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Why is the Left silent on the kidnapping of Mizrahi babies?

In the years following the founding of the State of Israel, thousands of babies, children of mostly Yemenite immigrants, were allegedly taken away from their parents by the state and given up for adoption to Ashkenazi families. The Israeli Left remained consistently silent on the matter.

By Naama Katiee

Israeli society has a tendency to look at reality from the perspective of either “left” or “right.” Sometimes it seems that anything doesn’t squarely fall into these categories simply cannot exist. Perhaps this explains the disconcerting fact that such a serious, disturbing affair — which peaked during the first years of the state — is barely mentioned by either side of the political map.

The Yemenite Children Affair only reached headlines in the 90s due to the uncompromising struggle of the late Rabbi Uzi Meshulam, who paid a big price for his campaign to reveal what truly happened to the children. Meshulam spent more than five years in prison after he and his followers barricaded themselves in his home in the city of Yehud with an arsenal of weapons, demanding the government set up a committee of inquiry. He was only released after becoming sick. Even after his release, Meshulam was forbidden from ever touching the affair again. He died two years ago, ill and alone.

The committee eventually cleared the establishment of any wrongdoing. It is not surprising that the state rids itself of responsibility, nor that right-wing organizations do not demand any real oversight in everything having to do with the affair.

However, the silence of left-wing Israeli organizations is both strange and surprising. During those years, babies were forcibly taken from their families — families who were told that their children had died — and handed over to “white” families (sometimes in exchange for money). This was done based on a racist worldview according to which Yemenis and Mizrahim in general are not fit or worthy of raising their own children.

Yemenite children's affair.

However, the Yemenite Children Affair (in which children from Arab countries, as well as the Balkans, were also kidnapped) has never been prioritized by organizations who claim to represent the struggle against racism, human trafficking, discrimination and oppression. The silencing of those who have attempted to struggle for recognition and compensation for the victims; the destruction of documentation around the time of the committee’s...

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When the criminal justice system is subject to occupation law

Instead of regular criminal proceedings against Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, the police cut corners using military administrative orders.

By Ziv Stahl, written for Yesh Din

Yesh Din comic

Yesh Din’s latest report, Mock Enforcement, takes a long, hard look at law enforcement vis-à-vis Israeli citizens who commit crimes against Palestinians in the occupied territories. Data collected for the report indicates that law enforcement in the West Bank is ineffectual, and that the absence of a functional system has led to solutions that circumvent the problem so as to maintain a facade of minimal public order in the West Bank.

Instead of regular criminal proceedings, complete with professional investigations, indictments, prosecutions and convictions — a process designed to enforce the law and create deterrence — the police cut corners through the use of administrative orders.

There are two kinds of administrative orders currently in use:

1. Closure orders, commonly known as “closed military zone orders.” These orders enable the military commander to declare an area closed and seal it off, prohibiting or limiting entry. Both the army and the police are certain that closure orders “bring calm to friction zones” since all parties – Israelis and Palestinians – are removed from areas where a dispute is taking place. This, in their mind, prevents both sides from committing offenses. But because closure orders restrict access to farmland owned by Palestinians, they harm the legal landowners instead of protecting them from potential harm.

In addition to temporary orders issued for specific areas, vast areas are subject to permanent closure orders — mainly land adjacent to settlements — in a way that regularly prevents Palestinians from accessing their land. Use of such closure orders harms the ability of Palestinian farmers to tend to their land and live off of it. In the long term, given the land laws Israel enforces in the West Bank, lack of access and cultivation could lead to loss of rights to land.

2. Individual administrative order issued against Israeli citizens, which bar an individual from entering the West Bank; restraining orders confine an individual to a specific locality or a home. Such orders are used frequently, compared with the number of indictments served against Israeli citizens who commit offenses against Palestinians. The military commander issues such orders against settlers marked by law enforcement agencies following...

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Palestinians cease being 'threats' — for a month

During Ramadan, Palestinians are no longer deemed ‘security risks’ or ‘terrorists,’ and are able to visit the holy sites in Jerusalem or the sea in Jaffa.

