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Organizations Appeal to Supreme Court Over 'Jerusalem' Passport

Three major umbrella organizations file amicus briefs to US Supreme Court, demanding US citizens born in Jerusalem be listed as Israelis.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 7/24/2014, 11:34 AM

US Passport Visa
US Passport Visa
Thinkstock

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has filed an amicus brief in Zivotofsky v. Kerry on Wednesday, calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to allow American citizens born in Jerusalem to have their place of birth listed as “Israel” on their American passports.

“Americans born in Jerusalem should be able to identify their country of birth on their passport in the same way other American citizens born abroad may do. That is what Congress has mandated,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. 

“The purpose of a passport is simply for identification and all that this law requires is a limited, ministerial act, and the Supreme Court should insist that the State Department follow the law.”

In its amicus brief, ADL argues that the State Department is failing to act in accordance with a law enacted by Congress and signed by the President that allows for citizens born in Jerusalem to record Israel as their country of birth. 

Joining the League’s brief are 13 other major American Jewish organizations and an ad hoc association representing American citizens born in Jerusalem.

“We are pleased to have assembled this broad-based coalition of Jewish organizations,” Mr. Foxman said.  “We are united in the belief that this is an issue that transcends Israeli-Palestinian politics. Allowing citizens to self-identify their place of birth as Israel cannot possibly infringe on the Executive Branch’s power.”

The suit asks the Court to direct the State Department to comply with the 2002 law which directs the Secretary of State, “upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, [to] record the place of birth as Israel.” 

The State Department manual currently provides that the passports of American citizens born in Jerusalem must say “Jerusalem,” reflecting official U.S. government policy regarding the unresolved status of Jerusalem.

Other organizations signing the brief include the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, B’nai B’rith International, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Hadassah, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Council of Jewish Women, the National Council of Young Israel, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Women of Reform Judaism, and the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) have also filed their own amicus briefs in the case, according to JNS.

Jerusalem: Israel's unrecognized capital

At the center of the struggle between the Congress and the presidency is Menachem Zivotofsky, who was born in Jerusalem in 2002 to two American parents.

His passport says "born in Jerusalem" but his parents want "Israel" added to the place of birth, putting them at odds with the State Department. 

Jerusalem is Israel's capital, but most of the international community refuses to recognize it as such. 

In 2002, president George W. Bush signed the bill declaring Israel as Jerusalemites' nationality into law, but he added a signed statement condemning it as unacceptable interference in the president's powers to conduct foreign policy.

In March 2012, the top court ruled that the Zivotofsky suit was legally admissible, without pronouncing on the underlying issue. 

After the case was thrown out twice - most recently, in June - the Court will decide this time whether the president alone has the authority to say who Jerusalem belongs to, in the eyes of the United States.

The Obama administration argued at a hearing in November 2011 that to list Israel as the country of birth would be tantamount to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the country.