The Jews of Rhodes and Their Annual Homecoming

In July 1944, Nazi Germany sent boats to the Aegean island of Rhodes to take its approximately 1,700 Jews to Auschwitz. Now, surviving Jews from Rhodes and their descendants gather on the island every summer to celebrate their past and commemorate the destruction of their community. Gavin Rabinowitz writes:

[Many] descendants of the Jews of Rhodes . . . return to the island for family functions like bar mitzvahs and weddings. And, in recent years, dozens of Rhodeslis families visit each year for cultural events and memorial services that mark the anniversary of the Nazi deportation. . . .

[A] vibrant, cosmopolitan Jewish community of traders and craftsmen [once] lived in the Jewish quarter of Rhodes, la Juderia—a warren of narrow cobblestone alleys behind the great stone fortress walls and moat of the old port city. . . .

The Jewish community of Rhodes traces its history back to the 2nd century BCE, but most of the community members were descendants of the Sephardi Jews expelled from Spain [in 1492] and spoke Ladino in their daily lives. The community largely thrived under Ottoman rule, reaching a [demographic] peak in the 1920s with some 4,000 Jews, a quarter of the total town population. It had four synagogues, a Jewish school, and a yeshiva.

Read more at JTA

More about: Greece, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Ladino, Ottoman Empire, Sephardim

The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law