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Rooted Cosmopolitans: Israelis with a European Passport – History, Property, Identity

Authors


  • This research was supported by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel-Aviv University. Thanks to Yinon Cohen, Yehouda Shenhav and Adriana Kemp for commenting on earlier versions of this paper. I also thank Katherine Verdery, Kim Scheppele, Nissim Mizrachi and the editors and reviewers of International Migration Review for their useful comments. Ph.D. student, Department of Sociology, Princeton University. Princeton, NJ 08540, USA; e-mail: yharpaz@princeton.edu.

Abstract

Over the past decade, a new and intriguing phenomenon developed in Israel: close to 60,000 Israelis applied for citizenship in the Central and Eastern European countries from which their families immigrated. Typically, these new dual citizens have no plans to “return” to Germany or Poland, nor do they feel any identification with their countries of origin. Instead, they are mainly interested in obtaining a “European Union passport” and in gaining potential access to the European common market. The paper presents statistics on this unconventional case of dual citizenship, surveys the historical and legal circumstances that produced it and uses material from interviews to explore the meanings and uses that European-Israeli dual citizens attribute to their European passports. Dual citizenship, the findings show, is used by Israelis in various and sometimes unexpected ways: as enhancer of economic opportunities, “insurance policy,” intergenerational gift, and even as an elitist status symbol. This modality of state belonging can be termed “passport citizenship”: Non-resident citizenship here is stripped of its national meaning and treated as an individual piece of property, which is embodied by the passport and obtained for pragmatic reasons.

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