WASHINGTON – Jewish and pro-Israel groups in the United States are expressing
outrage over a federal appeals court decision on Monday that confirmed the
inability of American citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their
birthplace on their passports.
In the case, Zivotofsky v. the Secretary
of State, the court did not rule on the merits concerning the specific case of
Jerusalem, but ruled that the president retains the ability to determine
sovereignty over Congress based on constitutional grounds. In other words, under
the Constitution, Congress does not have the power to pass laws that supersede
the president’s foreign policy powers.
Congress has pushed against the
White House through several administrations, hoping to change US policy on the
status of Jerusalem. However, the State Department, through both Democratic and
Republican administrations, has refused to directly declare Jerusalem the
Israeli capital or indirectly declare the city Israeli territory through
“The court has effectively given a stamp of approval
to the offensive State Department policy that singles out Israel for ‘special’
treatment,” declared Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti- Defamation
“All other American citizens born abroad may choose to list a
city or area of birth instead of a country,” he continued.
Taiwan-born US citizens are permitted to identify Taiwan as their birthplace,
despite protests from China.”
The Israeli Embassy in Washington declined
to comment on the decision.
The provision that the court declared
unconstitutional – Section 214(d) of the 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization
Act – states that when a US citizen is born in Jerusalem, “the Secretary [of
State] shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian,
record the place of birth as Israel.”
In an amicus brief, however, the
American Jewish Committee argued that Section 214(d) was indeed constitutional –
and it expects the case to be appealed to the US Supreme Court.
United States position on the status of Jerusalem has long been at odds with the
strong views of the Jewish community but we hope and believe that this law –
which leaves 50,000 Americans without an official birth country – will be
reinstated by the Supreme Court and enforced by the State Department,” said
Michael Siegal, chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America’s board of
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America said that
Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital was a “factual reality,” and expressed
its support as well for an appeal to the Supreme Court.