The case of Menachem Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State Clinton (No. 10-699) will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2011 and decided by the end of June 2012. At issue is the right of a Jerusalem-born American citizen to self identify as born in “Israel” on his or her U.S. passport.
For more information about the case, and to express your support, visit www.borninjerusalem.org, a website set up by the National Council of Young Israel and the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation.
At www.borninjerusalem.org you can:
1. Learn more about the case of Menachem Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State.
2. Send a letter to your U.S. Senators and Congressional Representatives urging them to sign an amicus brief that will be filed on August 5, 2011 in support of Zivotofsky on behalf of Members of Congress.
3. Add your voice to the case. If you are an American citizen born in Jerusalem who wishes to have your place of birth recorded on your U.S. passport as “Israel,” please go to www.borninjerusalem.org and join the ad-hoc Association of Proud American Citizens Born in Jerusalem, Israel. The Anti-Defamation League, together with the law firm of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C., is preparing an amicus brief to be filed in the Zivotofsky case on behalf of the ADL and the Association.
Did you know that the general rule for American citizens born abroad is that their U.S. passports list their country of birth as their place of birth? The only mandatory exception is for American citizens born in Jerusalem. The U.S. Department of State refuses to list “Israel” as the place of birth for American citizens born in Jerusalem because it claims that doing so would interfere with the President’s authority to “recognize foreign sovereigns.” Instead the State Department lists “Jerusalem” as the place of birth.
The State Department permits citizens born in Jerusalem or elsewhere in Israel before 1948 to list their place of birth as “Palestine.” Citizens born in the territories after 1948 have “West Bank” or “Gaza Strip” as their place of birth even though no American President has ever recognized such sovereigns. In addition, the State Department permits American citizens born in a city that is within the recognized boundaries of Israel such as Tel Aviv or Haifa to substitute the city of their birth if the person “object[s] to showing Israel….as their birthplace in the passport.” In other words, those who wish to remove “Israel” from their U.S. passports may go against the general rule and list their city of birth instead of their country of birth. But those born in Jerusalem who prefer that their passports follow the general rule (and list their country of birth as the place of birth) may not list “Israel” on their passports.
In 2002, Congress passed a law to rectify this inequity. The law required the State Department to list the place of birth on U.S. passports as “Israel” for those American citizens born in Jerusalem who request it. When the law was enacted, President George W. Bush issued a “signing statement” declaring that the law impermissibly interfered with his constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs so that he would not follow it.
Menachem B. Zivotofsky is an American citizen born in Jerusalem shortly after the law was passed. His parents requested that the place of birth on his U.S. passport be listed as “Israel.” The State Department refused, and instead listed “Jerusalem.” Nathan Lewin and Alyza D. Lewin of Lewin & Lewin, LLP, agreed to represent the Zivotofskys and have litigated the case pro bono for eight years. Their case has now made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments in November 2011.