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Friday, July 31, 2009

America's pro-Arab Jerusalem policy

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Yisrael Medad points out that American policy on recognizing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem is even more biased toward the Arabs than is commonly believed.
U.S. policy toward Jerusalem has long tended toward the "denial" side of the equation. If an American living in Jerusalem gives birth to a child in either West Jerusalem or post-1967 East Jerusalem, for example, her progeny is not recognized by the U.S. as being born in Israel. The birth certificate and passport will list only a city name -- Jerusalem -- as the place of birth.

This rule follows the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, which notes: "For a person born in Jerusalem, write JERUSALEM as the place of birth in the passport. Do not write Israel, Jordan or West Bank ..." The "logic" for this is that Israel is considered by the United States to be "occupying" territories -- including Jerusalem -- whose final status must be negotiated.

As State Department spokesman Ian Kelly admitted on June 22, before being reined in, the recent Obama administration fixation on a "settlement freeze" also targets neighborhoods in East Jerusalem whose Jewish population's "natural growth" is to be halted.

And there is more State Department trickery. Births of children of American citizens in any of the Arab towns or Jewish communities outside of Jerusalem and beyond the Green Line will have their birthplace noted, as per the above-mentioned regulations, as the "West Bank." Is the "West Bank" a state? Is the State Department engaged in creating new states?

This is an illogical and quite unreasonable bureaucratic situation. On the one hand, the State Department has fashioned a new "state" while, on the other, it is ignoring Israel's status in its own capital.

The "West Bank" never existed as a geopolitical entity until April 1950, when Jordan annexed the area. That annexation, incidentally, was considered by all the world -- except for Britain -- as an illegal occupation. Yet the U.S. has established the "West Bank," with the stroke of a pen, as if it were a state entity.

If the U.S. insists on using boundaries dating to 1948, shouldn't it also use the place names in use at that time? "Judea" and "Samaria" were both names written into the U.N. partition resolution. A baby born to U.S. citizens in Shiloh, for example, should therefore be registered as having been born in "Shiloh, Samaria."
Although the pressure on Israel not to build in Jerusalem is new, the American government's obtuse treatment of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem is not. The Zivotovsky case, to which Medad alludes, happened long before Obama came into power. Israel designated Jerusalem its capital in 1948, and the United States, along with the most of the rest of the world, located its embassy in Tel Aviv, long before the 'occupation' became a cardinal sin (although the Arab world referred to land won by Israel in the War of Independence that was beyond the boundaries of the UN partition resolution, which the Arabs refused to accept, as 'occupied').

The American refusal to register births in Jerusalem, Israel is largely symbolic, but in this part of the world, every bit of symbolism has meaning. It's a nuisance that ought to be corrected.


At 6:24 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Good luck in changing the Arabist outlook that drives the State Department and US Middle East policy.

What could go wrong indeed

At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that the same Obama who said to AIPAC back in June of last year: "Jerusalem will remain the eternal, undivided capital of Israel" and that "Israel's security is sacrosanct..."

Of course it is: every single one of Obama's promises comes with an expiration date.


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