Friday, July 23, 2004

Israelis Acquiring EU Passports

Here's a story that throws some doubt on recent claims that "Europe" is currently undergoing a wave of anti-semitism.

More Israelis with European ancestry are applying for EU passports since the union's enlargement in May. Some see the burgundy-colored document as an insurance policy should the conflict in the Middle East escalate.
Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon's recent appeal to French Jews to leave their home country and emigrate to Israel was harshly criticized by French government officials -- and they weren't the only ones.
French Jews themselves were unhappy about Sharon's statement, fearing that anti-Semitic attacks would increase as a result.


One in five Israelis eligible

Since EU enlargement, every fifth Israeli is eligible to receive an EU passport: people who come from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic or one of the 22 other EU countries and escaped the Nazis or survived the Holocaust. Their descendants are often also entitled to EU citizenship.
Many Israelis of German descent are also starting to think of their forefathers' home country and apply for a passport. The German embassy in Tel Aviv issued 3,000 passports last year alone.
German law grants citizenship to "former German citizens, who lost their citizenship for political, racial or religious reasons between Jan. 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945" -- the duration of the Nazi dictatorship -- as well as their descendants. According to unofficial estimates, about 70,000 Israelis are also German citizens.
Continental Europe has certainly seen a surge in high-profile anti-semitic incidents, but that has been from a very low base, and in most cases, the perpetrators have been Arabs, not members of the majority ethnic group. I see Israeli tourists ambling about undisturbed all the time, and it's ridiculous to claim that Jews walking the streets of London would feel themselves under any threat whatsoever. None of this is to deny that EU governments and their state-controlled media do tend to operate on a double-standard where Israel is concerned, however.

In an ideal world in which terrorism and the Palestinians had ceased to be an issue, Israel and the EU would have a much closer association than they currently do, including free movement of goods and capital, as well as much freer movement of people, though I can't envision completely free movement as long as Israel remains concerned about retaining its Jewish character; the threat of being swamped by Northern European homebuyers looking for a place in the sun to spend their sunset years might prove too much for Israeli politicians to stomach, while Israeli laws against selling land to non-Jews (as mandated in the Talmud) would be ruled discriminatory under EU regulations.