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Foreigners seeking German citizenship asked to recognise Israel first

Lawyers and commentators question the constitutionality of the requirement, which applies in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt
The German national flag flies in front of the Reichstag building, the seat of the lower house of the parliament Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany (Reuters)
The German national flag flies in front of the Reichstag building, the seat of the lower house of the parliament Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany (Reuters)

Applications for citizenship in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt must now declare that they recognise Israel and support its right to exist.

The new stipulation was published in a decree to the districts and independent cities at the end of November, Minister of Interior for Saxony-Anhalt Tamara Zieschang said. 

Zieschang of the ruling conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) wrote to the state’s citizenship offices, saying that applicants will have to confirm in writing "that they recognise Israel's right to exist and condemn any efforts directed against the existence of the State of Israel".

Immigration officials should pay particular attention and find evidence of antisemitic attitudes amongst immigrants applying to citizenship, Zieschang demanded. 

Questions have been raised by lawyers as to whether such a requirement for citizenship would be legal. 

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At the moment applicants only need to “confirm their commitment to the free democratic constitutional system” of Germany, not the existence of another country. 

Proposals to roll out such a requirement at the federal level have been raised by German politicians following the 7 October assault by Hamas and Israel’s war on Gaza which has been deeply polarising. 

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser at the federal level suggested that Israel's right to exist may become a part of a new law. "Denying Israel's right to exist is antisemitic and if there is a need to change the law in this regard, I am open to it," Faeser said.

The new law, if approved at the federal level, could potentially see Palestinians who are stateless being asked to recognise a country that is occupying them and actively refuses to recognise Palestine. 

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“Germany doesn’t even recognise people like myself as Palestinian," said Marwa Fatafta in a post on X, formerly Twitter. "I am registered and I live in this country as a stateless person. There is nothing more dehumanising in this context than to ask Palestinians to recognise their occupier while their very existence is denied.”

Andreas Krieg, professor at King's College London, posted on X: “To become a German citizen you have to express your support for another country's right to exist.

"Unless you are an ethno-German, then you can even deny the existence of the Federal Republic altogether and become a Reichsburger,” he said referring to revisionist groups in Germany who reject the legitimacy of the modern German state.

Seamus Malekafzali, a journalist, said regarding the proposed changes: “If the constitutionality of this isn't challenged, going from an unwritten question asked by some immigration officers to full-blown codification, then I don't know what Germany's future holds as a democracy, honestly. An unfathomable farce.”

Another critic noted that immigrants are usually accused of having continuing “allegiances to our home countries” while now they are being asked to also pledge allegiance to another country’s existence. “The hypocrisy is out of this world,” she wrote on X.

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