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Amid Internal Antisemitism Scandal, German Public Broadcaster Breaks Ties With Arabic Station Over Inflammatory Israel Reporting

avatar by Ben Cohen

A graphic shared by Jordanian broadcaster Roya TV shows a fist smashing through a Star of David to promote the boycott of Israel. Image: Roya TV Twitter feed

As it continues to deal with an internal antisemitism scandal, the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) has separately ended a cooperation agreement with a Jordanian TV station, citing the presence of antisemitic and virulently anti-Zionist language and images in its social media feeds.

In a statement on Sunday, DW announced that it would no longer cooperate with Roya TV, a privately-owned satellite channel based in Amman, because it was spreading antisemitic comments and caricatures.

A senior DW executive promised that the taxpayer-funded German broadcaster would “now even more critically review our partner selection internally, especially with regard to antisemitism and racism.”

“We are truly sorry that we did not notice these disgusting images,” DW’s managing director in charge of distribution, Guido Baumhauer, said, in reference to the antisemitic content pushed by Roya TV.

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Following last week’s revelations in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) that several employees of DW’s Arabic department had made antisemitic remarks or had affiliations with antisemitic organizations, a separate Vice investigation into Roya TV — which co-produces an Arabic talk show with DW — discovered that the Jordanian station had “been spreading propaganda against Israel for years.”

Israel is never referred to by its internationally-recognized legal name on the station, Vice reported, and is instead dismissed as “the occupier.”

Additionally, Israelis killed in rockets attacks launched by Hamas and other Islamist groups are referred to as “settlers of the occupation,” while Palestinian dead are always described as “martyrs.”

The severing of relations with Roya TV marks a 180-degree turn for DW, which only last year was embracing the broadcaster as a valued partner in the Arab world.

In May 2020, the director-general of DW, Peter Limbourg, flew to Amman to sign a new cooperation agreement with Roya TV CEO Fares Sayegh and to present the channel with DW’s Freedom of Speech Award.

Asked by Vice how this close relationship squared with Roya TV’s inflammatory reporting on Israel, a spokesperson for DW said that the German broadcaster’s “distribution and program managers” would “definitely not consider Roya TV hostile to Israel.” However, managing director Baumhauer emphasized in his comments on Sunday his “regret” that DW had reached this conclusion.

Responding on Monday to DW’s announcement, Roya TV CEO Sayegh insisted that the station was not antisemitic, only opposed to Israel.

“Fighting racism in all of its forms, including antisemitism, is a core value that we cherish, and therefore we strongly condemn the false accusations that have sprung and which led to DW issuing its statement,” Sayegh said.

He called “upon all media organizations to differentiate in clear terms the difference between the criticism of illegal, inhumane or racist actions by Israel as a state and antisemitism, which is racism against Jews.”

In a separate piece on Sunday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung claimed that the atmosphere in DW’s editorial offices in Berlin and Bonn “was tense even before the Vice report.”

Journalists working in DW’s Arabic department were said to be anxious at the appointment of Ahmad Mansour, an Israeli Arab psychologist resident in Berlin, to jointly head the external inquiry into allegations of antisemitic rhetoric and behavior. Mansour will work alongside a former federal justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.

Born in the Arab village of Tira in northern Israel, Mansour flirted with Islamist ideology as a teenager before studying at Tel Aviv University. Since 2017, he has run a state-funded initiative to counter extremism and antisemitism among Muslim immigrants in Germany.

One Arabic service staff member who spoke to the Süddeutsche Zeitung anonymously said they feared that Mansour would act as an “inquisitor … including against those who have uttered justifiable criticism of Israel.”

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