Nearly 400 journalists, academics, and cultural figures signed a letter of solidarity with journalist Nemi El-Hassan, after she was axed by Germany’s WDR channel for attending a Palestinian solidarity demonstration in 2014.
Twenty-eight-year-old El-Hassan attended the Al-Quds march in solidarity with Palestinians in 2014, when she was 20 years old.
After a photo emerged of her attending the demonstration, published by right-wing German publication Bild, Germany’s WDR channel quickly axed her from a science show known as ‘Quarks’, a role she was supposed to take up later this year.
Bild, which described the Palestine solidarity march as an ‘anti-Israel hate march‘, reported the story as an ‘Islamism scandal’, and the editor-in-chief questioned her scientific capabilities and knowledge live on TV, citing her religion as a reason.
El-Hassan was quick to express regret for attending the rally and condemned any anti-Semitic behaviour at the demonstration.
The letter, titled ‘Solidarity with Nemi El-Hassan’, expressed its shock at the attack on her personality, and was signed by prominent Jewish personalities including US-born Deborah Feldman, famous for her book ‘Unorthodox’, which was turned into an award-winning Netflix miniseries, Jewish journalist Fabian Wolff, and Israeli journalist Edo Konrad. In total 385 people backed the letter.
The letter states the entire debate had lost “all sense of proportion”, and said El-Hassan had been targeted for her Muslim identity and Palestinian roots.
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“Since it became known that the doctor and award-winning journalist Nemi El-Hassan was to take over the moderation of the science program “Quarks” on WDR, her person and her past have been criticized. We are appalled by the defamatory and denunciating way in which this discussion is being conducted.”
“In a statement and in an interview, Nemi El-Hassan clearly admitted the mistakes of her past. She has problematised them, distanced herself from them, apologised, and credibly explained her change. As a journalist, she has been campaigning against anti-Semitism and racism for years.”
It continued: “The racist undertones of this campaign are also evident in the fact that photos are constantly being used for the illustrations that show Nemi El-Hassan with a headscarf, although she has not been wearing it for a long time. Such images, which link the headscarf to the accusation of Islamism, serve prejudices and fears of Islamisation and infiltration of society by Muslims, which have been fomented by right-wing populists for many years.”
In a statement on its website, WDR said it “does not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism and condemns the Al-Quds marches and the positions represented there in the strongest possible terms.”
It added: “The WDR will suspend the planned start of Quarks presented by Nemi El-Hassan for the time being. The allegations against them weigh heavily. But it is also difficult to deny a young journalist professional development. Careful examination is therefore required.”