WASHINGTON (JTA) – A bipartisan slate of 58 members of Congress signed a friend-of-the-court brief in a case involving a 9-year-old boy who was born in Jerusalem but was denied a request to have Israel listed on his passport as his place of birth.
Menachem Zivotofsky was born in western Jerusalem to parents who are US citizens. Neither President Obama nor George W. Bush has allowed Israel to be listed as the child’s place of birth despite a 2002 federal statute that allows Americans born in Jerusalem to have Israel listed as their birthplace. Instead, his passport lists Jerusalem as his birthplace.
Rep. Howard Berman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the committee chairwoman, spearheaded the amicus brief that will be submitted to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is expected to be argued in November or December.
Menachem was born shortly after legislation allowing the State Department to use Israel as the place of birth for those born in Jerusalem. Both Bush and Obama have claimed that the law infringes upon a president’s authority to make foreign policy.
The case is going ahead after the Supreme Court in an 8-1 decision in March overruled lower court decisions that had contended that the judicial branch does not have authority over this area since it is not the courts’ place to determine foreign policy.
Berman on Tuesday called the case “critical.”
“American citizens born in Jerusalem should have the same right that citizens born anywhere else can enjoy — the right to have their birthplace accurately reflected on their passport,” he said.
Similar amicus briefs have been submitted by such groups as the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America and the American Association of Jewish Lawyers.