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Press Release

ADL Deeply Disappointed in Appeals Court Decision Denying ‘Israel’ on Jerusalem-Born U.S. Citizen Passports

New York, NY, July 23, 2013 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed deep disappointment over a federal appeals court’s refusal to allow American citizens born in Jerusalem to list “Israel” as their place of birth on their American passport.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that permitting Jerusalem-born US citizens to identify Israel as their birthplace impermissibly infringes on the president’s exercise of the power to recognize foreign governments.

The lawsuit was brought in 2003 by Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky, whose son, Menachem, was born in Jerusalem and is a U.S. citizen.  In an amicus brief, ADL argued that the purpose of passports is for identification, and that the issuance of them does not establish or implement foreign policy.

More than a decade ago, Congress passed a law granting American citizens born in Jerusalem the right to have their passports and birth certificates identify Israel as their place of birth.  The State Department has refused to enforce the law, and currently only “Jerusalem” is listed on passports without a country.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

We are deeply disappointed that the court today refused to allow American citizens born in Jerusalem to list “Israel” as their place of birth on their American passport. The court failed to recognize the ministerial nature of this law and instead wrongly insisted that permitting this passport designation will somehow interfere with the president’s power to recognize a foreign sovereign.

The court has effectively given a stamp of approval to the offensive State Department policy that singles out Israel for “special” treatment.  All other American citizens born abroad may choose to list a city or area of birth instead of a country. Even Taiwan-born U.S. citizens are permitted to identify Taiwan as their birthplace, despite protests by China, the recognized sovereign over that territory. 

We firmly believe that Congress acted within its power when it gave individuals like the Zivotofskys the option to list their son’s place of birth as Israel. We hope the Supreme Court will now take up the case and compel the State Department to enforce this sensible law.

ADL led a coalition effort in this case, filing a brief on behalf of B’nai B’rith International, Hadassah, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, The Lawfare Project, National Council of Jewish Women, National Council of Young Israel, Union for Reform Judaism, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, and Association of Proud American Citizens Born in Jerusalem, Israel. 

The brief was prepared for ADL by the Boston office of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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