German Public Broadcaster DW Stung by Antisemitism Scandal as Social Media Posts of Arabic Service Employees Are Exposed
by Ben Cohen
Germany’s state-financed national broadcaster announced on Wednesday that it was commissioning an external investigation following revelations that employees of its Arabic-language service made virulently antisemitic and anti-Zionist remarks in public — including the denial of the Nazi Holocaust, threats to execute Arabs who engage with Israelis as “traitors,” and statements of support for an Islamic State onslaught upon the State of Israel.
In a statement acknowledging the allegations, broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) said the investigation would “deal with the statements made by DW employees in other publications and their private profiles on social media.” DW — which broadcasts in 30 languages and is funded by the German taxpayer with more than $450 million annually — pledged to take “immediate action” against the employees should they be found guilty of violating the broadcasters’ code of conduct.
An investigative article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) published on Tuesday revealed that several employees of DW’s Arabic department had made antisemitic remarks or had affiliations with antisemitic organizations.
Bassel Aridi, who was appointed as DW’s bureau chief in Beirut in 2019, threatened Arabs who met with Israelis in a social media post that was later deleted. “Anyone who has anything to do with the Israelis is a collaborator and every recruit in the ranks of their army is a traitor and must be executed,” Aridi tweeted on June 1, 2014. Prior to joining DW, Aridi worked as a correspondent for Al Jadeed TV, an independent Lebanese broadcaster, where he filed reports “in which [the Iranian-backed Shi’a terrorist organization] Hezbollah, their leader Hassan Nasrallah and their successes in the 2006 war against Israel were portrayed quite positively,” the SZ reported.
Morhaf Mahmoud, an editor at DW, boasted in a Facebook post in June 2017 that he had broken off a conversation with a woman in a cafe after discovering she was Jewish. “We have a lot against you,” Mahmoud claimed he told the woman. In another post three weeks later that expressed condolences on the death of Ernst Zundel, an infamous German Holocaust denier, Mahmoud described the Nazi extermination program as a “fabrication.” Posts by Mahmoud from 2018 demonstrated a fanatical belief in antisemitic conspiracy theories, with one entry claiming that “Jews control the brains of people through art, media and music.”
Other DW employees similarly pushed Holocaust denial, according to the SZ investigation. Daoud Ibrahim, a journalism trainer who regularly conducts workshops in Beirut, posted several tweets denying the Holocaust, one of which shared the hashtag #FreedomofSpeech alongside the statement, “The Holocaust is a lie.”
Meanwhile, Ibrahim’s brother Mohamed, who serves as head of DW’s Middle East news desk, has a long record of working for antisemitic media outlets in the region. During the 1990s, Mohamed Ibrahim worked as a correspondent for Al Diyar, the newspaper of the Nazi-inspired Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), whose symbol closely resembles a swastika. Upon moving to Berlin to work for DW, Mohamed Ibrahim continued to write for Al Akhbar, a Lebanese outlet that is often sympathetic to Hezbollah.
Another journalist working on a DW Arabic talk show titled “Massaiyya,” named by SZ as Farah M., wrote about her willingness to join an Islamic State war against Israel. “I would announce that if the Islamic State were to fight for liberation in Palestine, I would revise my judgment about the group, its men and its financiers,” she wrote in the Arabic newspaper Rai Alyoum. “And if they throw the Israelis out of the Holy Land, then I will join their ranks.” In another article, the same journalist described Israel as a “cancer to be cut out.”
In its statement responding to the SZ article, DW commented that both the parliamentary act establishing the broadcaster and its code of conduct “clearly state the values that all DW employees must respect and represent internally and externally. The editor-in-chief’s code clearly shows which journalistic principles they must observe when dealing with antisemitism.”
The broadcaster pledged to “immediately take action if violations of these rules prove to be true.”