OU Welcomes Federal Appeals Court Ruling Allowing “Jerusalem Passport Litigation” to Continue

Posted on February 21, 2006 In Press Releases

Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America welcomed a ruling issued Friday, February 17, 2006 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit allowing a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department over its policy with regard to passports issued in Jerusalem to U.S. citizens to continue in the federal district court.

The ruling is in the case of Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State in which the parents of a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem are suing to have his place of birth listed in his U.S. passport as “Israel” consistent with legislation enacted by Congress. To date, the State Department has insisted upon listing the birthplace of citizens born in Jerusalem as just that, with no reference to the country of birth.

While citing longstanding precedent that the conduct of foreign policy, and “political recognition” of a nation’s sovereignty over particular territory is “exclusively a function of the Executive,” the appellate court did not rule in favor of the State Department and find this case to raise an insoluable “political question,” rather, the court remanded the case to the district court for further hearings and evidence. Questions to be explored include whether listing Israel in such passports would have a significant impact upon American foreign policy and the inconsistency between the passport policy and the issuance of death certificate’s by the American embassy in Tel Aviv which lists “Jerusalem, Israel” when appropriate.

In reaction to Friday’s ruling, Nathan Diament, director of public policy for the Union stated:

The Orthodox Union welcomes the ruling by the appeals court which will allow this litigation to continue. We do believe that the best course of action for all concerned would be for the U.S. Administration to withdraw from further litigation and to implement the sensible policy urged upon it by Congress on multiple occasions and simply have passports for U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem state their birth country as Israel.

The plaintiffs in the case are represented by noted Washington attorneys Nat Lewin and Alyza Lewin. The Orthodox Union joined with other organizations in supporting their effort through the filing of a “friend of the court” brief.