German state to require citizenship applicants to declare Israel's 'right to exist'

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James Jackson - [email protected]
German state to require citizenship applicants to declare Israel's 'right to exist'
People hold Israel flags during a solidarity march in Berlin on October 22nd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Monika Skolimowska

The eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt has announced that from now on applicants for citizenship through naturalisation will have to commit in writing to their belief in Israel’s “right to exist”. What does this mean in practice and is it allowed?


Saxony-Anhalt's interior ministry has decreed that if German citizenship applicants don't do this, they will be refused naturalisation.

Tamara 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".

Attention should be paid by immigration officials to whether there is evidence of anti-Semitic attitudes among applicants during the naturalisation process, explained Zieschang.

The decree to the state’s municipalities says that naturalisation is out of the question if foreigners pursue efforts that are directed against the free, democratic basic order. This includes anti-Semitic offences or the denial of Israel's right to exist.

The decree recommends that municipalities use specific wording for the statement of commitment. If the applicant refuses to submit a declaration, the naturalisation certificate will not be handed over. This should be noted in the application file and the naturalisation application should be rejected, according to German media reports.

Questions have been raised over if the decree is in line with German law. 

Berlin-based lawyer Ahmed Abad told The Local: "The duty to recognise Israel’s 'right to exist' has no legal basis."

Immigration lawyer Sven Hasse told The Local that naturalisation requires that the applicants “confirm their commitment to the free
democratic constitutional system” of Germany and that “apparently, the Sachsen-Anhalt government assumes that a commitment to Israel’s right to exist can also be demanded in this context, as this is part of Germany's Staatsräson (reason of state)".

He warns that this could be challenged if someone is rejected based on it, adding: “the courts will have to decide whether this is lawful".

READ ALSO: What is Germany’s 'Staatsrasön' and why is it being talked about so much right now?


It comes as the German government and other politicians have been debating on how to strengthen the new citizenship law against anti-Semitism. 

Proposals include adding a declaration explicitly acknowledging Israel's right to exist, which is an idea put forward by both the CDU and FDP at the federal level in the wake of the October 7th Hamas attacks on Israel. 

READ ALSO: What are the next steps for Germany's long-awaited dual nationality law?

In an interview with The Local's Germany in Focus podcast in November, SPD MP Hakan Demir said politicians were discussing this, although he noted that the law already excludes people with racist or anti-democratic views - and insists that foreigners becoming German respect the existence of all states that Germany recognises, which includes Israel.

However, at the first debate on the naturalisation reform last week, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said singling out Israel's right to exist may become a part of the new law.

"Denying Israel's right to exist is anti-Semitic and if there is a need to change the law in this regard, I am open to it," Faeser said.

What's the reaction?

Some people say Saxony-Anhalt's move to change their naturalisation process is unfair and one-sided, especially given the heated rows around pro-Palestine protests in Germany.

Policy advisor at Access Now Marwa Fatafta wrote on X (formerly Twitter): "Germany doesn’t even recognise people like myself as Palestinian.

"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."


While Andreas Krieg, professor at Kings College London, raised questions about double standards between people born Germans and those naturalising as Germans. 

He tweeted: "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 all together and become a Reichsbürger," referring to conspiracy theorists who believe the Federal Republic of Germany doesn’t legally exist.

READ ALSO: Who are Reichsbürger and how big a threat do they pose in Germany?


Comments (2)

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Kjello 2023/12/07 16:17
This is a good new addition to the immigration law in Germany. Have jewish friends in Berlin who says wearing a kippah would literally be life threatening in certain neighborhoods. It’s time to set the foot down on the antisemitism still existing in Germany.
Brad 2023/12/06 22:30
What’s wrong with state not wanting to allow anti semites to live there? This idea that everyone has the right to live wherever they want will be the destruction of society.

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