Sunday, August 06, 2006

Americans Serving in the Israeli Army--What is their status in U.S. law?

A question for those with a background in U.S. laws regarding citizenship: May Americans lawfully join a foreign army? My recollection is that this used to be illegal under U.S. law. If it is now legal, when did it become legal? May an American whose grandparents were Turkish join the Turkish army and retain his citizenship? How about a Lebanese, who may wish to join the Lebanese army to defend his country against Israel? If readers have serious legal answers to this question please post them (you may post anonymously). While opinions, expressions of concern, support, outrage, approval, etc., are always welcome, I am particularly interested in the legal status of the Americans mentioned in this article.
O'Neil, 20, and several other soldiers at the Tiberias hotel are part of a program that brings Americans to Israel specifically to join the army to fulfill their concept of a Zionist mission. Hundreds of young Americans have taken part.
They come without their families. Some are placed in a kibbutz or similar situation, and all end up in the military. After a three-year tour of duty, many stay as residents and Israel gives them financial aid with school tuition and housing. O'Neil, who said one of his first acts Saturday after marching out of Lebanon was to call his mother in California, said he never imagined that he would be fighting in Lebanon when he joined the Israeli army two years ago.


Anna Qawii said...

Current US Passports say citizens "may" relinquish US citizenship if they serve in a foreign army.

Anonymous said...

Here's what the state department has to say about foreign military service.

Anonymous said...

Generally speaking, US citizens who are Jewish are granted Israeli citizenship under the right of return. Dual citizenship is legal under these circumstances under US law, because the grant of Israeli citizenship is automatic, and requires no oath of allegiance or loyalty. Like all Israelis, these persons are subject to conscription. If an American is conscripted by a foreign army, this isn't considered a voluntary act, and US citizenship is retained. Other forms of explicitly voluntary service to Israel do cause loss of citizenship, e.g. election to Israel's Knesset, service in the Israeli Foreign Service. (But this should be checked.)

arn said...

Thanks to Ms. Qawii and Anonymous for their input. The "may" in an important choice of verbs. The substance of the article indicates these young Americans have not been conscripted but have volunteered for service. This leaves a big question to be examined.

Anonymous said...

these links should answer a lot of your questions

arn said...

Thanks to Anonymous, who posted the State department links on this question.
The news article indicates that the recruitment did take place in the U.S., therefore the following point may apply:
"The current laws are set forth in Section 958-960 of Title 18 of the United States Code. In Wiborg v. U.S. , 163 U.S. 632 (1985), the Supreme Court endorsed a lower court ruling that it was not a crime under U.S. law for an individual to go abroad for the purpose of enlisting in a foreign army; however, when someone has been recruited or hired in he United States, a violation may have occurred. The prosecution of persons who have violated 18 U.S.C. 958-960 is the responsibility of the Department of Justice."

Anonymous said...


In 2 different cases the US Supreme Court basically allowed for dual nationality.
In one case a US citizen voted in a foreign election, and in another a US citizen served in a foreign army. In both cases the Court ruled that a US could vote or serve and not suffer any penalty.
Surprisingly, the State Deoartment does not exactly support this position, and urges people with now legal dual nationality to file a fowm each year declaring that they wish to maintain their US citizenship.
Sorry, that I can't quote the exact chapters and verses but I know of all this through a personal experience.

arn said...

That is helpful but the added factor here is citizens were recruited in the USA. At least according to the State Dept. page the stateside recruitment may be problematic.

Anonymous said...

I thi8nk the applicable law is the Neutrality Act. Look it up in Wikipedia. It is effectively useless, considering the conditions built in.

Of course, someone of Lebanese descent joining the Lebanese Army now would not run afoul of the Act right now, but if the US officially declares on the side of Israel, then operation of law makes them enemy soldiers.

Abu Sinan said...

I thought it was illegal to engage in acts of violence against a friendly government?

Muslims here in the Northern VIrigia are serving lengthy prison terms for firing rifles at Indian troops in Kashmir.

Joining a foreign army might not be illegal, but would engaging in armed combat against a friendly government (to the USA) whilst serving in this army, be illegal?

It is my understanding that the second an American serving in the Israel army fires his weapons system against a Lebanese target they have broken US law.

Steve said...

