How even Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post Turned the Tables Against One Activist ……

Executive Summary

Matthew Berlow is a Glasgow-based lawyer. He was one of the founders of the Glasgow Friends of Israel street stall which can be found in Buchanan Street every Saturday. Because he is openly pro-Israel he has long been hounded by stalkers, including in an antisemitic manner. He formed a plan to entrap one of them. An accomplice had already posed on social media under an assumed name as an anti-Israel activist, in order to gather intelligence on threats to the street stall. The stalker had approached the accomplice’s alter ego.

The plan was that the accomplice in his alter ego guise would propose to the stalker that they daub anti-Israel graffiti over Berlow’s house. After the stalker played along, he would be exposed.

The plan was successful. The morning after the fake graffiti operation the accomplice reported it on social media – as if it really happened. Berlow commented that it was ‘typical SPSC behaviour‘ (SPSC is the rabidly anti-Israel Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign). But the stalker had no connection to the SPSC – so Berlow’s throwaway comment opened the door for a complaint to the Scottish Law Society by the SPSC.

The Scottish Daily Record reported the case completely devoid of context, effectively smearing Berlow. Astonishingly Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post based their stories on the Record’s report without bothering to research the story properly. The Jerusalem Post even published a photo of antisemitic graffiti, encouraging the casual reader to believe that Berlow had conspired to cover his own home with antisemitic graffiti!

Scotland is a tough place to be an Israel Activist. Journalists – most particularly those from media covering Jewish affairs – have a responsibility to tell the truth and not to be captured by the enemies of Jews.  The slanted reports of the Berlow case have only served to further fuel antisemitism.

What happened?

In the latter part of a very recent piece about an antisemite in Scotland who fakes a Jewish identity with the sole purpose of embellishing her antisemitism, David Collier writes about the case of Matthew Berlow who carried out a sting plan against his alleged stalker Neil McPherson, also a lawyer. Berlow and an Israel-supporting colleague, Ed Sutherland (using the pseudonym ‘Steve Harrison’ and posing as an anti-Israel activist) lured McPherson into supporting an (entirely notional) plan to daub anti-Israel graffiti on Berlow’s house.

David Collier writes ‘much of the other side of this story will soon come out’. Here goes.

Sutherland set up the ‘Steve Harrison’ account in 2017 – in order to monitor and expose antisemites – after Glasgow Friends of Israel began to receive threats because of its pro-Israel street stall in Buchanan Street.   Berlow was not involved in the creation of the ‘Steve Harrison’ account and was unaware of its existence until Sutherland told him that McPherson had initiated contact with it, believing it to be a real person with a grudge against Berlow.

 In 2018 Berlow set up a crowdfund to cover expenses to appeal to the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal against a decision by the Law Society of Scotland that he needed ‘diversity training’ (in tandem with their decision that he used ‘intemperate language’ on social media about the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign).

Berlow’s punishment lacked all recognition that the SPSC is even more extremist than the PSC, see here.  Many of its adherents are hard core antisemites. They hounded an Israeli-owned business (owned by a friend of Berlow) out of Scotland.  But the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal showed no appreciation of that whatsoever, despite the fact that Scotland has adopted the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism.

Thanks to Adam Solomon QC – who acted pro bono and who Berlow describes as ‘brilliant’- the absurd requirement for Berlow to undertake ‘diversity training’ was rescinded.  So even though the crowdfund was cancelled (by ‘Ceit Munro’, an alias thought to belong to McPherson, with Israel haters) it was not in the end needed.

But in the social media exchanges linked to the crowdfund, contact was made (via ‘CeitMunro’, see below) between Neil McPherson and ‘Steve Harrison’.  Berlow recounts that McPherson and his son David have harassed and intimidated him for years. In 2008 McPherson – then unknown to Berlow – overheard him in polite discussion with another lawyer about a legal matter at the Israeli Supreme Court. McPherson leant over and allegedly whispered to him “The Jews are the cause of all the problems in the world because they believe they are the chosen people”. Subsequently it is alleged that whenever Berlow is in court and McPherson is close (and no-one is within earshot) McPherson whistles the music of the German National Anthem, glaring malevolently at Berlow.   When asked about this by the Law Society, McPherson denied this but admitted that he often whistles the tune as it is from a hymn that he likes in Church.

