Edward Sutherland, “Principal Teacher” of religious education at the Belmont Academy in Ayr, Scotland, and a senior figure in the Confederation of Friends of Israel in Scotland (COFIS), has been accused of using a pseudonym, “Stevie Harrison”, to post antisemitic material in what appears to have been an attempt to smear the pro-Palestinian movement in general, and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) in particular.
Sutherland is believed to have been responsible for a series of antisemitic postings under the alias, but the charade fell apart when in December of 2018 “Stevie Harrison” attacked a pro-Israel lawyer by the name of Matthew Berlow.
Looks like a certain Zio’s big nose is out of joint. Don’t worry Mr. Berlow, You’re going to get what’s coming to you.
Berlow was presumably also the “Jewish lawyer” in another posting from the alias:
A certain Jewish lawyer woke up this morning to find ‘Free Palestine’ spray painted rather prominently! No idea who was responsible
There followed five winking emoticons insinuating that he, “Stevie Harrison”, had done the supposed spray painting.
Idiocy. Typical spsc [Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign] behaviour. Criminal.
When the fake account began to raise suspicion, Sutherland lashed out:
Someone complained to Facebook about me not using my real name. I don’t know what… they are up to but there it is on my profile.
Stevie Harrison. If you want my birth certificate, just say.
If I lose my job because some zionist doesn’t like me supporting the people of Palestine, don’t worry about it. I’ll still have my dignity.
The see you next Tuesday who complained won’t have. Rant over.
According to SPSC National Committee member Mick Napier, the Law Society of Scotland got involved, which led Matthew Berlow to respond to allegations that he was behind the Stevie Harrison posts — in other words faking his own antisemitic harassment. Berlow defended himself by exposing Sutherland: it was Edward Sutherland, not he, who was behind the fake postings. This raised the question, If Berlow knew of the deceit when it took place, then he knowingly accused SPSC on no basis, and so in early 2019 SPSC filed a complaint against Berlow with the Law Society and is awaiting judgement, currently delayed by the pandemic.
The confidentiality of the case was broken when the story was leaked to the Daily Record and published on August 16.
Sutherland’s supporters have dismissed his behavior as a strategy to trap antisemites into exposing themselves. Berlow went further: Remarkably, he told Electronic Intifada that Sutherland’s “posts were not anti Semitic” under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition — the same definition being used to tar pro-Palestinian voices as antisemitic. Yet in 2019, SPSC’s Mick Napier was accused of antisemitism simply for using the word “zio”.
Sutherland’s alignment with Israel has also been invoked as a defense: another member of COFIS, Sammy Stein, told the Daily Record (Scotland) that Sutherland has been using the alias “for years”, but that “Ed is no anti-Semite. In fact, he’s a friend of Israel.”
At writing, Sutherland is still listed as both Convener and site administrator of COFIS, a registered charity. Sutherland took over the position of Convener in 2018 from another disgraced official, Nigel Goodrich, when Goodrich‘s involvement with an overtly racist Facebook group was exposed. The group, Jewish Defence Forces, included members jailed for violent assault, members who advocated the rape of Palestinian women, and neofascists. Its posted “Rule One” is: “This group is about ‘Palestine and Palestinians’ which doesnt [sic] exist”. (Only members can view its posts or membership, but the “Rules” are publicly visible.) Sutherland defended Goodrich at the time, claiming he left COFIS “due to relocating outside of the UK”.
The Daily Record reports that the General Teaching Council for Scotland is reviewing Sutherland’s fitness to teach in a classroom, though this author’s request for a statement from Belmont Academy received a more cautious response. In the name of “a spokesperson for South Ayrshire Council”, the Academy replied:
All Council staff are subject to robust policies and procedures, to ensure proper conduct. In addition, teachers are accountable to the General Teaching Council for Scotland as the body responsible for professional standards. We cannot comment on allegations or individual members of staff.
Sutherland was described as the “principal teacher of religious, moral and philosophical studies and citizenship” at Belmont in the course of a 10-day Holocaust study trip to Israel in 2009.
An inquiry to Glasgow Friends of Israel remains unanswered at writing.
From E.I.: In 2016 the Mossad-linked Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin admitted posting a series of violently anti-Semitic comments to Facebook in order to frame Palestinians and solidarity activists. In 2019, an investigation by The Electronic Intifada exposed a network of fake Twitter trolls systematically posting violent anti-Semitism in order to frame Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and the Muslim community. The culprits remain unknown.