Thou Shalt Not Deport? Religious Ethical Discourse and the Politics of Asylum in Poland and Israel

Agnieszka Bielewska, Nir Cohen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The chapter explores the use of religious ethical discourse to support more or less restrictionist state policies toward asylum seekers. Drawing on the cases of Israel and Poland, it examines how religion-based ethical narratives are mobilized instrumentally by political actors to advocate pro/anti-asylum policies. In recent years, both countries experienced a large inflow—or threat thereof—of asylum seekers from developing, Muslim-majority countries in Western Asia or Africa, which elicited a heated public debate. In addition, they both have relatively homogenous populations, and maintain an ethnicity-based citizenship regime (jus sanguinis), as well as strong relations between state and (institutionalized) religion, either Catholicism or (Orthodox) Judaism. Finally, a dominant narrative of national victimization is salient in both countries, which is critical for understanding the political debate over asylum policies. In light of these similarities, we analyze the political discourse in each country during the peak years of the crisis in order to show how religious arguments were employed to support pro/anti-asylum policies. We use secondary data obtained through the written and electronic media, showing that in both countries, the “otherness” of newcomers intersected with historical narratives of ethno-religious and national victimization, shaping a binary political discourse concerning the desired national policy toward asylum seekers. The paper concludes by drawing lessons about the ways in which ethical religious arguments shape contemporary migration discourse and policy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolitics of Citizenship and Migration
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePolitics of Citizenship and Migration
ISSN (Print)2520-8896
ISSN (Electronic)2520-890X

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Asylum seekers
  • Discourses
  • Ethics
  • Israel
  • Poland
  • Religion


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