JNS - The Jewish News Syndicate cited B'nai B'rith International's response to a potential policy change that would allow Jerusalem-born American citizens to list "Jerusalem, Israel" as their place of birth on their passports.
(August 29, 2019 / JNS) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that the Trump administration is considering allowing U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to list “Jerusalem, Israel” on their U.S. passports.
“We’re constantly evaluating the way we handle what can be listed on passports,” he told JNS in a wide-ranging interview. “It’s something that’s actively being looked at.”
Despite the United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv months later, Americans born in Jerusalem are still unable to list “Jerusalem, Israel” on U.S. passports.
“The president has made clear that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to final-status negotiations between the [Israelis and the Palestinians],” a State Department spokesperson told JNS in October. “We have not changed our practice regarding place of birth on passports or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad at this time.”
Pro-Israel organizations responded positively to JNS regarding the development.
B’nai B’rith International CEO and executive vice president Dan Mariaschin said “it’s encouraging news. This is a logical follow-on to moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and in the process, corrects a historical wrong which denied this designation for over seven decades.”
“The [U.S.] Supreme Court has determined that the passport issue is within the purview of the administration, which has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” said American Zionist Movement president Richard Heideman. “It is most appropriate for passports for those born in Jerusalem, such as my three grandchildren born at Hadassah Hospital, to be listed as born in Jerusalem, Israel and not simply born in Jerusalem as if they were stateless, which they are not.”
Jerusalem, said Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel, is the “eternal and undivided capital of Israel. This should be reflected in all aspects of relevant U.S. policy, including on passports of U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem, Israel.”
“This is a very important and significant decision which affirms the long-standing fact that Jerusalem is Israel and isn’t in “dispute,’” said Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks. “Once again, President Trump and his administration enacts a policy that the Jewish community has long sought and underscores why he’s the most pro-Israel President in history.”
Sarah Stern, founder and president of Endowment for Middle East Truth, said “it’s about time that people who have been born in Jerusalem, Israel should have their state listed on a passport. We applaud Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for seriously considering it. It’s outrageous that only American citizens born in Jerusalem have remained stateless for so long even with the U.S. embassy moved to Jerusalem.”
“The National Council of Young Israel supported the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 and have long advocated for U.S. Passports of Americans born in Jerusalem to say Jerusalem, Israel,” said the group’s president, Farley Weiss. “Listing Jerusalem, Israel on U.S. passports is a natural extension of the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
“It is long overdue that this is corrected,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. “It is unfair to the Americans born in Jerusalem that their passports do not recognize the state. It does not prejudge or compromise the US position; it compliments U.S. law that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann said, “We have long advocated that those who were born in Jerusalem can list Israel as their place of birth for their U.S. passports.”
Gauging the response of Arab countries
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Zivotofsky v. Kerry that it is solely the president who has the power to recognize foreign entities in accordance with the U.S. Constitution’s Reception Clause.
“Zivotofsky ruled in favor of the executive; he was not required to comply with the federal law,” constitutional scholar Ilya Shapiro previously told JNS. “Trump, like Obama, can decline to stamp ‘Israel’ on the passport of a citizen born in Jerusalem.”
Washington-based geopolitical strategist and diplomacy consultant John Sitilides told JNS on Thursday that the “passport designation decision is rather unsurprising—more of an inevitable matter of when than of will, given the Trump Administration’s December 2017 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
“What will be most noteworthy going forward are several paramount questions. What will be the response of Arab countries such Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco that are tentatively supporting the Trump administration’s efforts to advance a breakthrough Israeli-Palestinian peace plan to include negotiations on Jerusalem’s final municipal boundaries?
“Did the White House first notify these countries of its impending decision to gauge and ensure their continued support for the peace plan effort?” he posed. “And will this decision help Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu prevail in upcoming Israeli elections?”
The next round of Israeli elections will be held on Sept. 17, after the April 9 first round failed to result in a coalition government.
Bloomberg Opinion covered B'nai B'rith's condemnation of a pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) social media post from the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Criticism from Jewish groups ultimately led to the resignation of the museum's director.
Sept. 1 is the deadline to apply for the post of director of the Berlin Jewish Museum. It could be the toughest job in the world: It involves maneuvering between the interests of the German government, the country’s Jewish community, international Jewish organizations, the Israeli government and diverse groups within academia. The previous director, Peter Schaefer, who resigned under pressure on June 14, failed to find the right balance.
The museum, Europe’s largest of its kind, attracts some 650,000 visitors a year. It’s housed in several buildings including a stunning modern one designed by Daniel Libeskind and built in 2001. The funding comes mainly from the state, and the board of the foundation that runs the museum is headed by Monika Gruetters, the German government’s commissioner for culture and media. At the same time, and perhaps in part for this reason, it’s watched scrupulously by much of the Jewish world: Any German government undertaking that has to do with Jewish history would be.
