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Pro-Israel groups slam US court decision on Jerusalem passports
July 24, 2013 19:49
American Jewish Committee expects controversial ruling to be petitioned to the US Supreme Court.
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Western Wall. (photo

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.

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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 passport listings.

“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 League.

“All other American citizens born abroad may choose to list a city or area of birth instead of a country,” he continued.

“Even 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.

“The 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 trustees.

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.
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