Appeals court hears Jerusalem passport case

Appeals court hears Jerusalem passport case

Lawyer for Jewish plaintiffs argue their son’s birthplace should be listed as within Israel

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A US appeals court panel heard arguments on whether Americans born in Jerusalem can list Israel as their place of birth on passports and birth certificates.

Attorney Nathan Lewin, representing a couple that had moved to Israel in 2000 from the United States and had a child born in a western Jerusalem hospital, argued before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday that listing one’s place of birth is simply a matter of self-identification — the same as listing height, or eye or hair color — and should carry no further weight.

Those born in Jerusalem now have the city listed rather than the country like other US passports.

US Department of Justice attorney Dana Kaersvang told the three-judge panel, however, that all information on a passport must be consistent with US policy, and that because the State Department has refused since 1967 to recognize Jerusalem as being in Israel, one born in the city cannot list Israel as the place of birth.

Lewin called the State Department’s ruling “clearly discriminating” in that it allows one born in Tel Aviv to list Israel as the place of birth. Arabs living in Israel can request to have West Bank or Gaza listed on their passports. Only those born in Jerusalem cannot chose to substitute the city of his birth for Israel.

He also said, “You can say Palestine, a country that doesn’t even exist, but God forbid, don’t put Israel if you were born in Jerusalem.”

Kaersvang explained that the government allows anyone to list a city or town as a place of birth. However, she said, it is up to the US government to decide what is and what is not a sovereign state.

Lewin told the judges that a ruling to allow Israel to be listed on a passport by one born in Jerusalem “could not possibly affect foreign policy.”

“It does not say Jerusalem is in Israel,” he said. “It does not say Jerusalem comma Israel.”

But Judge David Tatel said such a listing “can have recognition consequences.”

A decision on Tuesday’s hearing is not expected for several months.

The US Supreme Court returned the case to the appeals court one year ago, saying the appeals court must rule on the constitutionality of a law enacted by Congress in 2002 that said the State Department “shall” list Israel on a passport if it is requested.

The case began eight years ago when Ari and Naomi Siegman Zivotofsky went to court to be able to list Israel on their baby son’s passport. The couple had moved from Silver Spring, Md., to Israel in 2000.

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Become a member of The Times of Israel Community
read more: