Purim among Ukrainian Refugees in Vienna

In response to the refugee crisis stemming from the war in Ukraine, Yeshiva University’s president, Ari Berman, travelled to Vienna to assist, along with a group of 28 Yeshiva students. He writes of the experience:

Two weeks ago, my two oldest sons and I walked past the balcony of the Hofberg Palace in Vienna. It was on that balcony on March 15, 1938, that Adolf Hitler announced the Austrian Anschluss [annexation] to Nazi Germany. I showed my sons the grainy black and white video of his speech as we stood there, chilled with disbelief. Moments later, we met with Wolfgang Sobotka, the president of the Austrian National Council, whose grandfather was a Nazi. Sobotka has forged his own path as a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism and as a champion of the Viennese Jewish community. Today, Sobotka and his country are sheltering 1,000-2,000 new Ukrainian refugees a day, including hundreds of Jews.

Virtually every Jew I know is a refugee or a descendant of refugees. And so, when we saw Ukrainians forced to pack their bags and flee their country, we knew it was time to pack our own bags and go where we were needed.

The Viennese Jewish community of 8,000 has already taken in 500 Jewish refugees from Ukraine and is expecting an additional 1,000 in the weeks ahead.

Our visit took place during the week of the Jewish holiday of Purim, a celebration of how Queen Esther saved her people from an attempt to rid the ancient Persian empire of its Jews. Purim is typically celebrated in costume, so when we traveled to Vienna, our students brought close to 500 Purim costumes and duffle bags full of toys and decorations. Mostly, they brought spirit; they danced and sang so that refugees, many of whom had only been in Vienna for a few days, could still experience the holiday in its fullness.

Read more at First Things

More about: Austrian Jewry, Purim, Refugees, Vienna, War in Ukraine

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