By Samah Salaime

This week marked the beginning of Ramadan, a month-long celebration during which Muslims the world over fast for 16 hours every day to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. That’s right: 1.5 billion Muslims across the world choose to starve themselves. To all those who ask where we get our determination and tenacity from, they may find the answer this month. This is bad news for the Islamophobes of the world. The good news for the Islamophobes? We can’t seem to use this determination in a way that actually benefits us.

And in honor of Ramadan, Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank will no longer be deemed “security risk” or “terrorists.” The commander of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced in an Arabic-language Facebook video (with poor Arabic) that Palestinians will be able to travel to Jerusalem to pray freely, visit their relatives beyond the separation barrier and even see the Mediterranean Sea. Such great news!

The high point of the video was when he announced “Intu btiqdaru truhu al-basat.” Meaning that Palestinians can freely reach the underwear. What? We have access to our underwear!? Finally, God is great, Ramadan kareem, thank heavens. Every Palestinian who wants to is now able to wear and touch his or her underwear without having to go through a checkpoint, undergo a search or receive an entry permit. On my second listen, I realized the commander meant to say “buses” rather than underwear. The Palestinians will directly enter Jerusalem, with prior coordination, after they have signed up (the sign-up period ended as the announcement was published). As long as the Palestinians can flock, in hordes, to visit their land and their mosque, as if they were foreign tourists who received a one-time visa.

#Ramadan Kareem from Major General Yoav ‘Poli’ Mordechai

Posted by COGAT – Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories on Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Is it humiliating when the IDF reminds the Arabs who is...

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It's time to erase the Green Line

If the Israeli government makes no distinction between Palestinians on either side of the Green Line, there is no reason for human rights activists to do so.

By Neve Gordon

Around 50 students sat on the concrete floor of a makeshift shack, absorbing the desert heat as they listened to Salim talk about the imminent destruction of Umm al Hiran and Atir, two unrecognized Bedouin villages located 20 minutes from my apartment in Be’er Sheva.

On May 6, the Supreme Court ruled that the villages could be destroyed, paving the way for the government to proceed with its plan to build a Jewish settlement called Hiran in place of Umm al Hiran, as well as to replace the adjacent village Atir with a Jewish National Fund forest. If these plans are actualized, approximately 900 Palestinian Bedouin citizens will be forcefully relocated from their homes.

Salim told the students what the village was planning to do in order to reverse the verdict, while insisting that the solution would not come from the courts. The courts, he said, operate in the service of power; “therefore we need to approach power directly; we need to convince Bibi [Prime Minister Netanyahu] to retract the demolition orders. We need to gather forces and protest against this immoral act,” he said.

At one point I turned to Salim and asked him why the residents of Umm al Hiran do not join forces with the nearby residents of Susya, who were also being threatened with eviction and demolition?

Just 20 kilometers separate Umm al Hiran from the small Palestinian village Susya. For over two decades Susya’s residents have been struggling against the efforts of Jewish settlers and the Civil Administration to dispossess them of their small swath of land. On May 5, one day before the ruling on Umm al Hiran and Atir, the Israeli Supreme Court decided not to issue an injunction against Susya’s demolition and the expulsion of its residents. There, too, the government can legally carry out its demolition plans at any moment.

Salim turned to me and answered: “They are in the West Bank and we are in Israel, they are living under occupation and we are citizens. We have rights as citizens. We are not the same.”

Somewhere along the 20 kilometers that separate the two villages lies the Green Line. If once the Green Line was conceived...

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Who protects Palestinian children from the police?

Three East Jerusalem children wait for hours in an Israeli police station — their parents aren’t notified and their lawyer isn’t allowed to speak with them. The case exposes a gaping black hole in the laws regulating the treatment of minors and their representation by public defenders in Israel.

By Alma Biblash and Michael Salisbury-Corech

Israeli police arrested three children — 10, 11 and 13 years old — in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan last Thursday evening on suspicion of throwing stones. Undercover officers arrested them and took them to the Shalem police station, next to the Old City.

Under Israeli law, children under the age of 12 are not criminally culpable and it is illegal to keep them in custody or to interrogate them. Contrary to what the law says, police did not notify the children’s parents about their arrest, and when they arrived at the police station after neighbors informed them of the arrests, officers prevented them from entering the station and getting information on their children.

