Yisrael Medad of My Right Word has a post about the American government’s attitude toward children born in the “Occupied Territories.” Here are some of the facts he includes from a conversation with American consular services and the Internet:
If a child is born in the West Bank, whether they are Israelis or Palestinians, place of birth on the U.S. passport is either the city (Efrat, Ramallah, etc.) or the area – the West Bank in that case.
a. As a result of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Government of Israel currently occupies and administers the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. U.S. policy recognizes that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory, and that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are territories whose final status must be determined by negotiations.
b. Birth in the Golan Heights: The birthplace that should appear on passports whose bearers were born in the Golan Heights is SYRIA.
c. Birth in the West Bank or in the No Man’s Lands between the West Bank and Israel: The birthplace for people born in the West Bank or in the No Man’s Lands between the West Bank and Israel is WEST BANK; Those persons born before May, 1948 in the area known as the West Bank may have PALESTINE listed as an alternate entry. Those born in 1948 or later may have their city of birth as an alternate entry. Persons born in the West Bank in 1948 or later may not have Palestine transcribed as an alternate entry.
d. Birth in the Gaza Strip: The birthplace for people born in the Gaza Strip, is GAZA STRIP. PALESTINE is the alternate acceptable entry provided the applicant was born before 1948.
e. Birthplace in Israel: Write ISRAEL as the place of birth in the passport if and only if the applicant was born in Israel itself (this does not include the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, the West Bank or the No Mans Lands between the West Bank and Israel). Do not enter ISRAEL in U.S. passports as the place of birth for applicants born in the occupied territories.
f. Birthplace in Jerusalem: For a person born in Jerusalem, write JERUSALEM as the place of birth in the passport. Do not write Israel, Jordan or West Bank for a person born within the current municipal borders of Jerusalem. For applicants born before May 14, 1948 in a place that was within the municipal borders of Jerusalem, enter JERUSALEM as their place of birth. For persons born before May 14, 1948 in a location that was outside Jerusalem’s municipal limits and later was annexed by the city, enter either PALESTINE or the name of the location (area/city) as it was known prior to annexation. For persons born after May 14, 1948 in a location that was outside Jerusalem’s municipal limits and later was annexed by the city, it is acceptable to enter the name of the location (area/city) as it was known prior to annexation.
Yisrael points out that “the ‘West Bank’ doesn’t exist as a geo-political entity. The 1947 UN Resolution referred to Judea and Samaria. There’s nothing ‘natural’ in this.”
Let’s break it down. According to the U.S. government, if you were born in the Golan at any time, you were born in Syria. Gaza, Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem besides are not part of Israel. If you were born in any of these places before 1948, your passport will say “Palestine” for the country (as in British Mandatory Palestine–not the fictitious country that millions of Arabs blather on about these days). After 1948, however, the U.S. government considers these lands to be still subject to negotiation, i.e. pending Arab sovereignty, i.e. stateless.
What does that mean for a kid like Bill, who was born at home in Efrat? His American passport, which recently arrived in our mailbox, says he was born in “Efrat.” Country? None. Not even Planet Earth. (The Cap’n says Efrat has been relegated to a Platonic Ideal.) Bill’s Israeli passport says he was born in Israel and is an Israeli national, but to the Americans, he’s not an Israeli. He’s an American, and a citizen of…Efrat. Remember the places in Europe that are city-states? Like San Marino? Monaco? Vatican City? Kind of like that. I guess. “The Zionist Republic of Efrat.” It’s got a ring to it. But it’s also clear to me that Bill will have to take his Israeli passport along with his American anywhere he travels, just to prove to the average passport clerk who has never heard of Efrat that he was born in a real place on this planet. (Or a chumash, to point out where the Bible mentions Efrat.)
I hear there have been periodic attempts to get the U.S. to change its policy on this matter, with no luck (obviously).
So here’s my suggestion: That all Americans born in the southwestern territory acquired from Mexico in the 1848 Mexican War have “Mexico” as their country of birth. Or just the city (e.g. Albuquerque). And Floridians should have “Spain” as the country of their birth. And Sooners (people born in Oklahoma) should have “Indian Territory” printed on their birth certificates. And anyone born in Oregon, Idaho, or Washington, should be British subjects. That’s fair, I think. In fact, just check out this Dry Bones cartoon to tell you how the American government can put its money where its mouth is (thanks to Bayla for emailing me the cartoon):