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ZOA Files Lawsuit Demanding Enforcement Of U.S. Law That “Jerusalem, Israel” Be Stamped On Passports Of U.S. Citizens Born In Jerusalem

ZOA October 30, 2003

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)’s Center for Law and Justice has filed a lawsuit in the federal district court in Washington, D.C. on behalf of an American couple living in Israel, contending that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the State Department are violating federal law by refusing to recognize their infant son’s birthplace as Jerusalem, Israel. At present, a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem has only the word “Jerusalem,” with no country listed, stamped on his passport as his or her place of birth.

In 2002, Congress passed a statute providing that United States citizens born in Jerusalem can choose to have “Israel” listed as their country of birth on their passports, registrations of birth, and other documents. President Bush signed the statute into law on September 30, 2002. The language of the statute is clear and mandates that the Secretary of State must make the listing on request. State Department officials have refused to comply with the law, citing U.S. policy concerns about the still-to-be-negotiated status of Jerusalem.

When Jocelyn and Dr. Dan Odenheimer applied for a passport and a registration of birth for their infant son Ephraim at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, they specifically requested that the documents list his birthplace as “Jerusalem, Israel.” Their request was refused; the documents listed only Jerusalem as Ephraim’s birthplace, with no reference to a country. When the error was brought to the attention of a consular officer, he refused to give his name and said, “Write whatever you want. Tel Aviv is Jerusalem, Jerusalem is Tel Aviv. I think you should write Jerusalem, U.S.A. That’s the truth.”

The ZOA’s suit on behalf of the Odenheimers alleges discrimination by the State Department against Israeli Americans in violation of the U.S. Constitution, and seeks to compel the State Department to comply with the law.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein stated, “Congress has clearly spoken in recognition of Jerusalem as a part of Israel. Americans born in Jerusalem, Israel are entitled to the same recognition of their nation of birth as any other American citizen born outside the United States. I was born in Gunzberg, Germany. My passport states both the city and country of my birth. American citizens born in Jerusalem, Israel deserve that same right and now U.S. law provides it. The State Department has no basis to substitute its judgment and blatantly disregard a clearly-worded law.”

Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the Director of ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, noted, “If President Bush had a basis to veto the legislation on foreign policy grounds, he should have done so. Instead, he signed it into law. The goals of this lawsuit affirm the principles of our Constitution — that Congress makes the law, and that our President and the executive branch of our government are bound to uphold and enforce it.”

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