“The kids went to pick figs. Two undercover officers came and took them to a police car,” recalled Muhammad Adib, the uncle of one of the boys who waited for them outside the police station. “It happens every day — they arrest children here like that. Two hours later, when the parents were worried and didn’t know what happened, one of the neighbors told them they were arrested.”

“The police didn’t notify us before that,” Adib continued. “It’s becoming a situation in which undercover officers come through our neighborhood and arrest children all of the time.”

An attorney called the police station and asked to speak with the children in order to give them legal advice — police refused. Thus, three children were held in the police station for three full hours without seeing an attorney or their parents. Only after local activists began arriving at the police station and members of the press asked the police spokesperson for comment did the officers allow the attorney to enter the police station.

A long time passed before police released the children, first the two young ones, and the “big” one only after interrogating him. It was 10 p.m., despite the fact that Israeli law only permits the interrogation of minors under the age of 14 until 8 p.m., aside from exceptional cases.

The primary mechanism for protecting arrested children is the public defender....

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The occupation is about people, not just land

Israel keeps millions of people under a system of rules so intricate and outlandish that often the military itself fails to make sense of it.

By Itamar Sha’altiel (translated from Hebrew by Noam Rabinovich)

Naftali Bennett posted a photo to Facebook on Wednesday of a vase found in an archeological dig in Beit Shemesh, bearing the words “Ishba’al son of Beda.” Bennett’s point, and his conclusion, was that “a nation cannot occupy its own land.” The phrase, “a nation cannot occupy its own land,” is a right-wing slogan that is repeated ad nauseam – by Bennett and others – and it has countless other forms, such as: “the Arabs have 21 other countries,” and, “we actually occupied the West Bank from Jordan.”

Noam Sheizaf contextualized Bennett’s manipulation well, writing: “the right wing’s consistent refusal to understand that it is first and foremost an occupation of people, and not of land, is astounding.” Maybe it’s worth repeating so the message can sink in: nobody cares from whom you occupied the land. What matters is that for 48 years we have been controlling a territory in which millions of people live with different rights than their Jewish counterparts.

It is not that they have no rights at all, but in order to begin describing the rights that we do grant them we would need to get into the type of expositions commonly found in sci-fi novels, only far more boring. A Palestinian’s life is controlled by things like the population registry which hasn’t been updated in years, the area they live in (a resident of east Jerusalem as opposed to a resident of Area C), who is the current military commander, which military brigade is currently in charge of their area, who is the current head of Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories Unit (COGAT). It’s so long, bureaucratic and convoluted that it becomes nearly impossible to describe to Israelis what the life of a Palestinian looks like; they would to understand too many details that are completely absent from their own lives.

Israelis can catch a glimpse into this kind of life through the regular news articles about easements for Palestinians. The current head of COGAT, Major General Yoav Mordechai (who is turning out to be an improvement from his predecessor Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot), announced a series of measures for Ramadan meant to make Palestinians’ lives easier. For example, as...

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Occupation is the problem, not the people talking about it

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is going after Israeli human rights and anti-occupation activists overseas. Doing so will only make things worse for Israel.

By Ilan Baruch

It’s been less than a month since Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely instructed Israeli embassies abroad to explain to the nations of the world that the land of Israel is ours in its entirety. Global hostility toward Israel, she insisted, does not stem from the occupation or settlements.

Now, we have learned that she instructed the Israeli embassy in Switzerland to attempt to cancel a “Breaking the Silence” exhibition in Zurich. The exhibition presents soldiers’ testimonies on their experiences during their military service regarding the daily reality in the occupied territories.

In this fashion, Hotovely compelled the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to conduct a right-wing political campaign, which aims to eliminate any opposition to the ongoing occupation and settlement expansion. Leaders of this campaign, both in the Knesset and elsewhere, seek to perpetuate the occupation indefinitely. They aim to do so through complete integration of the occupied territories into Israel proper, by deepening Israeli military control over the territories, and through expanding settlements.

