A report in today's Herald on Sunday is entitled Diversity training for Jewish lawyer who called pro-Palestinian campaigners 'scummy racists'. It reports that Glasgow Friends of Israel activist Matthew Berlow, who is also a criminal lawyer, has been fined and ordered to undergo “diversity training” following smears and abuse of a Palestinian who is active in defence of Palestinian freedom.
21 October 2018
Berlow described Dr Karolin Hijazi as a “thin-skinned…wannabe social justice warrior and a “snowflake”, a term popular with US White supremacists and the extreme right generally to attack those who stand up to them. A defender of the Israeli army, a force charged with war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, Berlow has agreed to pay the Law Society of Scotland a £1,750 fine for his behaviour but is upset that he has been mandated to undergo “diversity training”.
In 2016, the Aberdeen Branch of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) protested an Israeli Dead Sea cosmetics company which profitted from the Israeli occupation and apartheid structures. Berlow, a staunch defender of a state that is openly racist, attacked demonstrators as “scummy racists”, claiming bizarrely that the Israeli company was merely an outlet for hatred of Jews, a "soft Jewish target to aim your bile at”. Protests across Scotland fuelled by Israel's massacres of thousands of Palestinians led to the Israeli company closing down and leaving the UK.
Dr Hijazi later reported Berlow to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which found “potential conduct issues". The Law Society of Scotland investigated and received Berlow's defence that his comments were not directed at "snowflake" Dr Hijazi but at the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Karolin Hijazi is a long-term, committed Palestinian campaigner. She was jailed by Israel in 2012 when a group of Scots joined the Welcome to Palestine effort to reach Bethlehem to help build a school. She refused food during detention with many of the others and was deported along with other British and Scots activists.
The Law Society of Scotland concluded that Berlow had used “derogatory language...damaging to the reputation of both the profession as a whole and of the individual solicitor concerned”. It would seem Berlow couldn't stop digging, for the Law Society judged his written defence of his original actions to be “derogatory and aggressive".
He was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and ordered to pay Dr Hijazi £100 compensation on top of the £1,750 fine.
Berlow will appeal the diversity training order on the basis of a 2017 attack on Scottish BDS campaigners by a minor pro-Israel blogger, David Collier, acting on behalf of the Israeli Embassy. The report claims SPSC is an anti-semitic organisation that denies the Holocaust.
Dr Hijazi said she found Berlow’s comments “particularly disturbing, having campaigned against racism, discrimination and bigotry all my life”. SPSC stands foursquare for Palestinian rights and opposes anti-semitism and vile Holocaust denial, which we consider no less repulsive than Berlow's denying that the Palestinian people suffered a brutal ethnic cleansing by Zionist militias in 1948 and subsequently.
In any event it is advisable to be sceptical about any utterance from Berlow and his comrades at Glasgow Friends of Israel; the Friends of Israeli Snipers openly use the dehumanising language of "euthanising" Palestinians.
Even after Berlow appeared as a prosecution witness in Glasgow Sheriff Court in a failed three-year effort by Scottish prosecutors and pro-Israel lobbyists to secure convictions for racism, i.e. antisemitism, against myself and Jim Watson, he and I maintained an email exchange. (I like the adage, "Hate the sin but not the sinner".)
During our exchanges, I pointed out what he knew, that his Friends of Israel were still lying about the verdict of the recent trial.
Matthew Berlow replied: "I will post the truth about the verdict AND I will make it clear that you are not anti Semitic and cannot be responsible for those that may attach themselves to your cause but that you try and root it out to the best of your ability...". In a separate email, dated 1 August 2017, Mathew acknowledged that "There is no doubt that you are not anti Semitic as you eloquently refute that at every opportunity..."
Normally, SPSC and other campaiging groups have to accept the most grotesque inventions from pro-Israeli groups since their deep pockets and our modest means make a defamation trial very difficult. The successful challenge by Dr Hijazi to unfounded attacks and smears, of which there have been many demented examples, should inspire those maligned in this way to fight back.
21 October 2018