A crowdfunding campaign for a Jewish solicitor in Scotland has almost raised enough money to cover his fine, after he was ordered to pay £1,750 and attend “diversity training” following a spat with Palestinian supporters over an Israeli shop.
Matthew Berlow, a criminal lawyer, this week labelled the sanction “perverse,” after being reprimanded for online comments after the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign protested the sale of Dead Sea products at an Aberdeen shopping centre, in which he called them “scummy racists”.
Dr Karolin Hijazi, a pro-Palestinian campaigner and lecturer at the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Dentistry, is understood to have complained to the Law Society of Scotland (LSS), which issued the fine and ordered Berlow to attend “diversity training”.
The LSS said it did not comment on individual cases and that it had not produced a written judgement following the ruling.
A crowdfunding effort to pay the solicitor’s fine has been set up, and by Wednesday lunchtime it had covered almost the full amount. Supporters hope to raise a total of £4,000 for Berlow to appeal to the Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Berlow sais his initial comments were aimed at the SPSC generally and he had never previously heard of Hijazi. He said: “I accused them on social media of being racists, cowards and bullies… 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 an agenda.”
Speaking to Jewish News, Berlow confirmed he would be appealing, saying: “The Law Society has got it wrong and the diversity training aspect is perverse… The support has been amazing and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.”
Berlow, who is married to a Bangladeshi Muslim and supports a two-state solution, had his first run-in with the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign ten years ago during a protest outside a branch of Waitrose selling Israeli fruit.
This week he told Jewish News: “I was ordered to undergo diversity training even though I was the one calling out racism. I will not be doing the training unless I lose the appeal, in which case I’ll have to.” He was also ordered to pay £100 to Hijazi, a lecturer who he called a “snowflake”.
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