As such, they repeatedly attack organizations that oppose the occupation, accusing them of “delegitimizing” Israel with their public criticism abroad. This, in turn, condemns soldiers of conscience — who are merely exercising their right and duty to expose a reality that isn’t debated publicly — as enemies of Israel.

Having served in the foreign service for most of my adult life, and as a citizen concerned for the strength of Israel, I cannot remain silent about the severe damage this campaign has on Israel’s standing in the world. Criticism of Israel in Europe, the United Nations and the United States is not about the multiplicity of opinions in Israel. They are not concerned with those Israelis trying to prevent human rights violations and trying to end the occupation. The recurring criticism toward Israel harks back to one topic: the denial of liberty to the Palestinian people in the name of conquest through settlements.

It is important to understand that this criticism will not go away by silencing Israeli human rights organizations. The international community has opposed military control over the West Bank’s civilian Palestinian population for nearly half a century. When Israel acts contrarily to the spirit of democracy and freedom of expression, in silencing opinions that oppose...

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Interview: The man behind the BDS movement

(This article was first published in Arabic on Bokra)

Omar Barghouti is one of the most infamous names in pro-Israel and Israeli government circles at the moment. Officials have portrayed this Palestinian human rights activist and leader of the BDS movement — which he co-founded a decade ago and now leads — as a threat to the State of Israel. How big of a threat? Well, just last week the country’s best-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronot, featured a front-page story about him, dubbing him “Explosive Omar.” And if he and his boycott movement are giving both Zionist officials and their media a panic attack, one can only assume he is doing something right.

“Is this the Renaissance era for BDS?” I ask him in a phone call. He laughs and tells me that there is still much to come.

Yet Barghouti, 51, refuses to respond to his accusers — he maintains a boycott of the Israeli media. He was willing to conduct this rare interview due to my Palestinian identity and under the condition that it be published first in Arabic, on Palestinian website “Bokra” – although it is also being published in English here on +972 Magazine and in Hebrew on Local Call, where I am a blogger. Unified trilingual anti-Zionism at its best, I must add.

Barghouti explains his choice to not speak with the Israeli media and the logic behind the more general call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel as a whole: “In every other situation of sustained oppression, human rights groups call for punitive measures against the state and its institutions, not just against a narrow component of the state that is directly connected to the injustice at hand. No one called for banning products of Sudanese companies producing in Darfur in response to the Sudanese regime’s war crimes there. Sudan as a whole was targeted.

“As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, Israel is put on a pedestal in the West, and treated as if it were above international law. BDS seeks to end this Israeli exceptionalism and criminal impunity. Israel must be treated like any other state committing similarly egregious crimes.”

The BDS movement was launched on July 9, 2005 when a broad alliance of more than 170 Palestinian political parties, trade unions, refugee networks, NGOs and grassroots associations published an open boycott call...

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A court of non-convictions when the victim is Palestinian

When Israelis are accused of victimizing Palestinians, nearly 25% of convictions are simply thrown out — to avoid tarring the criminal with a criminal record.

By Yossi Gurvitz, written for Yesh Din

Every year Yesh Din publishes data about police investigative failures regarding crimes carried out by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank. They are usually quite similar: the police fails to investigate approximately 85 percent of complaints by Palestinians who report being harmed by Israelis. The rate becomes much higher when it comes to the destruction of Palestinian trees by Israeli civilians: that’s when the police failure rate reaches 97.4 percent.

The average Israeli may not be surprised to find that the police failure rates are so high, but he or she still has some expectations of the courts. After all, we are told time and again that Israel is governed by the rule of law.

Okay, the average citizen says to himself, we seem to have a problem when it comes to investigations, and naturally, if the investigation is a mess we are not likely to get to court. But once we step into the halls of justice, everything should be fine.

Or not.

Yesh Din’s latest data sheet, which was released in tandem with an exhaustive report on the failure of law enforcement in the West Bank, examines for the first time what happens to the cases the organization follows once they leave the limbo of the prosecution and make it to court. The situation, to put it mildly, is not “okay.”

