US, Germany, Austria urged to give citizenship to hostages held by Hamas to save their lives

Amid Israel’s efforts to rescue over 200 held captive by Hamas, including Americans, Jewish groups want Western countries to issue citizenship to the hostages to help save lives.

US, Germany, Austria urged to give citizenship to hostages held by Hamas to save their lives

A who’s who of leading American Jewish organizations and one of Israel’s top counterterrorism experts on Sunday appealed to the U.S., Germany and Austria to issue citizenship to the over 200 hostages held by the terrorist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The U.S.- and EU-designated terrorist organization Hamas took the hostages as part of its massacre of 1,400 people, including Americans, on Oct. 7 in southern Israel.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the New York City-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL), told Fox News Digital, "The idea of issuing emergency citizenship and passports to hostages is not just a good idea for Germany and Austria, but is one that other nations, including the United States, should explore immediately. It is a moral imperative to utilize every tool in the toolbox to get these hostages out of the hands of Hamas terrorists and to safety."

A State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, "We have been clear that all hostages should be immediately and unconditionally released. We are not going to go into details about ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages in Gaza, including Americans."

The spokesperson concluded, "U.S. law does not permit the issuance of a U.S. passport to individuals who are not documented U.S. citizens or do not have a claim to U.S. citizenship. We are available to provide all appropriate consular assistance to U.S. citizen hostages."

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) announced it "is urging Germany and Austria to take a leadership role and grant joint citizenship to Israelis that are currently held captive by Hamas."

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of global social action at the SWC, said, "Every effort must be made to release innocent Israelis taken captive by Hamas. While the European Union meets to discuss so-called humanitarian pause, Germany and Austria should work to strengthen their show of support for Israel and grant dual citizenship as soon as possible."

The Wiesenthal Center, which was named after the legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, wrote that the terrorist group Hamas "announced they will deal separately with Israelis who have joint citizenship."

Yigal Carmon, the president and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Media Research Institute, told Fox News Digital with respect to Austria and Germany, "They should do what Raoul Wallenberg and others did during WW2. Now it is the time that the governments should be Wallenberg and save Jews because Hamas said they will only release hostage with double citizenships."

Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of at least 20,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. He issued "protective passports" to the Jews who were identified as Swedish subjects to be repatriated. 

There is a more recent precedent for granting emergency citizenship to hostages. In 2018, Sweden granted citizenship to the Iranian hostage Ahmadreza Djalali, a medical doctor and lecturer at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, He was arrested in 2016 in Iran and later convicted of espionage, in what was widely considered a show trial.

When asked about the requests from the ADL, Wiesenthal and Carmon, the Austrian Foreign Ministry told Fox News Digital its government understands the "wish to help the hostages held in Gaza. Austrian law does not provide for the possibility of granting citizenship to foreign nationals with no nexus to Austria. Austrian law is not unique in this respect."

The ministry added, "Austria stands in full solidarity with Israel in its fight against the terrorist organization Hamas that attacked Israel in unprecedented brutality. Hamas is since using hostages, among them an Austrian-Israeli dual citizen, as well as the Palestinian civilian population, as human shields."

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and the federal republic’s ambassador in Israel, Steffen Seibert, did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital press queries. 

The family of the German hostage Jamshid Sharmahd, who is defined as a U.S. citizen under the Levinson Act, according to the family’s attorney, due to his residency in California, has sharply criticized the Biden administration and the German Foreign Ministry for abandoning him.

The Levinson Act defines a "United States national" as a "lawful permanent resident with significant ties to the United States." According to the State Department, the definition applies to non-U.S. citizens.

Germany’s government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz says it stands on the side of Israel and claims that, since 2008, Israel’s security is Germany's Staatsräson (raison d'etre). For many veteran observers of the German-Israel relationship, the litmus test for Berlin’s pledge to the security of the Jewish state is the current Iran-backed Hamas war against Israel.

The Israeli Tazpit Press Service (TPS) reported on Monday, "Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced it had confirmed the death of Shani Louk, a 23-year-old German-Israeli national who was taken captive by Hamas terrorists from a music festival during the terror group’s Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel."

TPS further reported that Scholz condemned her murder. "The news of Shani Louk’s death is terrible. Like many others, she was brutally murdered. This shows the full barbarity behind the Hamas attack – who must be held accountable. This is terror, and Israel has the right to defend itself."

On Friday, Germany faced criticism for voting for an alleged anti-Israel U.N. resolution. The resolution called for an immediate cease-fire that would, according to Israel and military experts, stop Israel’s efforts to root out the Hamas terrorist movement in the Gaza Strip. 

Austria voted with the United States against the resolution, which did not name Hamas terrorism.

Israel has urged European countries, including Germany and the U.K., to sanction Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Those requests have so far not been ignored. The Trump administration classified the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization in 2019. Fox News Digital reported that the late IRGC Gen. Qassem Soleimani laid the foundation for the massacre of 1,400 people on Oct. 7.