American Dual Citizens in Israel: Navigating between multiple identities and pragmatic strategies

Ben Herzog

Monday, March 7th 2016
14:00-16:00 Panel 2: The Politics of Diaspora Citizenship


Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, a 12-year-old American boy born in Jerusalem filed suit against the U.S. to obtain a passport stating that his place of birth was Israel. Since the United States considers Jerusalem disputed territory according to international law, it has never agreed to register any country for a citizen born in Jerusalem. While this case highlights American legal issues regarding the relations between Congress and the President or the international controversy over Jerusalem, it also offers a perspective on the relations between the American public, American Jews and the American dual citizens in Israel. In this paper I analyze the transnational practices of American Jews in Israel, as portrayed in the Zivotofsky case. Those include institutional connections with American state and non-state associations and transnational personal and professional relations. I argue that looking at the different narratives and practices presented allows us to understand the intersecting identity, ideology and politics of the American diaspora in Israel. The fact that former Americans participate in the American legal system is both an indicator of dual or diasporic identity and a utilization of their legal status (as Americans) for Israeli interests. Dual citizenship can be both a strategic tool and a meaningful identity.

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