B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith is critical of the Supreme Court ruling announced Monday that strikes down a long-disputed law allowing Jerusalem-born Americans to list Israel as their birthplace on U.S. passports.
Countries have the right to determine their own capital city, and Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
The court’s ruling, however, effectively brings into question whether Jerusalem is even part of Israel. The ruling could allow for an interpretation that even West Jerusalem, whose status has never been disputed even by the United Nations, could be up for negotiation.
This ruling deprives American citizens from listing their rightful birthplace on an official document.
Nearly two years ago, we spoke against an appeals court decision declaring unconstitutional a 2002 law that allowed Americans born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birth country. At the time, that court considered the matter to be one of foreign policy—noting it was the domain of the executive branch.
In an amicus brief at the time, B'nai B'rith and other Jewish organizations argued that the law was in fact constitutional because passport information is merely for identification and not to be interpreted as a statement of U.S. foreign policy.
Ari Zivotofsky and Naomi Siegman Zivotofsky, parents of their Jerusalem-born son Menachem, fought for more than decade to convince the U.S. State Department to allow their son to list Israel as his place of birth on his passport, citing the 2002 law passed by Congress. Though the law was signed, it was never implemented due to State Department concerns that indicating “Israel” as the birthplace of a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem would amount to an official U.S. statement about Jerusalem’s status.
A passport is a document of identification and not a statement of foreign policy. The U.S. government should not prevent American citizens born in Jerusalem from declaring on their personal documents that Israel is their country of birth.