Court hears Jerusalem passport case
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A U.S. 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 who moved to Israel in 2000 from the United States and whose child was born in a western Jerusalem hospital, argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on March 19 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.
Americans born in Jerusalem now have the city listed rather than the country like other U.S. passports.
Department of Justice attorney Dana Kaersvang told the three-judge panel, however, that all information on a passport must be consistent with U.S. 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 someone 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.
A decision is not expected for several months.
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. — jta
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