IN reality, Americans often serve in foreign armies with no loss of citizenship, especially if dual citizenship is involved.

IN countries with conscription, American citizenship is no barrier to being conscripted.

Henry Pelifian said...

You pose a excellent question on the status of Americans serving in Israeli army. I think another important question is: Is Israel violating U.S. law in using American military hardware in killing civilians and destroying civilian apartment buildings in Lebanon.

I have read only one article on this and have not seen anything reported on television. Are the Israelis in violation of U.S. law in utilizing American made military equipment, such as aircraft? This question is not even posed in the media, so it is never been answered? I wrote to Senator Clinton who answered me by not anwsering my question. She just stated the U.S. position fully backs Israel in defending herself?

Our Free Press seems too silent on major issues. I think it is becoming a joke that television news covers all the major issues. The Congress made a major mistake in allowing television networks to be owned insead of being leased and sold at auction every 10 or 20 years. If the air waves are owned by the people what real indication of this is there? Providing a way for meaningful change in leasing the airwaves may allow for more objective and critical information about our government. The vast resources of the federal government that are wasted, stolen and abused through "legalized corruption" or clear conflict of interest, such as contracts with Halliburton need to be aired frequently. What is more important that examining how federal expenditures are being utilized and contracted? The oversight function by Congress of the federal behemoth is a tragic joke. Even the Government Accountability Office's work was unable to function effectively in ferreting out waste, fraud and abuse as well as preventing the "NO BID CONTRACTS" in Iraq. I believe the current occupant of the White House restricted the GAO to examining only non-Pentagon spending in Iraq.

In 1953 the U.S. government actively participated in overthrowing a democratically elected government in Iran. I provide a small piece of U.S. puzzle in Iran set 25 years later through the story below:

Anonymous said...

I'm an American citizen who grew up in Israel and served in the Israeli military for a while (not exactly willingly, but that's another story). When I was about to return to the US in 1974 I needed to renew my passport and went to the American consulate in Jerusalem to do so. When I reported that I had served in the Israeli military my passport was taken away and I was told that my citizenship status would need to be approved by the State Department. The reason was that I had sworn allegiance to the State of Israel as part of the military induction process. However, I was also told that this was purely procedural, since the fact that I was consripted, and that the oath was mandatory, meant that I had no choice and my citizenship was not really in jeopardy. Within a week I was called back and told that the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv US missions had been given authority to approve citizenship status under such circumstances without State Department review -- since the cases were so numerous. My passport was renewed on the spot.

Sellam Ismail said...

Anyone who goes to Israel to fight in Lebanon is either guilty of complicit in war crimes.

People who go to Israel to fight in any conflict are morally vacant. But then, this is Israel we are talking about, which is entirely devoid of morality or even basic humanity.

Call your representatives and DEMAND that they put an end to this war and to end support for Israel.

Anonymous said...

I believe there are provisions relating to serving in an army that is contrary to the interests of the United States of America.
Shouldn't laws regarding treason be in effect here?
The Taliban for example, while not recognized as the legitimate goverment of Afghanistan, was acting in control of 95% of the country when American citizen John Walker Lindh nominally joined their army to fight American allies in the Northern Alliance.
Lebanon's democratically elected goverment was recognized and supported by the United States. If an American then kills a Lebanese soldier is this not killing an American ally?

Anonymous said...

word - the real question, as others have pointed out, is what how would the U.S. treat an American in the Lebanese army? It's perfectly conceiveable.

Anonymous said...

Here's a good summary of what gets you expatriated -

Anonymous said...

ARN said that "The fact is, the USG is unwilling to enforce the rules against AMCITS who go to Israel and join the military." Why is this? Is it related to the Israeli lobby? Maybe. To quote Glenn Frankel in a recent Wash Post Magazine article (July 16), "Money is an important part of the interests have contributed $56.8 million to federal candidates and party committees since 1990. By contrast, pro Arab interests have donated $297,000 over the same period." Expecting our federal officials to do the right thing when so much money is being spent to buy influence is very nieve. So what do loyal Americans do to expose such activity? Bloggers have recently been very successful at exposing issues that the main stream press refuses to touch. Keep up the good work, but somehow the pressure needs to be placed on the recipients of the $56.8 million investment and highlight how they are providing a return on that investment. Certainly, the political influencing investments would dry up if the investors felt that they were no longer getting a return on their investment.

i care said...