Schaefer, who isn’t Jewish, got interested in Judaism via Catholic theology and became one of the country’s top Jewish studies scholars, heading up the first department specializing in the discipline to be reestablished since World War II, at Berlin’s Free University. After he took over the museum in 2014, some of his moves were viewed warily by Jewish activists. He was criticized for inviting a Palestinian scholar to deliver a lecture at the museum; for giving a personal tour to an Iranian diplomat who then delivered an anti-Israeli tirade; for putting on an exhibition about Jerusalem that prompted an angry letter from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, calling on her to defund the museum.
But he ended up being forced to quit – “to prevent further damage” to the museum, as the official explanation went – because of a tweet he hadn’t even written (the museum’s publicist, who had, was fired, too). Actually, it was a retweet – of an article in the daily Die Tageszeituung about a statement signed by 240 Israeli and Jewish academics that criticized a German parliament resolution branding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as anti-Semitic. The movement, a loose alliance of groups that condemn Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs and maintain a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements on the West Bank, denies accusations of anti-Semitism and argues that its quarrel is with the Israeli government, not Jewry. The academics, including prominent Israeli scholars, mostly from the left side of the political spectrum, argued that BDS has a right to its pro-Palestinian stance.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany decided the retweet, complete with a #mustread hashtag, went too far. “The cup is full,” it tweeted. “The Berlin Jewish Museum appears completely out of control. Under these circumstances one must consider whether the description ‘Jewish’ is still justified.” B’nai B’rith International, the global Jewish organization, joined the criticism. Eight days after the tweet, Schaefer stepped down: His apologies and explanations that the museum didn’t actually express support for the academics’ statement were deemed insufficient.
In an interview with Der Spiegel shortly before his resignation, Schaefer explained that in his view, the museum is Jewish in the sense that it deals with Jewish culture and history, “not because we aim to be a Jewish institution in the sense that we belong to the Jewish community and are its mouthpiece [...] not to mention the Israeli state.”
The question is, however, whether an institution linked to the German government can afford to take such a stance. In the context of Germany’s history with Jews, any attempt at neutrality is understandably taken as a flashback to the Nazi past.
In the 1970s and 1980s, as the U.S. planned the opening of a Holocaust memorial in Washington, the German government worked feverishly to make sure it wouldn’t be “anti-German.” It was important to the governments of Chancellors Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl that the U.S., Germany’s biggest ally at the time, make a clear distinction between the Nazis and modern Germany. The official German concept of memory and repentance has changed a lot since then, to the chagrin of far-right politicians and some old-school conservatives. Berlin got its own Holocaust memorial and a permanent exhibition, the Topography of Terror, to document the atrocities of the Nazi secret police. But the words “Jewish” and “Berlin” in the name of an institution still make a sensitive mixture.
This begs the question of whether the German government hasn’t been overconfident in playing such a visible role in the running of the Berlin Jewish Museum. With all the politicians on its board, the institution cannot but take on the role of a government policy instrument. In today’s Germany, integrating a growing Muslim population and trying to keep the peace between Muslim immigrants and Jews is an important policy objective, and it calls for a more ecumenical approach to Middle Eastern history than understandably wary Jewish organizations are willing to accept. Add to this the natural tension between the city’s leftist bent and Netanyahu’s hard-right agenda, and it seems clear that any director will have a hard time making a go of it.
One possible solution would be for the government to remove its representatives from the museum’s board and leave its management to a mix of intellectuals and Jewish community representatives. This doesn’t mean cutting the state funding – continuing with these contributions is part of what any German government must do. But a Jewish museum in Berlin doesn’t necessarily have to be seen as a state cultural institution; rather, it should reflect the historical perspectives, the thinking, the arguments, the contradictions within Berlin’s Jewish and Jewish studies communities. That might give the next director a little more leeway to be creative rather than overcautious.
The Jerusalem Post wrote about B'nai B'rith's participation in a Birthright-style trip for diverse Diaspora communities.
Jews, Greeks and Cypriots all have large Diaspora communities, and 12 members of those communities are currently on a Birthright-type program to Israel, Greece and Cyprus in an effort to forge bonds between the communities, and also strengthen ties between the three countries.
The 12 – five Jews, two Greeks and five Cypriots from the US, Britain and Australia – flew to Athens from Tel Aviv on Saturday night, after spending four days in Israel meeting government officials and touring sites. They will do the same in Greece and then in Cyprus.
The idea, said Yigal Palmor, head of the Jewish Agency’s international relations unit, is that “they discover the things that are in common and concerns of their communities in each country – what they have in common in living in the Diaspora. And when they understand what they have in common, they will cooperate, strengthening their communications and with the homeland.”
As ties between the communities get close abroad, he said, this will also help strengthen ties between the three countries as well.
Among the issues that were discussed were questions of dual loyalty, intermarriage and misunderstandings that exist about each community outside of the homeland.
The Greek diaspora is estimated at some 5.5 million people, mainly in the US but also with large communities in Britain, Germany, France, Australia and Canada. The Cypriot diaspora is estimated at about one million people, mostly in Great Britain, the US and Australia.
