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Thursday, June 22, 2006

US Embassy expunges 'Jerusalem, Israel' from death certificate

As I am sure most of you know already, every six months the President of the United States invokes a 'national security' clause in a law passed by Congress in order to avoid having to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Because of that, we are the only country in the World where the United States does not recognize the country's chosen capital.

Three years ago, my friend Ari Zivotofsky opened a new front in the battle to get the United States to recognize Israel's chosen capital. It has long been the case that when a child is born here and is registered as a US citizen, the birth register and passport say he was born in Jerusalem, without the name of a country being added. Ari filed suit in the United States to try to force the consulate and embassy here to register his children as having been born in "Jerusalem, Israel." If Ari succeeds, it will affect my four youngest children and many of our friends' children as well.

It turns out that Ari has a neighbor in Beit Shemesh named Wendy Serlin, whom I also know from way back (Wendy's brother went to law school with me in New York). Wendy's father died here in Jerusalem in 2002, and somehow, someone listed his place of death as "Jerusalem, Israel." Here's where the story, from today's Jerusalem Post, gets downright vindictive:
In an unprecedented move, the US Embassy in Tel Aviv has abruptly revoked a death report issued nearly four years ago to the family of an American citizen on the grounds that it listed him as having died in "Jerusalem, Israel,"The Jerusalem Post has learned.


The saga began earlier this month when Wendy Serlin, a resident of Beit Shemesh, received a certified letter from the embassy stating that it had decided to reissue a consular report regarding the death of her father, Myron Friedman.

Friedman, an American citizen, passed away in Jerusalem in October 2002.

At the time of her father's passing, Serlin had filled out the requisite consular forms, and shortly thereafter received an official US document known as a "Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad." It listed her father's place of death as "Jerusalem, Israel."

Then, in an unrelated move, Serlin's neighbors, Naomi and Ari Zivotofsky, filed a suit against the State Department in the DC District Court in September 2003, demanding that their newborn son's place of birth be listed as "Jerusalem, Israel."


Earlier this year, after the US Court of Appeals allowed the suit to proceed, the Zivotofskys submitted supporting evidence to the court, which included a copy of Friedman's 2002 death report that Serlin had given them.

Since the report said "Jerusalem, Israel," the Zivotofskys hoped it would bolster their case.

Barely three months later, however, the US Embassy in Tel Aviv sent Serlin the letter informing her that they wished to "correct an administrative error regarding place of death" on her father's forms.

Included with the letter were 10 original copies of her father's death report, all of which listed the place of death as Jerusalem, with the country space left blank.

In an interview with the Post, Serlin expressed astonishment at the embassy's handling of the matter. "I was surprised when I received the letter from them and the new forms on which the word 'Israel' had been removed," she said, noting that, "I never asked them to correct it, so it seemed pretty clear they had done this because of the Zivotofskys' court case against the State Department on this issue."

Ari Zivotofsky said he was no less taken aback by the embassy's move. "I was flabbergasted by the extraordinary effort of the State Department to perpetuate its illogical policy of not recognizing Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem." "It smacks of an attempt to tamper with evidence," he said.

Contacted by the Post, US Embassy Press Attache Stewart Tuttle said, "Because these issues relate to ongoing litigation in which the United States Government is a party, I am not at liberty to provide details about the practices and policies that are the subject of the dispute." Asked to explain what had prompted the reissuing of Friedman's death report without the word 'Israel," Tuttle said, "We also do not comment on the internal decision making of the embassy."

Both Serlin and Zivotofsky, however, are convinced that the timing of the move was not accidental. "It seems more than coincidental that the embassy in Tel Aviv corrected the form just a few months after we submitted it to the court in Washington, and nearly four years after the original had been issued," Zivotofsky insisted.

Ari asks that if anyone else has American birth or death certificates that say "Jerusalem, Israel," they should please contact him.

And so Israel remains the only country in the world whose choice of capitol city is not recognized by the United States of America, despite Israel being at the forefront of the War on Terror. The Saudis and their Wahbi friends continue to laugh at the United States, continuing to boycott Israel, despite the boycott's cessation having been a condition of their admittance to the World Trade Organization, and despite their continuing support for the terrorists. And President Bush's statement about being "with us or against us" in the War on Terror looks emptier than ever: Washington is coddling its enemies and treating its friends with contempt.


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