To begin with, the chances that a complaint by a Palestinian victim will develop into an indictment against an Israeli felony suspect stands at a mere 7.4 percent. This means that the chances that an Israeli will appear in court for a crime he is suspected of committing is around 1 in 14. Most often, cases are closed due to police investigative failures; in a majority of the cases, the reason cited is the inability of the police to find a suspect – what is known as the the “unknown perpetrator clause.”

The fact that a case makes it to court does not, of course, mean it will end in a conviction. The defendants have the right to representation and have access to attorneys — as a human rights organization we entirely support this. The problem lies elsewhere.

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Palestinian prisoner nears 40th day of hunger strike

Khader Adnan, who became the symbol of Palestinian administrative detainees after refusing food for 66 days in 2011, is once again on hunger strike. Adnan’s wife: ‘He has no other choice. He is very strong and won’t budge until he is free.’

By Yael Marom

Khader Adnan, the symbol of Palestinian administrative detainees, is once again on hunger strike, having refused to eat for the past 37 days. He was transferred last Thursday to Assaf Harofeh hospital near Rishon LeZion, where he is being handcuffed to his bed by his legs and hands. Adnan, a baker from the West Bank village of Araba is striking against his prolonged detention with no indictment after being arrested in July 2014. His administrative detention was extended for a second time on May 6.

Adnan’s 2011 hunger strike ended in victory, after he refused food for 66 straight days. Israel decided to release him at the last minute before his administrative detention was up, after which Adnan ended his strike. Thus, the man who upon beginning his hunger strike was described by Israel as a “dangerous terrorist belonging to Islamic Jihad” was eventually released, after the state was unable to present evidence or put together an indictment. (Full disclosure: At the time I was the spokesperson for Physicians for Human Rights, which was very active in the struggle for his release.)

Adnan was re-arrested last summer during the IDF operation in the West Bank following the murder of three Jewish teenagers. The former administrative detainees — who were released after a successful hunger strike — were the first to return to Israeli prisons. Adnan was once again placed in administrative detention, without knowing what he was charged with, without the chance to prove his innocence, all while the state has the power to perpetually extend his detention every six months. On May 6, when his administrative detention was extended for the third consecutive time, Adnan announced that he would use the only nonviolent tool at his disposal and go on hunger strike.

Adnan’s hunger strike is considered a “full strike,” meaning that he refuses food, salts or additives, and drinks only water. He is also refusing all medical treatment by the Israel Prison Service or the hospital, and is demanding to be treated by an independent doctor. Creating a situation of mistrust between the hunger...

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Questions for an Israeli friend who thinks 'everything is okay'

You say that Palestinians are to blame for failing to stop terror, for not entering negotiations, for not signing a peace treaty with Israel. I cannot buy this argument. Not anymore. Not after 48 years.

By Gil Rimon

“You always oversimplify things,” you say whenever I mention the words “injustice,” “discrimination” or, god forbid, “racism” (not to mention the A-word). “Israel does not meddle with Palestinian rights. It’s not our fault they can’t manage their own people and corruption. They always choose violence, read your history, dude. They always choose the wrong people for their parliament. Don’t be ridiculous: they are the violent side in this story. I wish, but we have no partner for peace.”

And you try to refresh my memory: “Do you even remember they have had their own civilian autonomy since Oslo? Do you even remember buses blowing up while Rabin was trying to grant them autonomy, peace, parts of the holy land? Most Israelis are holding their hand out for peace, but the Arabs just can’t leave us alone. They hate us.

Anyway, we have our own problems. And I almost forgot Gaza — well, let’s not even start.”

My friend, you admit you don’t care too much about human rights in the West Bank when times are peaceful, as it is none of your business. When confrontations start you are all for the IDF to end it abruptly and without too many Israeli casualties. When there are negotiations you are cautious about giving away too much land and not getting any peace in return.

But hey friend, take my other friend, Muhammad, as an example. He is living in Nablus and working in Ramallah where he is an Android developer for American clients.

Muhammad’s control over his life is so much more limited than mine and yours. It is clear that we are much more privileged. Like most Palestinian residents he was never involved in violence  —  but he can’t have our rights.

