German gov't company fires employee for 'antisemitic' social media posts

After Post exclusive, the company fired one employee and disciplined two others for questionable comments on social media.

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April 28, 2018 08:52
3 minute read.
German gov't company fires employee for 'antisemitic' social media posts

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The German Corporation for International Cooperation said on Friday that it had fired one employee and disciplined two additional workers in response to scores of allegations of antisemitic Facebook posts by the company's staff, including at their location in Jordan, which were first revealed by The Jerusalem Post.
 

"Meetings were held with the eight employees whose posts had been criticized to clarify each specific case, and the outcome was carefully considered on an individual basis. As a result, there has been a dismissal, a written warning and a reprimand," said the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) in a statement.

The Post published an exclusive article in late March on a whistle-blower employee who was fired in December by the GIZ for posting a pro-Israel comment while eight employees allegedly stoked antisemitism over the years but were not subject to discipline.

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The GIZ told the Post that "At the end of March, Facebook posts by GIZ employees came to light that were criticized as antisemitic."

The GIZ statement said: "As a federal enterprise, our stance is clear: we do not tolerate antisemitism,’"said Tanja Gönner, Chair of the GIZ Management Board. "All employees are committed to upholding the values of Germany’s constitution," added Gönner. The GIZ statement said that adhering to the values of Germany's constitution "is stipulated in GIZ’s Guiding Principles and Code of Conduct, which are part of the employment contract."

The GIZ statement noted that "Due to its special role as a federal enterprise, GIZ has an obligation to maintain political neutrality and refrain from taking a political stance; political statements therefore cannot be made in professional contexts. The Facebook comments posted privately were published in a newspaper article and on a website. Statements posted on social media cannot be considered wholly private if they can be linked to the company. "We have no reason to assume that antisemitism is a general problem at GIZ," Gönner said. "We greatly value our employees’ commitment and efforts worldwide – many of whom work in politically sensitive and fragile contexts."

The GIZ headquarters is located in the West German city of Bonn and it describes itself as a "federal enterprise with worldwide operations. We support the German Government in the fields of international cooperation for sustainable development and international education. Through our work, we assist people and societies in shaping their own future and improving living conditions."

Mohammed al-Mutawakel, who is currently a project manager at GIZ's headquarters in Bonn and was previously a project manager in Jordan, compared Israel to the Nazi movement. He posted an Israeli flag on Facebook and replaced the Star of David with a swastika. “I hate Israel,” he wrote. GIZ declined to disclose to the Post if al-Mutawakel had been fired and would not provide the name of the other disciplined employees. 



Ulrich Nitschke, a senior GIZ employee in the Middle East, praised, according to the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, the nomination of the BDS movement for the Nobel Peace Prize. The BDS movement advocates boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians.

Tobias Thiel, who heads GIZ's Strengthening Reform Initiatives project, said Israel does not have the right to defend itself and shared articles that Israel committed a “deliberate massacre” in the Gaza Strip.

Prior to the GIZ decision to discipline employees, the whistle-blower, who wished to remain anonymous, said GIZ's workplace culture is saturated with antisemitism. The source told the Post that Rudolf Rogg, who oversees the corporation's Middle East department, has “three Facebook accounts with anti-Israeli agitation.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post on Friday: "Considering that there are allegations that antisemitism is rife at GIZ, it would be appropriate  for Ambassador Felix Klein, the federal government commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany, to be empowered to look at the situation of the company in its entirety."

Dr. Elvira Grozinger, the head of the German chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), told the Post on Friday that  "With such a clear evidence of an antisemitic attitude, a German state institution [GIZ] which is active internationally, should not and can not tolerate hate speech against any foreign state or individual person by its employees. I presume that in the by-laws of the organization there is a respective passage concerning the behavioral codex of its staff and therefore it is absolutely correct to fire such insubordinate employees when they do damage to the image of the organization they work for."


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