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Jordan: Staff at German workplaces threatened with dismissal over Palestine views

Jordanian NGOs denounce the measures as an attack on free speech as internal circulars are discouraging expressions of solidarity with Gaza
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks during a news conference with Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi following a meeting, in Amman, Jordan 19 October 2023 (Reuters)
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at a news conference with Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi (not pictured) in Amman, Jordan 19 October 2023 (Reuters)
By Mohammad Ersan in Amman

Staff in German governmental and non-governmental organisations operating in Jordan, including the German Embassy, are facing potential dismissal threats if they engage in online pro-Palestine advocacy, according to testimonies shared with Middle East Eye.

In some cases, employees have also been requested to express their disapproval of Hamas’s incursion into southern Israel on 7 October. These actions seem to align with the stance of the ruling Social Democratic Party in Germany, which is currently endorsing Israel's military operations in Gaza.

The Hamas-led surprise assault on Israel has killed 1,400 people, most of them civilians, while the subsequent Israeli military operation in Gaza has killed close to 9,000 mostly Palestinian civilians. Palestinian groups have also taken at least 240 Israeli captives back to Gaza. 

In response to the latest measures against staff at German workplaces, the Jordanian NGO Action to Support the Resistance and Confront Normalisation, an alliance of political parties, labour unions, and independent entities, has strongly criticised what it views as "foreign organisations in Jordan exerting pressure on their employees to elicit positions sympathetic to Zionist activities".

Mohammad Al-Absi, the coordinator of the organisation, decried the policies adopted by these foreign entities, saying, "Certain foreign organisations operating in Jordan, which have consistently misrepresented their values and ideals as champions of freedom, liberal values, human rights, social democracy, and other misleading slogans, are now pressuring their employees. Our group has obtained evidence and complaints from some of these employees."

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Al-Absi further explained that this pressure on employees manifests in two primary forms: first, employees are pushed to adopt positions and beliefs that condemn and disavow resistance and violence associated with acts of armed resistance. Second, employees are restricted from writing, publishing, or sharing any content that supports the Palestinian cause or expresses solidarity with it.

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MEE contacted the German embassy in Amman to seek clarification on an internal memo that instructs local employees not to publish content supporting Palestinian resistance groups.

A spokesperson of the German embassy has denied that any such memo exists.

"There is no internal document that instructs local employees not to publish content supportive of any side," the spokesperson said in an email sent to MEE.

Additionally, MEE approached organisations such as Konrad-Adenauer, Heinrich Boll Foundation, Rosa-Luxemburg, Friedrich Ebert, Friedrich Naumann and the GIZ German development agency for comment.


MEE learned that the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) officials in both Jordan and Palestine allow their staff to express themselves, with the condition that their expressions are not considered representative of GIZ.

In response to MEE, the agency stated: “GIZ kindly asks its employees to use social media responsibly and with consideration to avoid spreading disinformation. At no point has GIZ exerted any form of pressure on its employees.”

Furthermore, some organisations permit their staff to express themselves on their personal social media accounts, with the exception of LinkedIn, as it is viewed as a professional platform where any posts may be associated with the employing organisation.

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However, an employee from a German organisation told MEE on condition of anonymity that the German ambassador held a meeting with both German and Arab employees at the embassy and asked them not to display any expressions of sympathy for Palestine, even on social media, regardless of how minor.

A spokesperson of the German embassy in Amman has denied the allegation.

"At no point in time has the ambassador or any other embassy staff asked local staff to refrain from expressing their support for the Palestinian people," the spokesperson told MEE in an email.

"All employees at the embassy have the fundamental right to freedom of expression in accordance with Article 5 of the German Constitution. This right was clearly communicated to all employees during various meetings," the spokesperson added.

"The embassy merely asks all its employees, both local and German, that they ensure that their statements are not attributable to the German embassy and that they do not engage in any form of hate speech, call for or promote violence, and comply with both German and national laws.

"In addition, all staff are encouraged to use social media responsibly and to remain attentive vis-à-vis the spread of disinformation."

On the other hand, some German organisations, like the Friedrich Naumann Foundation-Jerusalem, have expressed their support for Israel on social media, condemning the violence carried out by Palestinian groups on 7 October in southern Israel, including the killing and kidnapping of Israeli civilians.

Meanwhile, Himam, a coalition of Jordanian civil society organisations, issued a statement urging employees of international organisations in Jordan to file complaints if they face harassment regarding their positions on the Israeli occupation's actions against the Gaza Strip.

No cases of dismissal were reported, coalition coordinator Hadeel Abdel Aziz told MEE, but there were complaints about the existence of internal circulars discouraging expressions of solidarity with Gaza.

German Left Party criticised

Simultaneously, a number of Palestinian NGOs, including Social & Economic Policies Monitor (Al Marsad), Ashtar Theatre, Afkar Organisations, Union of Civil Society for Development, and the Palestinian Federation of Women’s Action Committees, sent a letter to the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung organisation, expressing "deep concerns" about the position of the democratic socialist Left Party, which they believed “displayed double standards and bias in favour of the Israeli settler colonial regime”. 

The letter also criticised the party for “disregarding the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, and failing to address the root causes of the situation in Palestine, particularly the Zionist settler-colonial project established on the ruins of the Palestinian people".

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