A universal view, which I strongly relate to, believes that human rights should be granted unconditionally and equally to all. When a sovereign country takes control over a new territory, especially militarily, the new individuals are now the subjects of that sovereign country.

The new subjects are entitled to a set of human rights. If an individual breaks the law — a terrorist, for example — it should not interfere with the...

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Asylum seeker who left Israel: 'I believed them when they said I could stay in Uganda'

The following is a redacted version of an affidavit that was attached to a petition filed by Israeli human rights NGOs and the Tel Aviv University Refugee Rights’ Clinic against the recently announced policy of indefinitely incarcerating Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers who refuse to leave Israel for Rwanda or Uganda.

Under a new policy announced on March 31, 2015, asylum-seekers detained in Holot will be offered to leave Israel for an unnamed third country. If they refuse to do so, after 30 days, they would be incarcerated in Saharonim prison. Dozens of Eritrean asylum-seekers in Holot have since undergone interviews in which they were offered to leave, and are facing imminent transfer to Saharonim.

Based on testimonies of asylum-seekers who left Israel to those unnamed “third countries,” Israeli human rights NGOs know that they are Uganda and Rwanda. The petition was filed to the Beer Sheva District Court and was dismissed by Judge Bitan, who ruled the petition was premature because the transfer of detainees from Holot to Saharonim prison has not yet begun.

The following is an affidavit by “Robel,” an Eritrean national who agreed to voluntary deportation from Israel. (His name has been changed for his protection.)


I arrived in Israel in 2008. I asked for asylum every time I spoke to an Israeli official but I did not receive any reply to my asylum claim at any point.

I decided to leave Israel after I was detained in Holot for a year and stopped believing that I will ever be released in Israel. During the year I spent in Holot we conducted demonstrations. During the arrest that followed our march to Nizana, near the Egyptian border on June 29, 2014, I was badly beaten by Israeli Immigration officers. They forgot to take our cameras when they arrested us and I managed to transfer photos of my wounds to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants. Despite the fact that the Hotline submitted a complaint against the immigration officers on my behalf, I was never questioned about the incident. Because of all these reasons, I felt that Israel cannot provide me and my friends a safe refuge and I decided to leave Israel no matter where to and look for refuge elsewhere.

After I told the Immigration Authority I wanted to leave, they told me that I will be leaving to Rwanda and...

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A city with no sovereign: The Jerusalem passport case

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the State Department can continue refusing to print ‘Israel’ as the place of birth for American citizens born in Jerusalem. ‘Neither Israel nor any other country is acknowledged as having sovereignty over Jerusalem,’ Justice Kennedy writes in the majority opinion.

By Lolita Brayman

The U.S. might be Israel’s strongest ally but that doesn’t mean Washington is willing to toe the Israeli line on the status of Jerusalem. For decades, the United States’ policy has been in line with the rest of the international community, not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The rationale is that since the city’s only internationally accepted legal standing is that of an international city, a product of the 1947 Partition Plan, its contemporary status must be determined via negotiations — and not unilateral declaration.

The U.S. Supreme Court made a historic decision on Monday that rightly placed the politics of foreign affairs, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, outside its sphere of objectivity. In a 6-to-3 vote, the majority of justices struck down a 2002 congressional regulation that allowed those born in the city of Jerusalem to record the place of birth as Israel in their passports.

The case was about Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, passed by Congress in 2002, which in contradiction of State Department’s guidelines allowed for listing only a city on a passport if a nation’s borders are in dispute. Moreover, under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is not permitted to interfere with the president’s authority to determine terms on which recognition is given to foreign states.

The validity of the congressional policy was brought to the Supreme Court by the parents of Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, who wanted their American son’s passport to list “Israel” as the place of birth and not simply “Jerusalem,” where he was indeed born in October 2002. When the case was first heard in 2012 by the Supreme Court, the majority opinion stated that the constitutionality of the statute could be resolved by the U.S. Court of Appeals because it was a separation of powers issue, even though such a decision might touch on political areas.

Fast forward to this Monday. The status of Jerusalem remains undetermined and the Supreme Court still refused — this time more definitively — to get tangled up in the weeds of diplomacy and foreign affairs. The State Department can continue to refuse to print...

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