Friday, August 25, 2006

Israel's 'Right of Return' is Made in Japan (and Armenia and Bulgaria and Finland...)

In a piece on the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal--"Does Japan have a right to exist as a Japanese state?"--David Bernstein asks why the concept of 'the right of return', basing citizenship in part on ethnic descent, is only called into question in regards to Israel. He notes that:
judging by immigration laws, there are quite a few, and with a few exceptions (Armenia and Germany), their discriminatory immigration policies exist, unlike Israel's, without any justification resulting from persecution of that group.

For example, according to Wikipedia: "Japanese citizenship is conferred jus sanguinis, and monolingual Japanese-speaking minorities often reside in Japan for generations under permanent residency status without acquiring citizenship in their country of birth." Why does Japan have the right to exist as a Japanese state? Has this question ever been asked?

An Irish government Web site states: "If you are of the third or subsequent generation born abroad to an Irish citizen (in other words, one of your grandparents is an Irish citizen but none of your parents was born in Ireland), you may be entitled to become an Irish citizen"--if, as I understand it, you register properly. Does Ireland have the right to exist as an Irish state?

Several other countries recognize a "right of return" similar, but often broader, than Israel's (via Wikipedia):

• Armenia. "Individuals of Armenian origin shall acquire citizenship of the Republic of Armenia through a simplified procedure."

• Bulgaria. "Any person . . . whose descent from a Bulgarian citizen has been established by way of a court ruling shall be a Bulgarian citizen by origin."

• Finland. "The Finnish Aliens Act provides for persons who are of Finnish origin to receive permanent residence. This generally means Karelians and Ingrian Finns from the former Soviet Union, but United States, Canadian or Swedish nationals with Finnish ancestry can also apply."

• Germany. "German law allows persons of German descent living in Eastern Europe to return to Germany and acquire German citizenship." My understanding is that this German descent may go back many generations. (Note that until recently, Germany's citizenship law was less liberal than Israel's, in that it did not allow people who were not ethnic Germans, including Turks who had lived in Germany for generations, to be become citizens.)

• Greece. " 'Foreign persons of Greek origin' who neither live in Greece nor hold Greek citizenship nor were necessarily born there, may become Greek citizens by enlisting in Greece's military forces."

Wikipedia provides a several other examples, none of which seem to ever raise the same questions about the legitimacy of the states involved as the Law of Return does for Israel.
Bernstein also notes the difference between Israel and these other countries in having a Right of Return: Hitler's attempted--and partially successful--genocide, Stalin's attempt that was pre-empted only by his death, and the history of violence both attempted and successful over the centuries requires the need of a homeland where Jews can find a refuge.

Even as that refuge itself is under attack.

Crossposted at Israpundit

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1 comment:

Jack Steiner said...

I read a similar post here.