Lawyer fined and ordered to undergo diversity training for calling anti-Israel campaign group 'scummy racists'

Matthew Berlow faces a fine of close to £2,000 or more if his planned appeal fails


A Jewish lawyer has been fined £1,750 and ordered to undergo diversity training for saying an anti-Israel campaign group accused of hounding a Jewish businessman were “scummy racists.”

Matthew Berlow, a solicitor based in Glasgow, was responding to a Facebook event organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) to protest against the sale of Dead Sea products in an Aberdeen shopping centre.

“You simply found a soft Jewish target to aim your bile at,” Mr Berlow told the group, also calling them “scummy racists, bullies and cowards.”

The SPSC had organised events protesting against the Jericho Skin Care stall, owned by Nissan Ayalon, in Glasgow, and later did the same in Aberdeen when he moved his outlet there.

Last November, Mr Ayalon told the BBC his treatment was like "a game of chase the Jew", adding: “We were accused of murdering, mass murdering, slaughter, criminals, we were called criminal enterprise. We were called baby killers.”

Mr Ayalon has since left the UK.

Mick Napier, the chair of the SPSC, was convicted of aggravated trespass and failing to follow police orders to leave the Jericho Skin Care cosmetics store.

Another SPSC member, Jim Watson, was convicted of ignoring the police. The group hailed the protest as a success, however, because an additional charge of racial aggravation was dismissed.

The Scottish Law Society ordered Mr Berlow to pay the fine and £100 to Dr Karolin Hijazi, a pro-Palestinian campaigner and a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Dentistry, who complained about his “scummy racists” comment.

Mr Berlow responded to her complaint to the Law Society by saying she was a “snowflake” and a “thin skinned wannabe social justice warrior”, who should “stick to pulling teeth”.

Mr Berlow told the JC his initial comment was about the SPSC as a group, adding: “I had never even heard of this woman before the complaint arose, so I suggested that my comments were not directed at her.

He said the SPSC had "cherry-picked an individual to put forward a complaint".

“If she’s offended by me calling this organisation racist, she must be very thin skinned,” he said.

In his defence, Mr Berlow showed the Law Society a 2017 report produced by David Collier, a researcher who documents Jew-hate, which found examples of SPSC members who had shared antisemitic and Holocaust denial on social media.

“[Dr Hijazi] seems to have taken it on board to complain to the Law Society that I am calling her an antisemite and a Holocaust denier", Mr Berlow said.

"The Law Society don’t seem to grasp that I am not calling her an antisemite and a Holocaust denier."

He added: "I’ve been fined for having a sarcastic tone...I’m accusing an organisation of being racist and, in so doing, I’ve been ordered to undergo diversity training."

Mr Berlow added the training "annoys me" because he was "usually the victim of antisemitism" and he was married to a Muslim, "so it’s not like I don’t have a diverse outlook on life".

“I support a two-state solution, so I’m not exactly a right-wing settler type,” he said.

A crowdfunding page has been set up to “mount a strong legal challenge to this decision”.

He is looking to raise £4,000 to cover the costs of the original fine and his planned appeal.

He added he could have to cover all the costs if he is unsuccessful and be struck off if he failed to pay.

“I want to concentrate on getting this appeal right and I don’t want to be worried about the finance of it,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want to jeopardise my practising certificate... I’m not a wealthy lawyer, I’m just a Legal Aid lawyer. I don’t have much dough."

Mr Berlow also said that, though Mr Ayalon's company was named for Jericho in the West Bank, he had been selling Dead Sea products from the Southern part of the Dead Sea, outside the Occupied Territories.

"Here is a Jew, selling a product from his indigenous land, in Scotland, being harassed and hounded by what I perceive to be a racist organisation," Mr Berlow said.

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