Beyond the Cusp

May 7, 2011

Supreme Court, State Department, and Jerusalem

The Supreme Court has chosen to hear the case of Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky vs. Clinton. This case derives from Menachem’s parents, Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky, lawsuit against the State Department to have their child’s birth certificate and related official papers to represent his birthplace as Jerusalem, Israel and not simply Jerusalem as the State Department insists. Supporting the parents’ demand to list their child’s birthplace as Jerusalem, Israel derives from a law passed in September 2002 by Congress instructing US officials to list the place of birth as Israel for children born in Jerusalem should the parents express such a desire. Menachem was born on Oct. 17, 2002, in Jerusalem, a month after the applicable law. The State Department argument stands on the claim that denoting the place of birth as Jerusalem, Israel would be tantamount to the Administration taking sides on the issue of Jerusalem in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The parents’ argument is simple; follow the law. But what about the State Department claim that the United States, as represented by the President and his administration, take a totally neutral position on the status of Jerusalem?

If one simply went by the near constant repetition by President Obama, many people in his Administration concerned with foreign policy, or some simply spouting their, and virtually every news report concerning Israel and the Palestinians, one would reach the conclusion that the United States is actually neutral or favors dividing Jerusalem. This idea is actually against legal definitions by law and by treaty on Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City. The 104th Congress on October 23, 1995 passed Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. Included in the act was for Jerusalem to remain an undivided city and for it to be recognized as the Capital of the State of Israel. President Clinton refused to sign the Jerusalem Embassy Act, so it went into law without his signature by a Constitutional avenue of the Bill remaining unsigned and not vetoed for ten days. Every President since the date of May 31, 1999 passed for moving the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has signed the opt out waiver moving the date back six months again and again and again. One might think that every President since May 31, 1999 has been taking the easy route avoiding what might be a tricky situation and thus the position the State Department claims that never has the United States recognized Jerusalem as the indivisible Capital of Israel. Then there is the law instructing the State Department to allow for the placing Jerusalem, Israel on birth certificates should the parents so desire.

But that is not the last of the legal obstructions the State Department is hurdling to avoid placing Israel after Jerusalem on Menachem’s birth certificate as requested by his parents. There exists another little item that derives from the Muslim tendency to change the name of cities that hold particular importance to the people of whom the Muslims have conquered. Some examples are Constantinople was renamed Istanbul, Spain was renamed Andalusia, Numerous cities in India were renamed, and in Israel we have Shechem renamed Nablus and most important to this story is Jerusalem called al-Quds by the Muslims. Since the Muslims call it al-Quds and the Jews call it Jerusalem, just by listing the place of birth as Jerusalem the State Department has already shown a preference for Israel. If the State Department were to be truly neutral they would have to put the city of birth as Jerusalem / al-Quds or al-Quds / Jerusalem, depending on which side they wish to favor by placing their name first. As long as they use Jerusalem, then they may as well go all the way and add Israel. This decision will not be half as interesting as the majority and minority opinions. I would almost feel robbed if the decision was 9-0, negating the need for two decisions to be written. I will watch this with interest.

Beyond the Cusp

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