Monday, August 15, 2011

A Small Detail But A Large Statement

Last week, the official White House site made a subtle but important change to one of the pictures it has been displaying. Previously, there was a shot taken in "Jerusalem, Israel." "Jerusalem" is now an island without a country, and "Israel" has been deleted from the photo. If Obama can make the victims of Fast and Furious into non-persons, I guess they can turn Jerusalem into a non-capital.

There has been a two-administration battle between Congress's insistence that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the administration's insistence that such a determination belongs to the executive branch through its constitutional authority to conduct the nation's foreign affairs. As far as the executive branch is concerned through both the Bush and Obama administrations, the status of Jerusalem remains unsettled.

Fair enough. But the White House website has always shown the picture of Jerusalem in conjunction with the word Israel. The photo was a picture of Vice President Joe Biden meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2010. It was entitled: "Biden and Peres meet in Jerusalem, Israel. Suddenly, Biden met with Peres in Jerusalem, (fill in the blank). Either that, or they met in just-plain-Jerusalem.

The whole brouhaha was set off when American naturalized citizens wanted their passports to read: "Birthplace--Jerusalem, Israel." Before removal of the word "Israel" from the photo, the state department issued a brief statement reiterating the administration's position that "US citizens born in Jerusalem may not have 'Israel' listed in their passports as their place of birth." Yet in another photo, still extant on the website, there is a story about a trainee foreign service officer whose "first assignment will be in Jerusalem, Israel, beginning August 2011."

The closest historical parallel I can think of is the airbrushing out of Nazis loyal to Hitler and communists loyal to Stalin when those same dictators decided that the loyalists had become a drug on their respective agendas. In 2002, Congress passed a law allowing naturalized American Jews to include the word "Israel" on their passports if they chose to do so. The representatives who supported the move claim it had no foreign policy significance whatsoever, and merely addressed the concerns of naturalized American Jews that a simple elementary truth be imprinted on the passports.

There's an old Borscht-belt comedian's joke that somewhat fits the situation. An angry husband comes home to find a man hiding in his wife's closet. He asks: "What are you doing in there?" The man replies: "Everybody's gotta be somewhere." Likewise, every city has to be somewhere. So where is Jerusalem--Mars? The State Department is consistently inconsistent. Its address for the US Consulate is officially in zip code 91002--no country. But in applications for social security deposits and its official guidebook to Jerusalem, it gives "Jerusalem, Israel" as its address.

The department has not been nearly so scrupulous about its unitary authority on diplomatic documents when it comes to other disputed homelands. Since 1994, naturalized Americans from Taiwan have been allowed to state their birthplace as simply Taiwan, or alternatively, Taiwan, China. It seems the State Department is less worried about offending a superpower than it is about offending Jihadistan and the Palestinians. China has never acknowledged Taiwan as a separate nation, and continues to deem it an unlawful breakaway province. Officially, the US does not recognize Taiwan as a formal state or country either, but it's a whole lot looser about what can be written on a passport.

To put another exclamation point on the silliness, the State Department is not nearly so doctrinaire about certain other "disputed homelands" in the Middle East. Naturalized American citizens from the Golan Heights are free to declare Syria as their birth nation. This is in spite of the fact that the Golan Heights have been under Israel's control since 1967, and were formally annexed into Israel in 1981. Before that time, the Golan Heights were Syrian for only twenty-three years, previously having been a French protectorate and part of the Ottoman Empire.

So now the question becomes, "is this change on the White House website a reflection of a genuine difference of position between the executive and legislative branches, or merely a prelude to another Obama apology tour of the Middle East?" It also raises the question "why now?"


LL said...

The Obama Administration advances its agenda irrespective of the cost and I'm with you. Why now? If there is a change in leadership, the next administration will reverse that on Day 1.

These are symbolic measures, likely sops to the Saudis.

Anonymous said...

LL: That's my guess too. As soon as he gets done with his "bus tour" on the taxpayers' money, he'll probably take another trip to Saudi Arabia to reassure them that Israel is an unimportant little country that will disappear soon anyway. While he's there, maybe he could borrow a few hundred billion Riyals to help with our economy that he's either ignoring or lying about on the bus tour.

rlaWTX said...

ummmm where else can Jerusalem BE? How can its location be in dispute? Is it hovering over the country?
< sigh >

AndrewPrice said...

Obama has repeatedly prove that he's the most anti-Israeli president we've ever had. This is just another classic example. Frankly, let's hope that the next occupant of the White House changes that back.

Anonymous said...

rlaWTX: I guess they think that since some of it is sadly hanging into Palestinian territory, it can't be anywhere. Even a divided Jerusalem (unacceptable to me and millions of others) would still be somewhere, like Berlin during the Cold War. The civilized part would be in Israel, and the cave-dwelling part would be in Palestine (or whatever they decide to call their primitive, murderous enclave).

Anonymous said...

Andrew: It would be a nice switch if our next President simply decided that diplomacy be damned, Jerusalem belongs in Israel. Negotiating over where a city is located just to satisfy bloodthirsty primitives has gone on through two, maybe three administrations. It's time to simply grab the bull by the horns and declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, its historic homeland, founded by King David thousands of years ago. Our half-measures have done nothing in the diplomatic area except to make our firm allies in Israel suspicious of America's intentions.

BevfromNYC said...

And yet, American Jews will flock to vote for Obama.

Anonymous said...

Bev: Probably. But I'm guessing not in the usual numbers.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Who but the Israeli's are qualified to name their Capitol?Maybe the Israelis should name Detroit or Chicago as the Capitol that they will acknowledge for the USA.
This arrogant AH(I can't call him that since he is just passing thru)
evidently thinks what he says is world accepted ruling. Hate is just to close to caring to use so I guess loath,disgust,abhor, detest,repugnance and or any others anyone elese can conjure up will be a small atart.

Anonymous said...

Tehachapi Tom: Well, no nation gets to name its own capital simply because it likes a certain city. There have to be multiple factors involved in the choice, including being entirely within the sovereign state that is choosing its capital. As I mentioned in the article, three thousand years of history, tradition and geography ought to be enough for people to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

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