NO Younes El Harouchi
NOS News•today, 7:00 PM•Adjusted today, 7:34 PM
An official was ordered to delete his Palestine posts online, a salesperson had his probation stopped because he called the war in Gaza “genocide” on Facebook, and an education employee feels unsafe because of anti-Israel posts in the working group app.
The war between Israel and Hamas also has consequences on the work floor in the Netherlands. Several organizations say they have received “dozens of reports” from people who have gotten into trouble at work due to critical statements about the war, including interest groups Stichting Platform Islamic Organizations Rijnmond (SPIOR), Muslim Rights Watch and CIDI, the Center for Information. and Documentation Israel. The NOS spoke to a number of employees.
In most cases, these are people who have been ordered by their employer to delete their posts, sometimes under threat of measures. Some people feel unsafe because of statements made by colleagues, or not safe enough to say things themselves.
In some cases, statements about the conflict have even led to dismissal. A well-known example is footballer Anwar El Ghazi, who was expelled from his club FSV Mainz in early November after a pro-Palestinian tweet. And last week, several Hollywood celebrities were fired by their agent or producer for statements about the war.
SPIOR sent a manual “for employees who are being summoned by the employer” because of pro-Palestine posts on social media. A lawyer collective offers free legal assistance for problems in the workplace.
The CIDI also hears similar voices from people who stand up for Israel and organize it workshops “Dealing with Israel criticism” for people who have had unpleasant experiences with the sometimes strong criticism of Israel. There you will receive tips on how to counter this and you can talk about experiences at work, with acquaintances and on social media.
For example, an employee of an educational institution with Israeli roots has to deal with colleagues who criticize Israel in the group app or on the Intranet, sometimes very outspokenly. There are also pro-Palestine stickers on the work floor. She told the management several times that she feels unsafe and has little room for a different voice, but little is done about it, she says.
Younes El Harouchi, a self-employed nurse, until recently had a contract as a self-employed person with the Custodial Institutions Service in Zeist. One morning he forwarded a video to some colleagues. “They regularly asked me about Gaza during the break. In the video you see Israeli politicians who say that they are going to exterminate every Christian Palestinian, every Arab Palestinian,” said El Harouchi. “I sent it for your information.”
“The true face of these filthy Zionists who wish to sow destruction on earth,” El Harouchi wrote. He now explains: “Extermination is a dirty practice, hence my choice of words. I am absolutely not talking about Jews here, but about Zionists who kill Palestinians.” That same evening, his access card at work refuses and he is called to the director.
“The director said that they are very happy with me, but that I had sent a video in the morning with a dangerous, objectionable message,” says El Harouchi. “And that my contract is terminated immediately.”
NOSThe app that cost Younes El Harouchi his job
El Harouchi counters that he did not know he was not allowed to talk about the war in Gaza. “It’s not in my contract, rules or in the newsletters.” He asks for a warning instead of terminating his contract. “It was just a text in my private time.” But it may no longer help.
The contract does state that notice of termination must be given in writing six weeks in advance. El Harouchi has not yet received such a letter. Healthcare mediator Care4Group, which is trying to bring the two parties closer together, confirms his story. “Until that moment, he was a highly valued employee. We tried to mediate, but DJI made a different decision.”
DJI says it is not satisfied with “the vehement way in which El Harouchi expresses his views” and points out that “17,000 people with very different opinions, religions and cultures” work at the service. “There is room for all those opinions. The boundaries of expressing them are laid down in protocols, such as the DJI Code of Conduct,” says DJI.
In our opinion, El Harouchi has “not adhered to the integrity protocol with his behavior”, according to DJI. “It clearly states that employees must adhere to, among other things, an independent and impartial attitude. In addition, we must have respect for race, religion and culture.”
“It just depends on what you pay attention to in the protocol,” says employment law lawyer Pieter van den Brink, who has been representing both employees and employers for years. “For example, it also states that you should talk about dilemmas with colleagues. You can imagine that the events in Israel and Gaza evoke a lot of emotion in people, it affects them to the core. You should be able to talk about that with each other.”
People are also increasingly approaching Van den Brink’s practice with problems at work because of statements about the war. “As an employee you can say whatever you want in your spare time, as long as it does not go against the interests of your work. So an employee of a childcare center should not say anything about pedophiles on Twitter. But that is when speaking out against the war Gaza is not an issue. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right and very strongly protected,” Van den Brink explains.
I can’t imagine many employers have rules about talking about war. Furthermore, a warning is appropriate.
Pieter van den Brink, employment law lawyer
It also matters whether you have an exemplary role. “Like in the case of El Ghazi. Or when you visit customers on behalf of your company, more boundaries can be set.” But then there must be clear guidelines, according to Van den Brink. “I can’t imagine that many employers have rules about talking about a war. Besides, a warning is appropriate.”
The NOS also spoke to several employees who feel unsafe because of pro-Palestine stickers in the workplace or social media posts from colleagues. “And that is where things sometimes get in the way,” says Van den Brink. “If an employee indicates that he or she feels unsafe, the employer must do something about it. This often means: facilitating a conversation between colleagues and agreeing that political statements are limited to private time.”
El Harouchi has been at home since his discharge. “I feel censored, silenced, a third-class citizen.” Muslim Rights Watch has asked the Judicial Institutions Agency to “apologize and provide an appropriate solution.”
The DJI then announced that it would send “a substantive response with reasons for terminating its services” to El Harouchi. He will soon challenge his dismissal in court.
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