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Following takeover, staff at US newspaper to be told to find a new job if they can't support Israel

A news stand is seen in New York, US on 30 October 2018 [ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images]
A news stand is seen in New York, US on 30 October 2018 [ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images]

Staff at the recently purchased American news agency, Politico, has been warned that they must abide by the parent company's commitment to Israel or else find a new job, though they are not expected to sign a formal pledge in writing, as their German counterparts.

The message was communicated to the 500 staff of Politico, by Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of the Berlin-based company, Axel Springer, which said in August that it was buying the American news agency for more than $1 billion.

Döpfner, who has previously said that support for Israel is "a German duty," is reported in the Haaretz telling staff at Politico that Axel Springer's commitment to Israel is like "a constitution" and if hey did not like it, they should not work for the firm.

Politico staffers in the US, however, will not be required to sign a written commitment to these principles, as employees in Germany must, Döpfner said.

Staff are also expected to shun what Döpfner called activist journalism, which he said was helping polarize the United States and other countries.

In Germany, Axel Springer owns titles including tabloid, Bild, and the centre-right broadsheet, Die Welt. It has recently expanded greatly in the US, buying Business Insider for about $500 million and the business-based Morning Brew.

READ: The checkpoint between academic freedom and Israel needs to be lifted

Axel Springer's commitment to Israel goes back to its eponymous founder, Axel Caesar Springer, who died in 1985 in what was then West Berlin. Known as the German Rupert Murdoch, Springer is said to have been resolutely pro-Israel.

Following Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Springer, who reportedly made a hasty visit to the occupation state while ordering his newspapers to cover the invasion obsessively, officially committed itself to upholding support for Israel's existence as one of the values which he called the company's "Essentials."

Others include: standing up for freedom, the rule of law, democracy, rejection of political and religious extremism and all forms of racism and sexual discrimination and a united Europe.

During Israel's 11-day bombardment of Gaza in May, which resulted in 256 Palestinian deaths and over 2,000 injuries to the civilian population, Döpfner ordered the Israeli flag to be flown, alongside those of Germany and the European Union, outside the company's Berlin headquarters.

Justifying his decision, Döpfner is reported as saying to staff in a companywide conference call: "I think, and I'm being very frank with you, a person who has an issue with an Israeli flag being raised for one week here, after anti-Semitic demonstrations, should look for a new job."

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