March 28, 2018 | The Jerusalem Post

Exclusive: German Company Fires Employee in Jordan for Defending Israel

The German Corporation for International Cooperation in Amman fired an employee for her pro-Israel comments on a Facebook page in December.

The former employee, who asked not to be named, told The Jerusalem Post this month that her contract was not extended because she posted a personal Facebook post stating if the Palestinian girl Ahed Tamimi slapped a Jordanian soldier, “she would have been immediately shot.”

Tamimi, 17, reached a plea deal last week for slapping two IDF soldiers and will serve eight months in prison.

The former employee told the Post that “it is not fair that we can’t talk about it [the Tamimi case].

She faced a wave criticism on Facebook, including wild conspiracy theories that she is a “spy.” She worked for the German Corporation for International Cooperation for seven years without any complaints.

When asked about the employee’s alleged discharge for defending Israel, Michaela Baur, the head of the corporation’s office in Amman, said that she “was not fired, her contract expired.”

When asked about anti-Israel, including alleged antisemitic, posts, on Facebook by corporation employees, Baur declined to answer.

She said the corporation “is working normally with limited contracts. They will be changed to unlimited in only a few cases. This is for the workforce to stay flexible according to the changing needs we face in our partner countries. So it was quite a normal setting. I will not discuss reasons for individual cases with a journalist.”

A number of the former employee’s colleagues have stoked antisemitism in their Facebook posts, according to Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The Post reviewed more than 30 Facebook posts from German and Jordanian employees and affiliated workers at the corporation’s offices in Amman and in the wider Middle East.

Mohammed al-Mutawakel posted the Israel flag with the Star of David replaced by a Nazi swastika. He wrote under the flag: “I hate Israel.” He is listed on LinkedIn as a project manager at GIZ (German Corporation for International Cooperation) International Services for the Middle East region.

When asked about some of the Facebook posts associated with the corporation, including Mutawakel’s, Zuroff told the Post, “That is pure anti-Zionism, which we know is a form of antisemitism.”

Zuroff said, “It appears [that] in order to work for a European NGO in Jordan, you have toe the line regardless of whether one is honest or not. It is a sad commentary on the Arab world.”

Zuroff said the former employee “is simply telling the truth. It is unpleasant for Jordanian ears. As a result, Europeans kiss up to their host or they are afraid of offending their host.”

He said the employee contract was not extended in order to placate the Jordanians.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development provides funding to the Corporation for International Cooperation. The German government did not immediately respond to a Post media query.

According to the corporation’s website, it “supports the German government in achieving its objectives in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development.”

The Corporation for International Cooperation wrote in a December letter to the former employee that she “positioned herself on Facebook regarding Israeli-Arab questions in a way that is and was inappropriate to the GIZ [Corporation for International Cooperation’s] reputation and to the personal security of her and others.”

Tobias Thiel, a project employee listed on the corporation’s website, posted articles stating that “No, Israel does not have every right to self-defense in international law,” and, “Middle East Scholars call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.” In 2012, Thiel posted: “Israel aggression in the Gaza Strip: In pictures.”

Thiel also posted an article from the pro-Palestinian website Electronic Intifada that has been widely accused of fomenting modern antisemitism.

Thiel did not immediately reply to a Post query.

In 2015, Simone Strasburger, who is cited on LinkedIn as a Corporation for International Cooperation adviser, showed on Facebook a photograph of dead Arab woman and wrote: “Why is nothing of this reported in our media?”

Strasburger, who lives in the Hamburg area, linked to an article stating “Euro-Med monitor calls on international community to halt Israel’s extra-judicial executions.” Strasburger also has links to the Jordanian Chamber of Commerce. The Post could not reach Strasburger.

Rudolf Rogg, who oversees Middle East department for the corporation, wrote on Facebook on July 29, 2014, that he has the impression from Israeli “security forces in east Jerusalem and the West Bank that the Israeli government want a to strike a final blow against Palestine in order to finally have the entire land for itself.” Rogg did not reply to a Post media request.

Gerald Steinberg, the president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that the Corporation for International Cooperation is a “German government corporation that funds NGOs, and is riddled with antisemitism.”

“Safa Kamal el Naser is a GIZ [Corporation for International Cooperation] regional adviser in Jordan. In December 2017, he shared a Facebook post claiming that a ‘Hebrew spring’ was behind the downfall of Arab dictators Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi and Ali Abdullah Saleh.”

NGO Monitor wrote that “Before joining the GIZ program ‘Values for Religion and Development’ in 2016 – a program that he heads, Ulrich Nitschke led the Local Governance and Civil Society Development Program and Future for Palestine at GIZ Palestine,” and was the chairman of the corporation’s Sector Network Governance for the Middle East and North Africa region.

“He has used Facebook to promote BDS, advocate for Ahed Tamimi, deny the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, accuse Israel of misusing the term ‘antisemitism,’ and stake out other anti-Israel positions,” the report said.

NGO Monitor noted that Henner Kirchner, a Corporation for International Cooperation project manager, on Facebook “advocated for charging Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu with Holocaust denial in German court. He has also defended Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians and argued that Israel does not have the right to defend itself.”

“In January 2016, Luke McBain, head of GIZ’s Civil Society Programme Palestine and of the program for Strengthening Women in Decision-Making in the Middle East, described Zionism as a 'settler-colonialist movement,' claiming that this 'explains everything,' including the 'endless occupation,”' according to the NGO Monitor report.

McBain accused the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of adhering to an “illegal military doctrine,” during the 2014 war and claimed that “Responding to violence originating from a territory which you occupy is not self-defense.”

Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.