Passports Aside, Yerushalayim Is in Israel


us-passportBy Jeffrey Goldberg

In 2002, at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, an American citizen named Naomi Zivotofsky gave birth to another American citizen, Menachem Zivotofsky.

It is the strong belief of both Naomi and her husband, Menachem’s father, Ari, that the Shaare Zedek Medical Center is located in the state of Israel. It was fairly easy for the Zivotofskys to discern that Shaare Zedek is located in the state of Israel. Maps — neutral maps, not maps produced by the Perfidious Zionist Entity — clearly show it to be in the state of Israel. When you walk outside Shaare Zedek, you are quite obviously in the state of Israel. Israel’s principal Holocaust memorial is half a mile away. Its main military cemetery is close as well. Israel’s parliament sits two miles away, as does the office of its prime minister. Since the rebirth of the Jewish state, in 1948, the land under Shaare Zedek has been part of Israel.

So when the Zivotofskys received Menachem’s U.S. passport, they were disturbed to see that his birthplace was listed as simply “Jerusalem,” not “Jerusalem, Israel.” This was not a clerical error. It is the belief of the executive branch of the U.S. government that Israel’s claim of sovereignty to any part of Jerusalem is in dispute. The long-held view is that Jerusalem’s final disposition will have to await the outcome of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Zivotofskys disagree with this view, and so does Congress, which in 2002 enacted a law that demanded that the executive branch record the births of such Americans as Menachem Zivotofsky as taking place in “Jerusalem, Israel,” should the parents ask for this designation. But the State Department has refused to respect this demand.

The Zivotofskys sued, and, after years of litigation, the Supreme Court has decided to hear their case. The court will be ruling on whether Congress has the power to override the executive branch’s foreign-policy decisions. This is a fascinating, and possibly momentous, question, but it is not my question today.

My question is this: Why does the U.S. acquiesce to the fiction that Jerusalem — in particular, West Jerusalem, which has been the seat of Israeli government since 1948 — may not actually belong to Israel?

The answer, unfortunately, is fear of extremist Islamist violence.

U.S. presidents, of course, visit Jerusalem with some regularity. They meet Israel’s prime ministers and presidents there. They speak before parliament. They even visit Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall, which, unlike Shaare Zedek, is on land that was captured from Jordan in the 1967 war.

No U.S. president has disavowed the obvious Jewish connection to Jerusalem. In fact, Bill Clinton blamed Yasser Arafat for the collapse of the Camp David peace process in 2000 after the Palestinian leader denied that Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is the historic location of the ancient Jewish Temple.

Barack Obama’s administration, in contesting the Zivotofskys’ lawsuit, has argued that acceding to their demand could “critically compromise the ability of the United States to work with Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region to further the peace process.”

If this view is indeed true, then there is no hope for the peace process. If Palestinians are unwilling to concede, as a matter of fact, that Israel has sovereignty over West Jerusalem, how will it be possible to convince them that Israel has sovereign rights over the area of the Western Wall, which sits in disputed territory? (Israel will probably give up sovereignty over the Western Wall at about the same time Saudi Arabia gives up control of Mecca.)

What is actually going on here is something else. As Seth Lipsky points out in Haaretz, the real question is the World War III question, first posed by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and designed to test the limits of congressional involvement in foreign policy making but reflecting a real concern of the executive branch. Sotomayor asked whether calamity would follow a U.S. decision to acknowledge that someone born in Jerusalem was born in Israel.

“Let’s assume that a dozen nations said this designation on the passport is — we view as an act of war; if the United States is going to do this, we’re going to view it as an act of war,” Sotomayor said. “Would that then permit the president to ignore Congress …”

Again, the separation-of-powers issue is not what concerns me at the moment. What concerns me is the widespread assumption that a U.S. decision to state openly that Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center is located in Israel could lead to a collapse of the already-collapsing peace process or, worse, bloodshed across the Middle East. There may be merit to the latter assumption; it is certainly not Sotomayor’s idea alone. In the recent past, Islamist extremists have rioted and committed murder over cartoons they deemed to have been blasphemous, so there is no particular reason to believe they wouldn’t react poorly to the tacit recognition by the U.S. that Jerusalem — at least its western half — is part of Israel.

But what does it say about us, that we allow the fear of violence to make us deny what is true?


{ Newscenter}


  1. If Jerusalem is not in Israel, then we can say Wash DC is not part of the United States, for it is not a state, it is not a territory, etc., therefore anyone born in Wash DC needs special papers and cannot have born in Wash DC as a birth place in the passport or on their birth certificate. They can say they are just born in the United States and not have a specific place named.

  2. I think you missed an important issue: the Vatican’ position on Jerusalem, which if I remember correctly, places great doctrinal import on the Jews not having sovereignty on the city

  3. Great point, number 1.
    Anyone who doesn’t think Yerushalayim is in Eretz Yisrael needs to have his head, and his bible, examined.

    By Evelyn Hayes,
    Author of the Plague Series because their hearts were softened to accept the unacceptable.
    © February 24, 2014
    I pretended I did not see.
    I pretended I did not hear.
    I pretended I did not know.
    I pretended I wasn’t there.
    I pretended I was not we.

    And I saw the bullying, the slandering, the intimidating, the vicious thuggery-
    So smug and cruel
    Against the rules.

    I pretended it wasn’t so bad.
    I pretended there was some glad.
    I pretended they were right.
    I pretended majority means truth -so what if they are uncouth!

    And I saw the ruthlessness, the abusiveness, the comradery against their ridiculed.
    Shame, I wasn’t a fool:
    There was a duel against righteousness.

    I pretended as their brazenness got more evil, inconceivable, more provocative, more distasteful, less lawful.

    I pretended I was not responsible.
    I pretended I was not irresponsible.
    I pretended I was innocent; Just a bystander
    And I saw the sadness from their madness
    And I saw the tears from the jeering, jabbing, jabbering, damaging demented actions.
    And I saw no smiles nor gladness, just stress and strain, loneliness, loss,
    from such cruelty without restraint.
    And when I thought, “So Shameful” It was too late.

    The pain had been too great.
    It was too late.
    Because of the meanness of those ravaging against correctness,
    a royalty for such a gang created such dejectedness

    And I reflected: I could have interfered
    And there would have been another fate
    A better act than hate.
    But I had failed to react
    And I cried, tried to hide that I could have done something.
    I could have been a righteous friend
    And not let there be such an end to innocence, uniqueness, blessedness, dreams so grand.
    I could have stopped the recklessness, the offensive. oppressive. divisiveness of a misguided majority
    riding on the power of disempowerment for an unheavenly stake.

    If only I had done what I could, what I should have done
    Against what I saw, heard, witnessed, knew…
    I pretended and now I know I am guilty too.
    I would have made a difference if not pretending indifference.

    I pretended, but I was aware
    And I cared but did nothing
    And the victim is now nothing, is no more. Is no more.
    I failed the test of reaction, action.
    I did not give support. I did not retort. I did not report the crime.
    I did not fight for right.
    I did not make an alliance against noncompliance, violence, wrong.
    I failed the test. Will I be next?