BERLIN (Agencies): Germany has introduced a new citizenship law that requires applicants to declare their belief in Israel’s right to exist. The unprecedented move demands recognition of a foreign country’s right to exist as part of a citizenship process, and has been criticised over its implications for free speech and political expression.

The controversial legislation, which came into force on Tuesday, is part of a broader overhaul of Germany’s nationality criteria. While the socially liberal government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz initially proposed the law to streamline the path to citizenship for first-generation migrants, it has since been reframed as a measure to ensure adherence to “German values” amidst rising concerns about anti-Semitism and far-right politics.

Germany is one of many Western states to adopt the highly controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. Critics argue that the reported rise in anti-Semitism is misleading, largely due to the adoption of the IHRA definition which conflates legitimate criticism of Israel and Zionism with anti-Jewish hatred. As a result, the statistics on anti-Semitic incidents may be inflated artificially because they could include cases of political speech or protest against Israeli policies that could not reasonably be considered anti-Semitic.

The new citizenship test will include questions on Judaism and Jewish life in Germany, and require an explicit declaration regarding the state of Israel’s right to exist. This requirement has raised eyebrows among legal experts and human rights advocates, who question the legality and ethical implications of mandating political positions on foreign states as a prerequisite for citizenship.

It is argued that this move is part of a broader crackdown on pro-Palestine activism in Germany. The government’s approach has already prompted controversy in academic circles. Earlier this month, Germany’s junior minister for higher education Sabine Doring was forced to resign after her ministry explored options to defund research by German academics who had signed a letter criticising a police crackdown on anti-Israel student protests.

Since 7 October last year, Germany has taken an aggressive stance in its defence of Israel and its military onslaught in Gaza. In April, the government banned British Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sitta from entering Germany to address a Berlin conference about his work in Gaza. A month later, Abu Sitta won his legal challenge against the ban.

Germany’s new citizenship law echoes draconian steps in the US where as many as 35 states have enacted laws or executive orders that prohibit state agencies from contracting with or investing in companies that boycott Israel. Such measures have been described as a loyalty test imposed on US citizens which threatens the First Amendment in the service of an alien state, Israel.

By Media

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