Typical SPSC behaviour. Criminal.”
But Berlow has now admitted the attack never took place – and that he knew the “Stevie” poster was fake at the time.
It was a “mistake” made in “a moment of madness,” Berlow told The Electronic Intifada in an email on Monday.
The “pro-Palestinian” poster was in fact Confederation of Friends of Israel convenor and school teacher Edward Sutherland. Both Berlow and Sutherland are “friends of Israel” activists in Glasgow.
The regulator, the Law Society of Scotland, investigated Berlow after a complaint against his conduct by the SPSC.
In a law society report obtained by The Electronic Intifada, Berlow admitted to having known the real author of the fake post for three or four years.
The report redacts Sutherland’s name, but his activities fabricating “pro-Palestinian” anti-Semitism were exposed last month.
Daily Record on Monday named Sutherland as the “Mr Y” referred to in the report as the author of the Facebook post.
Sutherland – head of religious and moral education at Belmont Academy in Ayr – faces dismissal over a series of anti-Semitic posts he made using the fake persona.
A screenshot of one of them showed how Sutherland’s “Stevie” profile attacked Berlow in anti-Semitic terms, saying his “big nose was out of joint.”
After their activities were exposed last month, Berlow claimed to The Electronic Intifada that none of “Stevie’s” posts were anti-Semitic.
Screenshots obtained by the Law Society of Scotland implicate Berlow in Sutherland’s deception.
A spokesperson for the society declined to comment on specific cases, but said that: “We take our regulatory duties very seriously.”
“In any case where we have reason to believe that one of our members has not met the high professional standards expected of them we will take action,” she said.
Berlow’s law firm Graham Walker Solicitors and Edward Sutherland did not reply to requests for comment. South Ayrshire Council declined to comment.
The law society has now ruled that Berlow’s “conduct fell below the standard expected of a reputable and competent solicitor” and that it “risked bringing the profession into disrepute.”
The society’s professional conduct sub-committee will make a final ruling on the report’s recommendations. The report, issued on 28 August, recommends a $660 fine.
Berlow told The Electronic Intifada that, “I regret I gave off the impression that SPSC was involved” in the faked graffiti on his home. He regretted “my remark which Mr Sutherland had no control over. He was not behind my careless remark.”
Berlow denied being part of a “plot to implicate SPSC,” claiming the lie was part of an elaborate ruse to entrap an “anti-Semitic stalker.”
But the law society ruled that “it is reasonable to draw the inference that the purpose of the association was to discredit the SPSC.”
Berlow was fined by the society in 2018 after attacking an academic of Palestinian origin online.
SPSC activist Mick Napier told The Electronic Intifada that Berlow and Sutherland’s deception was just the tip of the iceberg.
“The pro-Israel crowd in Scotland work with the Israeli embassy and the right-wing press to invent murderous levels of racism across the country on the basis of no information whatsoever,” he said.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada