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German court rules sacking of Palestinian journalist using IHRA was unlawful   

September 6, 2022 at 1:31 pm

German broadcaster ‘Deutsche Welle’, 3 February 2022 [YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images]

Palestinian journalist, Farah Maraqa, has won an unfair dismissal case against Deutsche Welle (DW) seven months after being suspended by the German media network over allegation of anti-Semitism. A German court ruled today that her dismissal on charges of anti-Semitism was “legally unjustified” after the initial hearing on 20 July 2022. The court has ordered DW to reinstate Maraqa and pay for the costs of the legal dispute.

Maraqa was dismissed along with six other journalists in February 2022. The highly dubious and controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism was used to defend their dismissal. The charge of anti-Semitism was made against Maraqa after an external inquiry that scoured previous articles and social media posts of the former employees, who are all Palestinian or Lebanese.

The findings of the internal investigation were based on the IHRA. Pro-Israel groups like the Canary Mission are known to keep a blacklist of people who they target using malicious allegations of anti-Semitism. It’s not known if DW used a similar anti-Palestine organisation in Germany when it carried out its external inquiry.

Critics have long warned against the IHRA’s adoption. Though the so-called working definition of anti-Semitism (WDA) is non-statutory, pro-Israeli groups have counted on its mass adoption by public bodies as well as private groups to supress criticism of Israel. Eleven of the 13 examples conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. This latest victory is another indication that on the rare occasion the IHRA is challenged in court, victims stand a good chance of winning.

Read: Palestine exposes the limits of free-speech and the morally bankrupt ‘cancel culture’

The legal victory, according to the European Legal Support Center (ELSC) which supported Maraqa’s case, suggests that the court recognised that the termination of her contract, justified through a controversial investigation using allegations of anti-Semitism based on the IHRA, was illegal.

“It is a relief that the judge ruled in Farah’s favour and held Deutsche Welle accountable for this illegal dismissal,” said Giovanni Fassina, director of the ELSC. “We hope this sends a clear message that they should stop their censorship practices.”

Warning against IHRA, Fassina added: “This case illustrates how the institutionalisation of the IHRA-WDA can lead to severe infringements upon freedom of expression and freedom of the press. At the same time, it is another confirmation that pushing back – including through legal action – is effective and is a necessity in order to uphold these rights.”

Maraqa’s victory against the German broadcaster is the second lawsuit that DW has lost after it terminated the contract of seven journalists from their Arabic service. On 7 July, the Bonn Labour Court found that DW’s dismissal of Palestinian journalist Maram Salem was unlawful. In another case, DW settled, and all the remaining cases are still pending.