SCOTUS Rules Jerusalem-Born Citizens Can’t Have Israel On Passports

by
Jessica Renae Buxbaum
U.S. Supreme Court rules that Israel is not allowed to be listed as place of birth on passports of Jerusalem -born citizens.

American passport

The United States Supreme Court struck down a disputed law on Monday that deemed it unconstitutional for Jerusalem-born Americans to list Israel as their place of birth on their passport. The historic 6-3 ruling is an important landmark decision for the Obama administration in not only dictating the president’s authority over foreign policy affairs, but also establishing the U.S.’s role as a neutral peacemaker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Justice Scalia gave the dissenting opinion and said the interpretation that the word Jerusalem on a passport is equivalent to recognizing Israel’s claims over the city was a "leap worthy of the Mad Hatter.

"The Jerusalem passport law has nothing to do with recognition," Scalia said.

The original policy enforced by Democratic and Republican presidents alike was for Americans born in Jerusalem to simply list “Jerusalem” as their place of birth without adding “Israel.”

The basis for this policy was so the U.S. would not takes sides in the ongoing conflict.

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Yet in 2002, Congress passed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, requiring the U.S. government to state “Jerusalem, Israel” on all passports of Jerusalem-born American citizens.

Former President George W. Bush ignored this ruling, claiming the president has sole authority in recognizing when a foreign country has control over land. President Obama has continued with this decision.

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But the parents of a Jerusalem-born 12-year-old boy, Menachem Zivitofsky, sued, demanding the president comply with the Congressional law.

"I am an Israeli and I want people to know that I am glad that I am an Israeli, and that I am not embarrassed by the fact that I am an Israeli,” Zivitofsky told reporters after the court hearing.

The State Department argued, however, that upholding the law would cause “irreversible damage” to America’s capability in influencing the region’s peace process.

Nabil Abu Rdaineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Reuters:

"This is an important decision which accords with international resolutions and the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly. This is a clear message that Israel occupies East Jerusalem as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip."

But Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat responded to the ruling, calling on Obama to publicly declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

“In days like these, when anti-Semites are trying to raise their heads and the BDS – which supports Hamas' positions – endangers world peace and denies Israel's right to exist, we expect the U.S. to strengthen Israel and recognize Jerusalem as its capital.”

Today's court decision marks an achievement in the U.S.'s growing momentum in recognizing Palestine as a state and further backlash against Israel for not doing so. 

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