It is indeed the music of a hymn, ‘Glorious Things To Thee Are Spoken’. The music was
written in 1797 by the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn as an anthem for the birthday of Francis II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and later of Austria . While this hymn is indeed sung to this music, it is more commonly sung in the UK to a tune called Abbot’s Leigh, for example at the wedding of Princess Eugenie

But McPherson’s response only underlines the malevolence of his motive.  For the music of the German National Anthem is the same as it was in the 1930s, though only the third verse is sung.  Why on earth would McPherson shy away from admitting that he was whistling the National Anthem of a close ally of the UK? There can only be one reason.

In December 2013 and for no apparent reason, Berlow claims that he began to receive abuse from David McPherson, Neil’s son (also a lawyer). These included derogatory references to the size of his nose and to his parents being brother and sister (so ineligible to marry).

Toward the summer of 2016 Berlow recounts that David McPherson was still sending him abusive messages, some containing specialist knowledge and making no effort to hide his identity.  The abuse became so bad that Berlow had no alternative but to go to the police. McPherson was not charged – though Berlow complained about flaws in the investigation. 

On May 23 2017 a man by the name of John Higgins made contact with Berlow. Higgins was a former client of McPherson. Higgins showed Berlow messages from David McPherson (the son) received after he had changed lawyers. McPherson used a pseudonym “cuke olurry” which is an anagram of Luke O’Curry (a friend of Berlow, a solicitor from Airdrie with whom the McPhersons had a falling out). Berlow was able to trace the pseudonym to David McPherson because of the IP address and the URL. The Law Society has these messages which allegedly contain threats of violence, sexually abusive innuendo, sectarian abuse and antisemitic abuse.

They refer to Berlow as “wigged Palestine” and “adolf berlow”.

So Berlow again reported David McPherson (the son) to the police as now there was an evidential link to the original messages received by Berlow from David McPherson.  The abuse intensified.

In 2018 a new abuser of Berlow appeared with the name of ‘Ceit Munro’ (Ceit is the Gaelic equivalent of Kate and the Munros are the Scottish mountains over 3000 feet high). ‘Ceit Munro’ connected with ‘Steve Harrison’ in the social media exchanges linked to Berlow’s (later cancelled) crowdfund.  According to Berlow the URL revealed that the owner of the ‘Ceit Munro’ account was Neil McPherson’s wife Dorothy. Berlow suspects the account is at least partly run by Neil McPherson or David McPherson – for one thing ‘Ceit Munro’s’ crowdfund contact with ‘Steve Harrison’ was immediately followed by Neil McPherson contacting ‘Steve Harrison”.

Throughout 2019 the abuse from ‘Ceit Munro’ continued including antisemitism, false allegations of embezzlement (see above) and references to court cases in which Berlow was involved. Above is ‘Ceit Munro’s’ allegation that Berlow would steal crowdfund money.

The abuse was accompanied by offensive illustrations and cartoons including of men in prison garb, with Fagin references. There have also been numerous attempts to ‘set Berlow up’.

In February 2020 Below claims to have been assaulted at court by Neil McPherson. This is now under investigation. There is said to be CCTV evidence and a witness.

Let’s return to where we began: the plan hatched by Berlow and “Steve Harrison” to expose Neil McPherson (the ‘Sting’, see above). 

McPherson fell right into it, making the initial contact with ‘Steve Harrison’.

McPherson offers to send ‘Steve Harrison’ details of his complaints to the Law Society about Berlow:

Which he does later with an email from his office address.

Then ‘Steve Harrison’ pretends to McPherson that he intends to commit the crime of vandalism on Berlow’s house:

Knowing this. McPherson offers “Steve Harrison” Berlow’s address, his car registration number and even the registration number of his wife’s car together with descriptions.

McPherson offered to assist with the “graffiti-daubing” (‘Any probs give me a bell and I’ll point it out’).  There is even a “Hill Street Blues” reference (Neil McPherson is an ex-policeman) –
Be careful out there”- words of encouragement and a reminder not to get caught.

The Aftermath

On 19 January 2019 ‘Steve Harrison’ posted on Facebook: A certain Jewish lawyer woke up this morning to find “Free Palestine” spray painted rather prominently – no idea who was responsible.

To which Berlow responded Idiocy. Typical SPSC behaviour. criminal.  

Mick Napier, Secretary of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, promptly complained to the Law Society that Berlow had ‘falsely and recklessly smeared and lied about SPSC in order to discredit the organisation’.

A report has been drafted (dated 28 August) as the basis for the Professional  Conduct Subcommittee to decide on Napier’s complaint. Both Parties to the complaint have received it.

