Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Born in the USA. Not.

In its decision on the case Zivotofsky v Kerry (13-628, read it here), the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional part of a federal law that allowed Americans born in Jerusalem to claim "Israel" as their place of birth in their passports.

You may not care much about the issue of what place of birth is shown in your passport, but this case has major implications. Congressional conservative supporters of Israel strongly supported the current law because it allowed them to give a de facto recognition to Jerusalem as part of (if not the capitol of) Israel ... while it has been official US government policy for more than 60 years that no single state has full sovereignty over that city.

The larger political issue (as if ownership of the most contested city in the world isn't enough) is this: who controls foreign policy? Is it the President or is it Congress?

I would argue that it's a shared responsibility (as is all of government), but that the government needs to speak with one voice - and that's the President's ... informed and advised, but not undermined, by Congress. The Constitution doesn't say much about the subject*, merely implying the ability to recognize foreign governments by giving the President the authority to "appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls" (see Article II, Section 2).

The debate over this decision will go on, much of it silly** and unreservedly partisan rather than thoughtful and reasoned. But there's one other aspect of the whole sad affair that really bothers me, considering that it was based on the notation of "place of birth" in a United States passport ... this statement by 12 year-old Menachem Zitofsky, whose passport was the original issue:

"I'm an Israeli, and I want people to know that I'm glad to be an Israeli."

Well, then, young man, I suggest you move to Israel and get yourself an Israeli passport. If you don't want to be an American, you don't belong here holding the same passport carried by US soldiers who have bled and died for their country, and wasting the time of a Supreme Court that has better things to do than validate your desire to be an Israeli.

End of rant.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Oddly enough.

** As in Justice Scalia's cogent observation that "the fact that the State Department doesn't like the fact that it makes the Palestinians angry is irrelevant."


eViL pOp TaRt said...

The whole thing is bizarre. What were they thinking of when they wrote that law? I'm proud that my passport says "United States"; I'm a native! Thanks for making us aware of it.

Duckbutt said...

I wonder if the boy knew all of the implications of his word; or did he think of Being a Jew is equivalent to being an Israeli?

Gonzo Dave said...

I just came across the news item in question, and I have a minor correction - the *lawsuit* was twelve years old, not the plaintiff. Mr. Zitofsky's age wasn't given in the article I saw.

Bilbo said...

As I've read different versions of the story, they all seem to agree: the plaintiff is, in fact, about 12 years old (born in 2002), and his parents filed the suit on his behalf. Whether the President or Congress has the power of recognition dates to the drafting of the Constitution, and the issue of whether the United States recognizes Israeli (or anyone else's) sovereignty over Jerusalem dates back to about 1948.

Anemone said...

His place of birth is a fact. But I have a problem with how he identifies himself. In my view, you're either an American or you are not.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Oye to the vey and then some.

Chuck Bear said...

If he was born to American parents, isn't he American?

Mike said...

Did not know this about Jerusalem. But then there are a lot of things I probably don't know about.

Bilbo said...

Chuck Bear - yes, he is. But the point is that he seems to think he's more Israeli than American.

Mike - not only you.