In a recent op-ed in the Zionist newspaper “The Jewish Press”, Congressman Anthony Weiner, whose district in Brooklyn and Queens, NY includes several large Jewish communities, writes:
In what country were you born?
If you are a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem, you'd better not look for the answer on your passport. That line is always left blank.
On every other passport there is always a line listing a person's city and country of birth. But as a boy named Menachem Zivitofsky learned, this isn't the case for people born in Jerusalem. Because of U.S. policy, the State Department declines to record their place of birth as Israel, leaving passports to read simply "Jerusalem."
While this outrage eventually led to Congressional action, it also points to a larger problem - the failure of the State Department to recognize Jerusalem as the undisputed capital of Israel.
In 2002, Congress passed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, part of which declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and ordered then-President George W. Bush to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, since our embassies around the world operate out of foreign countries' capital cities.
Part of the law we passed specifically spells out that if a United States citizen is born in Jerusalem, the "Secretary of State shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen's legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel."
But the White House issued a signing statement saying it considered these parts of the law non-binding and that the administration would not implement them. President Bush said that Congress was trying to dictate foreign policy to the Executive branch, and that the president alone has the power to recognize foreign states.
In December of the same year the bill passed, Menachem Zivitofsky's parents, who are American citizens (Menachem's mother gave birth to him in Jerusalem), plunged into this debate between the White House and Congress and asked the State Department to issue Menachem a U.S. passport that listed his place of birth as Jerusalem, Israel. The State Department said no, listing his place of birth simply as "Jerusalem".
A court ruled that our Congressional call for Jerusalem to be part of Israel intruded on the power of the president to recognize all foreign regimes. It also ruled that the court couldn't enforce the law with the State Department since it involved "an inherently political" question.
This is wrong; of course Congress has the ability to legislate with regard to foreign affairs. For example, we recognized the PLO as a terrorist organization and made it illegal for anyone to accept anything of value from the PLO. Not only did Congress make these laws with regard to a foreign entity, the president used this law in an effort to close the PLO's mission to the United Nations.
The idea that the president, not Congress, has the right to determine what a U.S. passport names as a place of birth for a U.S. citizen is wrong. Congress regulates passports all the time. The fact that the State Department can even issue passports at all is because of an act of Congress. For example, courts have upheld Congress's right to require an oath of allegiance for people to obtain a passport and Congress's right to deny a passport to anyone owing more than $5,000 in child support.
Adding insult to injury, the Foreign Affairs Manual of the State Department instructs its employees to allow Arabs born in areas of Israel that are uncontroversial and incontrovertibly part of Israel, like Tel Aviv or Haifa, to request that their passport not say Israel if they object to Israel being shown as sovereign.
If Arab Israelis can take Israel off their passports, how can the State Department not allow a Jewish Israeli to put it on?
This is simply beyond the pale, which is why I and several other members of Congress filed an Amicus brief on behalf of Menachem Zivitofsky, trying to relay to the court our displeasure with how our legislation is being ignored. The court did not decide in our favor, but I look forward to re-doubling our effort when the appeal comes before a court again.
This struggle is not just some "insider" bureaucratic dispute in Washington. Acceptance of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is crucial. The "international community" wants Jerusalem to be considered outside the control of Israel, probably in preparation of exerting pressure on the Israeli government to give parts of it away.
It is absolutely critical that the law I passed be implemented, that the U.S. embassy be moved to Jerusalem, and that the United States send a clear message to the rest of the world and Israel's neighbors that Jerusalem is part of the Jewish state.
This issue is representative of the frustration many of us feel with how this and previous administrations have dealt with Jerusalem.
I still have not heard back from the U.S. Ambassador regarding the letter I wrote to him asking what country he was standing in while reading my letter in Jerusalem.
I urge you to ask him, too. The answer shouldn't be that difficult.
It's no secret that Zionist groups consistently pressure their congressmen to push their agenda in Congress. The interference of Congress in this highly charged foreign policy issue is due to this pressure.
What congressmen may not realize is that many of the Jews living in their districts are not Zionists at all. The last thing non-Zionist Jews want is to dictate foreign policy to the President and the State Department. And we are not interested in pushing the Zionist political agenda in the Middle East - an agenda that can only endanger us as Jews.
Anthony Weiner can believe what he wants about Jerusalem, but he and other Brooklyn representatives such as Ed Towns, Jerrold Nadler and Yvette Clarke - as well as other congressmen representing Jewish communities around the United States - have a responsibility as elected officials to listen to voters. And as voters, we have a responsibility to let them know that we don’t share the Zionist viewpoint.
The time has come for non-Zionist Jews to raise their voices. If we don’t, we are letting the Zionists speak in our name.
Every non-Zionist Jew should write a letter to his representative. If you don’t know who your representative is, you can find his/her name and contact info by going to
and typing in your zip code and four digit extension.
You can also find an online contact form at:
The letter should go something like this:
To the Honorable _______,
There is something I would like to bring to your attention, after reading an article written by Congressman Anthony Weiner in The Jewish Press. (The article can be viewed here: http://www.jewishpress.com/pageroute.do/45774)
As a Jew living in your district, I am tired of allowing Jews with a particular political agenda, Zionism, to speak in my name. I hope you realize that not all Jews are Zionists. In particular, Orthodox Jews like myself believe in the coming of the messiah and that therefore, no Jewish group has the right to establish a Jewish state in the Holy Land before the messiah comes.
One example of the results of Zionist pressure on Congress is the debate over recognizing Jerusalem as the State of Israels capital, culminating with the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2002, which ordered the President to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and ordered the State Department to issue passports to American citizens born in Jerusalem reading "Jerusalem, Israel."
The last thing non-Zionist Jews like myself want is to dictate foreign policy to the President and the State Department. We want our President to continue doing what's best for our country - not what's best for a foreign country. And we are not interested in pushing the Zionist political agenda in the Middle East - an agenda that can only endanger us as Jews.
We are alarmed by the fact that in the public mind, all Jews are associated with the State of Israel and blamed for its faults. Whenever we see policemen guarding our synagogues, we are reminded that Jews - non-political religious Jews like ourselves - have become a target of terrorists due to the actions of the State of Israel, as well as the high profile of Zionist political pressure groups. For decades, these groups have been bringing only trouble upon the heads of the American Jewry.
It would make us feel much safer if you, as our representative in Congress, would do more to represent our point of view alongside that of Zionist Jews.
Thank you for your continued service to the public.