DW fires Palestinian, Arab employees after 'flawed antisemitism probe' amid accusations of pro-Israel bias

DW fires Palestinian, Arab employees after 'flawed antisemitism probe' amid accusations of pro-Israel bias
On Wednesday, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor criticised the results of DW's investigation and outcomes, calling it "biased, flawed and dangerous". 
5 min read
West Bank
10 February, 2022
DW told The New Arab that it adopts the IHRA's definition of 'antisemitism' [Getty]

The German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle has suspended five of its employees, all of Palestinian and Arab descent, after accusations of 'antisemitism', but critics have accused the channel of anti-Arab bias in handling the matter.

DW confirmed the news and earlier had announced an investigation into the allegations.

The decision followed the publication of an article in the German press, claiming that a number of DW journalists had shared 'antisemitic' comments on their personal social media accounts, but some of the journalists affected have denied the accusation and attacked the channel for silencing valid criticism of Israel.

DW announced on Monday that its investigation found that “the comments by five DW employees clearly amounted to antisemitism, Holocaust denial or Holocaust relativism, as well as statements that denied Israel's right to exist," saying the suspension of these five employees was "justified."

According to the article, some of the suspended journalists had shared comments on their social media accounts, expressing views of hatred towards Jews, mocking or denial of the Holocaust or support for extremist groups. The New Arab could not independently verify those claims.

However, the article also mentioned a Palestinian journalist, Maram Salem, who was also suspended from DW and who was quoted for a very different type of comment.

The article mentioned Maram Salem after a long paragraph, in which it was quoting another employee, Farah Maraqa. Maraqa allegedly had posted that she would consider "join[ing] ISIS if it was to fight for the liberation of Palestine", compared the state of Israel to "cancer", and stated that "Jews have always put poison in history" -- but some critics say those quotes were mispresented and taken out of context.

The article then makes the claim that many journalists have deleted their posts from their social media after being approached by the press, before immediately quoting one of Maram Salem's post, saying that she has had "to encrypt or delete half of my posts because they can cause me trouble".

Salem, who has worked at DW since 2020, told The New Arab that she published that post back in May 2021. "At the time, Palestinians were protesting in the West Bank and Jerusalem against the expulsion of families in Sheikh Jarrah.  A friend of mine who worked as researcher in a German university was suspended from her job, after criticizing Israel's bombing of civilians in Gaza, which were happening at the same time, and voicing her support for Palestinian protests".

Salem explained that "my post referred to that case and other similar cases of suppression against Palestine's solidarity or criticism of Israel, in that context. I never deleted any post after being approached by the German press. In fact, I re-published the post in question in full length with English translation after my suspension from DW".

During the wave of protests swept across Palestinian territories in May 2021, when Salem published her post in question, media outlets published a leaked memorandum internally distributed at DW, instructing journalists to avoid referring to Israel as ‘apartheid’ or to relate it to colonialism.

Salem claimed that “there are no clear lines at DW to define antisemitism". "You could be accused of antisemitism for anything at all. It is blurry and elastic”, she added.

Salem noted that “at the external investigation I was faced with questions exclusively about my Palestinian background. I was questioned about my family, my bringing up as a Palestinian and my views about the Palestinian question. Some questions were so inappropriate I was surprised that they actually made them”. According to Salem, “I was put to the doubt for being who I am”.

Salem said that she will take her case to German courts, “not to get my job back, but to defend the Palestinian voices, especially that there seems to be a new wave of suspensions against Arab and Palestinian journalists at DW”.

The New Arab contacted DW’s spokesperson, Christoph Jumpelt, who refused to comment on Maram Salem’s claims. He affirmed, however that DW adopts a clear definition of ‘antisemitism’, which is that of the International Holocaust Rememberance Alliance - IHRA.

The IHRA’s definition of antisemitism includes 11 ‘contemporary examples’ of expressions of ‘antisemitism’ according to the organization. These examples include several references to the state of Israel, such as ‘claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor’, or “requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”.

The definition has faced controversy on several occasions. In November 2020, a group of 122 Arab and Palestinian intellectuals signed a letter, in which they raised concerns about the potential use of the definition to suppress Palestinian voices or criticism of Israel. The definition has also been opposed in the UK, and in Canada.

On Wednesday, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor criticised the results of DW's investigation and outcomes, calling it "biased, flawed and dangerous". 

"After carefully reviewing the report, Euro-Med Monitor found several problems that challenge its findings, and concluded that the report’s framework, analysis, and recommendations contain multiple evidence of bias in favor of Israel and against the Palestinians".