The Media

On 7 September a Scottish newspaper, the Daily Record, published an article about Napier’s complaint, written by Mark McGivern. Berlow (with the support of a friend who knew the story) gave McGivern all the information to publish the background spelled out here – both before the story appeared and after (hoping in vain for a followup).

McGivern fobbed Berlow off: “You’re going to have to endure the first story” (knowing damn well there would not be a second one to set the record straight) and “There’s an intensity about your messages that I’m finding disconcerting alongside the fact you’re in denial about doing anything wrong”.

Sure enough the story was framed to smear Berlow:

i) Berlow is said to have ‘faked a vandalism attack’. No – Berlow and ‘Steve Harrison’ executed a plan to expose an alleged antisemite who had harassed Berlow – an open supporter of Israel – for years. And they succeeded.

ii) McGivern (or a subeditor) writes of a ‘plot to frame Palestine group’ and ‘ a plot to discredit a Palestinian pressure group’.  No – McPherson has no known link to the SPSC and it wasn’t a ‘plot’ (which has sinister connotations especially when used about Jews) – it was a ‘sting’ to expose an alleged antisemite.

iii) McGivern must have had the Law Society’s report when he wrote the story – presumably Napier gave it to him. In that report it states that Neil McPherson wanted to assist with the graffiti crime and provided ‘Steve Harrison’ with details of Berlow’s home and family vehicles. And that Berlow viewed McPherson as an antisemite. Why was this excluded from the news report?

iv) Where is any mention of the years of abuse Berlow received from the alleged antisemite McPherson? Why no mention of how he was serenaded in Court by someone who wanted to upset him?  Why no mention of Napier’s conviction for aggravated trespass?

The report in the Jerusalem Post (no byline!) was even worse. It was very similar to the Daily Record report except it added a photo – of antisemitic graffiti on an Australian Jewish café. Why? There was no graffiti on Berlow’s house!

The Times of Israel report by Stuart Winer was equally bad. He didn’t even bother to interview Berlow. And he wrote that Berlow was ordered to undertake ‘diversity training’ in 2018, failing to even realise that this ruling was overturned on appeal (see above).

Slanted and vitriolic reporting such as this has a human cost and fuels antisemitism. It is at least partly responsible for a petition calling for Berlow to lose his livelihood as a lawyer. Berlow reports that ‘Ceit Munro’ is sending the petition and the Daily Record report far and wide including to the Scottish legal fraternity. Here is just one antisemitic comment by a signatory:

McPherson relishes the vitriol and hounding of Berlow:

And why is it that newspapers with a predominantly Jewish readership feel obliged to hang out to dry Jews who – in responding to antisemites – receive no understanding from tribunals or Judges? I know this only too well. The Jewish Chronicle report of our 2019 trial failed to note that it was based on lies of Sandra Watfa and there was zero recognition of the degree of antisemitism and demonisation of Israel that we were opposing. Like Berlow, the report of our case was totally devoid of context.

Why does the ‘Jewish Press’ feel the need to rush to virtue signal in this way?

I have written before about the appalling way that the Jewish Press sometimes denigrates activists! Being an activist is stressful enough anyway – especially in Scotland – and it is the DUTY of the Jewish Press if not to support us then at least not to add to the stress.

There is no depth to which the Israel haters will not sink in their attacks on us. They even accuse us of sex crimes knowing that we cannot publish their names because accusers of sex crimes have anonymity for life, even if their allegation is a complete and utter LIE.

’Twas ever thus – On 4 February 1949 (see below) the 43 group disrupted an Oswald Moseley fascist meeting in Kensington by letting off tear gas bombs in the balcony of the hall. The JC’s reporter wrote ‘The cry went up: ‘Look what the filthy Yids are doing’ and this was repeated as a number of people with streaming eyes left the meeting.’ The JC editorial (see below) was entitled ‘Stupid Tactics’ and decribed the activists  as ‘hot-heads’: ‘Thanks to thoughtless young people in our midst, a meeting which would have attracted no attention whatsoever has been blazoned in every newspaper in the Metropolis, while all that the general public knows of the rights and wrongs of the case is that ‘the Jews’ refused to allow a political speaker to state his views in the accepted democratic manner’.

If activists against antisemitism cannot rely on the Jewish Press for understanding and support, upon whom CAN they rely?

JC 4 February 1949 – Oswald Moseley holds fascist meeting in Kensington
JC Editorial 4 February 1949

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Addendum 1: David Collier’s email to the Daily Record Journalist.

Addendum 2: Please sign and share my Petition