By: Morton A. Klein
August 10, 2011
After ZOA’s Supreme Court Amicus Brief In Jerusalem Passport Case Cited Many White House Web Site References To “Jerusalem, Israel” – White House Suddenly Removes “Israel”
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ZOA Condemns White House for
Transparent and Outrageous Tactic
On August 5, 2011, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a petition by Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, an American citizen born in Jerusalem who was denied his right under U.S. law to have “Israel” listed as his birthplace on his passport. In refusing to implement the law, the State Department claimed that enforcing it and listing “Israel” would infringe on the president’s foreign policy powers. The ZOA’s brief refuted that claim, showing that many departments and agencies in the Executive branch – including the Executive Office of the President – routinely refer to Jerusalem as part of Israel, without any evident impact on any presidential power, and thus listing “Israel” on a passport would have no such impact either. Recognizing the persuasive power of this aspect of the ZOA’s argument, the White House has engaged in a shameful and outrageous tactic, this week suddenly changing references to “Jerusalem, Israel” on its Web site to “Jerusalem” only, with no mention of Israel.
Among the many governmental references to “Jerusalem, Israel” described in the ZOA’s amicus brief were several photos posted on the White House Web site, which were taken on the trip that Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, made to the Middle East last year. One photo was captioned: “Vice President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Israel, March 9, 2010” (emphasis added). The caption to another photo read: “Vice President Joe Biden laughs with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Israel, March 9, 2010” (emphasis added). The caption to a third photo said: “Vice President Joe Biden has breakfast with Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair . . . in Jerusalem, Israel, March 10, 2010” (emphasis added). Each of these photos is described as an “Official White House Photo.”
Today, the New York Sun reported that the White House has removed these references to Jerusalem being in Israel. Indeed, on the White House Web site, the captions to these photos now refer to “Jerusalem” only. The reference to Israel has suddenly been deleted.
Morton A. Klein, ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, condemned the White House for altering the references to “Jerusalem, Israel” on its Web site: We are appalled that the White House would resort to such a transparent and shameful tactic in an effort to diminish the strength of the ZOA’s argument in its amicus brief to the Supreme Court. But suddenly removing the White House’s references to ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ on its Web site will not help the U.S. government’s case before the Supreme Court. If anything, the White House’s actions show that the government recognizes the strength of the ZOA’s argument: Given how frequently and routinely the White House and many U.S. departments and agencies have referred to Jerusalem as part of Israel, it is simply absurd to suggest that permitting Menachem Zivotofsky and other Americans born in Jerusalem to have ‘Israel’ listed on their passports will have any impact on any presidential power to make foreign policy or recognize foreign sovereigns. If Jerusalem-born Americans wish to identify with Israel by having it recorded as their birthplace on their passports – which is plainly their right under legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush – that right should be upheld and enforced.
“President Obama and his administration should be ashamed of themselves for taking these outrageous actions which will surely do nothing to help the government’s case.”