Poland gives out record numbers of passports to Israelis

Embassy data, released at request of far-right party, shows over 20,000 naturalization applications approved since 2010, marking a 250% increase

Cnaan Liphshiz is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

In this Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, photo, people wait outside the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
In this Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, photo, people wait outside the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

JTA — More than 20,000 Israelis have obtained Polish citizenship in the years 2010-2017 — an increase of more than 250 percent over the previous seven years.

The data, released last month by the embassy of Poland in Israel, on the approval of naturalization applications by Israelis to the Polish embassy in Israel show that 10,820 Israelis became Poles during the years 2015-2017 alone — slightly more than in the years 2002-2010 combined.

The data came from the Polish foreign ministry following a query by Marek Jakubiak, a lawmaker for the far-right Kukiz’15 movement who is representing the party in the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament.

The far-right news site Polonia Christiana and others noted that the most dramatic increase occurred in 2015, when the number of Israelis who received Polish passports in any calendar year crossed for the first time ever the 3,000 threshold. In 2015, the nationalist Law and Justice party of President Andrzej Duda became the ruling party.

In total, in the years 2002-2017 the embassy issued 28,736 passports to Israeli applicants.

Poland is a member state of the European Union and its citizens may work and settle anywhere in that union’s 28 member states.

About 200,000 Jews and their relatives left Poland in the 20 years that followed Israel’s creation in 1948 amid widespread expressions of anti-Semitism, at times with the encouragement of Poland’s puppet rulers, who were controlled by the Soviet Union.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and his wife, Sara, host Polish President Andrzej Duda (second from right) and his wife, Agata Kornhauser, at the president’s residence in Jerusalem on January 18, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

In January, Poland’s parliament passed a government-backed law that briefly criminalized blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes. In June, an amendment was introduced that replaced the threat of criminal charges for perpetrators with the prospect of facing lawsuits in civil courts. The legislation of the original law triggered the worst diplomatic row that Poland has had with Israel since the fall of communism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February condemned the law as dangerous to historical research. Netanyahu called one statement by his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, defending the law “outrageous.”

Poland and Israel buried the hatchet in June, releasing a joint declaration that acknowledged that some Poles collaborated with the Nazis in the Holocaust whereas others risked their lives to save Jews.

Jonny Daniels, the Israeli founder of the From the Depths Holocaust commemoration group in Poland, acknowledged that many Israelis with Polish roots probably became Polish citizens for the benefits this offers. But, he insisted, it nonetheless demonstrates how Poles and Israelis are joint by ties that he said transcend the issues exposed by the legislation.

“Polish-Israeli relations despite of political fallouts are not only growing in terms of the increased amount of Israel’s applying for and receiving Polish citizenship, but we are also seeing for example a huge amount of increased tourism,” he said. Last summer “over 200,000 Israelis visited Poland for shopping, food tourism and fun. These facts prove that cultural and national ties are continuing to grow and blossom,” he said.

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