Shabtai Rosenne: The Transformation of Sefton Rowson
Law of Strangers: Critical Perspectives on Jewish Lawyering and International Legal Thought, eds James Loeffler & Moria Paz, Cambridge University Press (Forthcoming)
28 Pages Posted: 12 May 2015
Date Written: April 29, 2015
Shabtai Rosenne passed away in 2010. The many obituaries – including a eulogy, followed by a minute’s silence, by the ICJ President in session – celebrate the known accomplishments of a renowned international jurist. His engagement with international law requires no demonstration. His engagement with Jewish affairs, however, remains entirely unknown, as are early chapters of his life and career. How these two engagements related to one another is, necessarily, entirely unexplored. Rosenne’s career choices present an overlap patent in his service as the first (‘imposing’) legal adviser of the Jewish state’s Foreign Ministry (1948-1967). This career path appears to attest to a perfect synthesis of his two engagements. In this paper, while illuminating less familiar sides of Rosenne’s early life and work, I argue that appearances are misleading. Rosenne’s two engagements – Jewish nationalism and international law – undoubtedly coexisted; this, however, was no peaceful cohabitation. The one did not drive the other; if anything, each existed despite the other. They ran separate courses; and they rarely met. For Rosenne, synthesis of these two engagements came late, and was the product of a personal and ideological, transformation; it came, moreover, at a cost. Rosenne’s transformation sheds light on Israel’s early international legal outlook; underscores 1948 as a cusp in the interaction between international legal and Jewish history; exposes the plurality of terms of Jewish engagement with – and disengagement from – international law; and portrays international law itself as a field of political Jewish contestation.
Keywords: Shabtai Rosenne, international law, Judaism, Zionism
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