German broadcaster obliges journalists to respect existence of Israel


Central Europe


Headquarters of international broadcaster Deutsche Welle in Bonn, Germany. Photo AFP, Ina Fassbender

The German news broadcaster Deutsche Welle has added the "right to existence of the state Israel" to the internal guidelines for journalists. This became necessary after the labour courts had decided that the general policy of anti-discrimination was not enough to fire people.

Earlier this year, DW fired seven journalists because they had made statements that were seen as anti-Semitic. But the courts said they were not against Jews (anti-Semitism) but just against the state of Israel and its policy towards Palestinians (anti-Zionism). So, the lay-off was more politically motivated than ethnically. DW had to employ these seven people again, +972 Magazine and Haaretz published.

The issue is the more sensitive since DW is broadcasting not only in Europe but also in the Middle East in Arabic.

Israel as Cancer

The Palestinian-Jordanian journalist Farah Maraqa had written that Israel was a "cancer that should be cut out" and joked about "joining ISIS if it was to fight for the liberation of Palestine". The others had written comparable remarks. The seven dismissals were based on an independent commission, which concluded that there was "not a structural anti-Semitism issue in DW, but that measures in training and recruitment must be taken to avoid further individual cases."

By doing this, DW codified the "right of Israel to exist" in its updated code of conduct from the beginning of September. The document calls for the company to take action against discrimination, sexism, racism and anti-Semitism. The new text is added: "Due to Germany's history, we have a special obligation towards Israel."

DW's logo. Photo EPA, Marius Becker

"Germany's history" here means the Holocaust, the genocide against the Jews. Such an addition is not strange in Germany. Also, the German state says that Israel's right to exist belongs to the political fundamentals.

Antisemitic caricatures

In December, DW suspended its partnership with Jordanian broadcaster Roya TV "following the emergence of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic comments and caricatures spread by the broadcaster on social media, "Haaretz reports.

By changing the internal guidelines, DW joins German newspapers such as Bild and Die Welt in requiring staff to "support the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel" in their code of conduct.

DW headquarters in Bonn. Photo AFP, Marius Becker

In response to a question by Haaretz about what constitutes accepting "the right of Israel to exist," DW said: "The right of any state to exist is not debatable for a news organisation. Should there be a public discussion about political developments, we reflect this in our coverage in a neutral way. No news organisation should become a party in such discussions. Personal views of journalists in this context need to be clearly labelled as opinion pieces."

Critics say this move gives DW and other media a "pro-Israel reporting bias".



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