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Axel Springer: German publisher tells pro-Palestinian staff to quit

The European publishing giant had flown an Israeli flag outside its headquarters during the offensive on Gaza in May
Mathias Doepfner, chairman of German news publisher Axel Springer, speaks during his company's annual press conference on 7 March, 2019 at the Axel Springer headquarters in Berlin. (AFP)

The CEO of Axel Springer, a mammoth European media company, has told employees that they can leave if they don’t support the company’s pro-Israel stance.

Several staff reportedly complained when the company raised an Israeli flag at its Berlin headquarters during 11 days of deadly violence between the Israeli army and the Palestinian Hamas movement in May, which killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, in the besieged Gaza Strip and 13 people in Israel, including two children.

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According to a report from Israel Hayom, CEO Mathias Doepfner said in a video call with staff worldwide on Monday: "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.

"After these weeks of terrible antisemitic demonstrations,” he said, referring to pro-Palestine demonstrations in Germany in the aftermath of Israel’s May offensive that have been widely reported as antisemitic, “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."

Axel Springer is a media and tech company active in over 40 countries worldwide, according to its website. It employs around 16,000 staff and owns publications including Politico Europe, Bild, Business Insider and Yad2, the largest classified ads site in Israel.

The second point on the company’s “Principles and Values” page reads: “We support the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel.”

German-Jewish writer Fabian Wolff recently criticised the country's media for its overt pro-Israel bias, saying: "The German media’s approach is not centred on Jews or how to best combat antisemitism. It’s more about making Germans feel good about themselves and feeding into a German superiority complex."