On June 17, Mathias Döpfner, CEO, Axel Springer SE, told the 16,000 employees of the company to find another job if they have a problem with an Israeli flag being posted outside the largest digital publishing house of Europe. While talking to the employees via video conferencing, he said, “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 antisemitic demonstrations, should look for a new job.”
Axel Springer, the Berlin-based agency, was founded in West Germany in 1946. It is currently the most prominent digital publisher in Europe with Die Welt, Business Insider, Politico Europe, Bild and several other news brands. It also owns Israel’s largest classified ads website named Yad2. On its website, Alex Springer has listed “We support the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel” as one of the five essential values.
During the meeting, Döpfner addressed complaint of some employees about the Israeli flag being raised outside the company headquarters. He said, “After these weeks of terrible antisemitic demonstrations, we at our building headquarters said next to the European flag, and the German flag, [and] the Berlin flag, let’s raise for one week the Israeli flag as a gesture of solidarity. We do not accept these kinds of aggressive antisemitic movements.”
He further added that some people said they did not want to work for a company that supports Israel like this. He said, “So, I think that is also a good point… This person does not fit the company and its values,” he said. “It’s very simple.” The Israeli flag was put up in front of the headquarters after there were pro-Palestinian demonstrations across Germany that included marches to synagogues, shouting slogans against Jews, attacks on Jewish institutions and the burning of Israeli flags.
The historical relationship between Israel and Germany
During Nazi’s rule in Germany, over six million Jews were killed. The scars still exist, but the relationship between Israel and Germany has grown stronger since they established diplomatic relations in 1965. The first official talk between Germany and Israel started as early as 1952. Germany provided arms to Israel secretly for years. It was only in 1964 when the Middle East came to know about the secret weapon trade between the two nations, after which Germany established diplomatic relations with Israel the following year.
German politicians have come forward to support Israel’s right to defend itself. According to reports, all the mainstream political parties in Germany expressed displeasure over the desecration of the Israeli flag across the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said, “Whoever uses such protests to proclaim their hatred of Jews is abusing their right to protest.” German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had warned strict action against those who were spreading antisemitic hatred.