The funding for the project was split between the three countries, with the Jewish Agency and B’nai B’rith paying for the airplane tickets of the Jews on the trip and the cost of the hosting the entire delegation in Israel, the Greeks paying for the airfare of the Greek participants and the costs of the trip to Greece, and Cyprus doing the same for the Cypriots and the itinerary in Cyprus.
Palmor said that while the focus now is on Israel, Greece and Cyprus, the hope is that the project will be expanded to include other countries as well.
The project is an outgrowth of a first-of-its-kind conference on Diaspora-Homeland relations held in Jerusalem in 2017, attended by representatives from 31 countries.
That conference, hosted by the Jewish Agency in partnership with the Foreign Ministry and the Knesset, was held – as a communique said at the time – in light of a growing realization that “many countries have become aware of the importance of their national diasporas, and of strengthening ties between members of those diasporas and their homelands. The idea of transforming the national diaspora into an inseparable part of the nation and sometimes into a strategic asset is gradually becoming part of the political consciousness in many countries.”
That seminar dealt with questions such as how to make the homeland real for younger generations living thousands of miles away, and how to impart the importance of maintaining ties between the homeland and the diaspora.
Among the countries with significant diasporas that took part were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Russia and Vietnam.
Palmor said that Greece and Cyprus showed the most interest at the conference, sending the most senior officials – with Greece sending a deputy foreign minister in charge of relations with his country’s expatriate community, and Cyprus a presidential commissioner for Cypriots oversees.
With ties between the three countries flourishing, Palmor said, the Greeks and Cypriots suggested making diaspora cooperation part of the trilateral cooperation between the countries.
Prior to the trilateral summit held by the heads of government in Beersheba in 2018, Jewish Agency head Isaac Herzog met in Nicosia with Greece’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Terens Quick, and with Presidential Commissioner for the Cypriot Diaspora Photis Photiou, to expand the cooperation between the countries’ diaspora communities.
Agreement at that meeting was reached to organize the joint “roots” trip for Jews, Greeks and Cypriots living in their respective diasporas that is currently under way.
The Jerusalem Post cited B'nai B'rith International's response to the news that Israel barred U.S. Congress members Ilan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering Israel due to their support for the BDS movement.
WASHINGTON - Israel's decision to bar Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, from the radical wing of the Democratic party, from entering Israel is continuing to send shock waves in Washington, while political leaders from both sides of the spectrum are continuing to react in favor for or against the decision.
Former Vice President and current Democratic hopeful, Joe Biden, criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision and tweeted, "I have always been a stalwart supporter of Israel—a vital partner that shares our democratic values. No democracy should deny entry to visitors based on the content of their ideas—even ideas they strongly object to. And no leader of the free world should encourage them to do so."
Another Democratic hopeful, Senator Kamala Harris, posted a tweet, saying: "I don't believe any nation should deny entry to elected Members of Congress, period. It's an affront to the United States. Open and engaged foreign relations are critical to advancing U.S. interests. Trump is playing politics as he weakens our global leadership."
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a member of Omar and Tlaib's "squad," tweeted that she will not schedule any visit to Israel until the two would be allowed to visit the country. "Netanyahu's discriminatory decision to ban members of Congress from Israel harms international diplomacy. Visiting Israel and Palestine are key experiences towards a path to peace," she added.
Republican Senator Susan Collins joined the voices who supported letting the duo into the country and tweeted, "Israel should allow US Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to visit. The Trump administration made a mistake in urging Israel to prevent them from entering the country."
"Instead," she added, "the Administration should have encouraged Israel to welcome the visit as an opportunity for Reps. Tlaib and Omar to learn from the Israeli people. We have to be willing to talk if we want people to change their views."
Republican Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-5), defended the decision and wrote that "Like many nations, Israel bars enemies from entering Israel. How can anyone disagree with that? Israel bans Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib because they hate, want to hurt, maybe even destroy, Israel. I respect and support Israel's sovereignty and right to exist."
B'nai B'rith International President Charles Kaufman and CEO Daniel Mariaschin issued a statement backing the decision, saying Israel should not tolerate those who are undermining its legitimacy.
"Israel has a policy that does allow the barring of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) supporters from entering the country," the two wrote.
"Israel's lawmakers have determined that its security needs warrant barring those who back boycotts of the country and who call for the end of Israel's existence as a Jewish state. As a vibrant democracy, Israel has so much to proudly showcase. But its basic right to existence, equality, and safety warrant respect by all, not least by those who visit."
"Countries, especially an acutely threatened one like Israel, may and must sometimes grapple with tension between openness and wellbeing. This is one such example," they added.
House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, who just concluded a visit to Israel, as a part of a bipartisan delegation, tweeted that "A record 70+ members of Congress—Republicans and Democrats— came to Israel this month with open minds, open eyes, and open ears. It's unfortunate that a few freshmen members declined to join this opportunity to hear from all sides. They should have come."
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