Thank you for opening this issue. As an American married to an American(Lebanese national), when my husband took his oath, he pledged allegiance to America. It is my understanding that he can never serve with the Lebanese Army. I am so disturbed by the fact that Americans can freely and openly serve in Isreal. What if America calls a draft and these Americans are serving in Isreal. Does this mean that my 18 year old son will go yet those serving Isreal will be released from draft. This is truely sickening. We should press our representatives on this incredible alliance. I gave up years ago, now I feel the shift is beginning. I agree with others above, contact you reps. One day the pendolum will swing back.

arn said...

This is from a U.S. government source who prefers to remain anonymous:

Good question regarding (AMCITS American citizens who voluntarily join the Israeli military. If they emigrate to Israel under the right to return, they automatically become citizens and are subject to the draft. However, many of the AMCITS that go into the IDF do so voluntarily and specifically "to defend their religion.," as some have so stated recently. They would apparently have forfeited their citizenship under past history for service in a foreign armed force. .

As a historical matter, U.S. citizenship could be forfeited upon the undertaking of various acts, including naturalization in a foreign state, service in foreign armed forces, and voting in a foreign political election. However, a line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions constitutionally limited the government's capacity to terminate citizenship to those cases in which an individual engaged in conduct with an intention of abandoning their citizenship. In the wake of administrative practice changes adopted by the U.S. Department of State during the mid 1990s, it is now virtually impossible to lose one's citizenship without expressly renouncing it before a U.S. consular officer. One has to intend to give up one’s citizenship.

Anonymous said...

I am a child of immigrants from South Korea. I thank God everyday that I was born in the United States and not in Korea. When I travel overseas (which i enjoy doing) I am glad and proud that i am an American citizen. I am thankful for my parents becasue they had me in America. My parents are know American citizens. My whole family is thankful for what this country has given us an opportunity to live there dreams and have a better life. If i do want to join the military i would join the US armed forces not the Korean military. There is nothing wrong to have a sense of connection t your culture. However, i do not understand why Jewish Americans go to Israel to join the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). They are Americans not Israeli nationals. There are many Jewish Americans who are serving with pride and honor in the US armed forces. This act still makes my head spin in a thousand direction. In the Korean American Community, it is unheard a korean american joining the korean military. In my opinion, those americans who join the IDF a bunch of trators. If they really love Israel so fucken much they should stay there and never come back. The US congress should pass a law that revokes theire citizenship away from them. They are Americans not Israeli's, yes there Jewish but who cares they are American and they should be loyal to America.

Anonymous said...

USC 1841 was designed in 1952 to specifically permit American Jews to serve with the IDF or, to seek Israeli citizenship, without automatic loss of US citizenship. Prior to 1952, voluntarily serving in(as opposed to with) a foreign military or acquiring foreign citizenship meant an automatic loss of US citizenship, but was changed in 1952 to require an "intention to relinquish" US citizenship.

arn said...

CNN sympathetic segment July 2014.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Americans Serving in the Israeli Army--What is the...":

Post WWII, many former American servicemen assisted Israel's initial wars for independence. More Americans volunteered to assist the new nation against Arab nations' violation of treaties (1956) or acts of aggression (1967, 1974). Some of these were not of Hebrew descent or Jewish religion.
This wasn't particularly out of the ordinary, since Americans also served in Cuba, Spain, France, England, and China before and during both world wars. In recent history, Americans have traveled to Israel, Libya, Lebanon, and (currently in the news) Kurd-controlled areas to assist in military situations. These have ended up on both sides of the "Israeli-Palestinian/Arab" conflicts. Two things should be noted:
First, they should not be engaged in hostilities with the United States or be part of an organization actively threatening US interests. Recent news can be pulled up of young Muslim men (and I believe women, though I don't recall specifics) being accosted in California and at O'Hare due to their expressed intentions to join ISIS or similar groups very clearly intending harm to the United States.
Second, service in a foreign military DOES preclude one's eligibility to serve in the military of the United States. This is the problem I have with former members of the United States military volunteering to assist the Kurds in their (just) fight against ISIS. Not only do they prevent future service in the service of their OWN country, they may also be in violation of their enlistment contracts, depending on the length of enlistment.