German broadcaster DW fires 5 staffers after probe on workplace antisemitism

Two-month investigation finds isolated cases but no systemic problem; four of those fired were from Arabic desk

The building of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle in Bonn, Germany, July 9, 2003. (AP Photo/Hermann J. Knippertz, File)
The building of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle in Bonn, Germany, July 9, 2003. (AP Photo/Hermann J. Knippertz, File)

BERLIN (JTA) — Germany’s public broadcaster Deutsche Welle has fired five employees, four of them from its Arabic desk, following a damning audit on antisemitism in the workplace.

The audit, based on a two-month investigation, found isolated cases of antisemitism but no systemic problem. Several freelancers were dropped as well; another eight cases are still under investigation, according to news reports.

At issue were virulent antisemitic statements made by staff on and off the job, as well as failures in recruiting staff and inviting a variety of guest speakers.

Deutsche Welle is a public, state-owned broadcaster funded by federal taxes. It provides programming worldwide in 30 languages.

Peter Limbourg, DW director general, apologized Monday and announced that a ten-point “code of ethics” would be established to prevent such problems in the future. It reportedly will include explanations of antisemitism and the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and calls for destruction of the Jewish state.

DW’s actions were welcomed by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the country’s main Jewish umbrella group.

“There must not be taxpayer-financed Israel-hatred and antisemitism in the media,” Council President Josef Schuster said.

According to the Bild newspaper, one of the terminated journalists called Israel a “cancer that should be cut out.” Another wrote in a 2018 guest essay that a “Jewish lobby controls many German institutions” in order to prevent criticism of Israel.

In 2019, a freelancer and trainer at the DW Academy compared Jews to ants that had invaded “through our weak points.”

The audit was prepared by former Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, integration expert Ahmad Mansour and expert on radicalization prevention Beatrice Mansour.

They began their probe last December, seeking online “postings, information on the distributors and partners of DW” implicated in the charges. Only publicly accessible profiles were analyzed, the report said.

Though investigators found that much material had already been deleted from the internet, some evidence was provided anonymously.

Staff in question had not merely engaged in “criticism of Israel,” which is protected free speech, but had used “classic antisemitic imagery up to and including Holocaust denial,” according to Ahmad Mansour.

DW also announced plans to beef up its Israel desk and establish a team of experts to integrate the topics of antisemitism, Israel’s right to exist and responsibility toward German history more strongly into the company’s offerings.

DW will not be the first German media company to institute a code of ethics that includes an orientation towards Israel.

One of Germany’s biggest media conglomerates, the Axel Springer company, established “corporate principles” in 1967 that includes “support [for] the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel.”

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