Show trial in Venice
by Jonathan Rosenblum
February 25, 2000
An appeals court in Venice has upheld a juvenile court decision to remove all Tali Rosenberg's guardianship rights over her daughters Nitzan and Danielle. As far as Venice is concerned, she is no longer their mother.
The court's opinion was dated February 11, the very date of oral arguments in the case, strongly suggesting that the opinion was written before the arguments were even heard. Nor was that the only stench coming from Venice.
During the ongoing custody proceedings in Genoa, where the girls now live with their father, attorneys for both mother and father requested the Venice court in writing to renounce its jurisdiction. The Venice public prosecutor went further: According to him, the Venice juvenile court never had jurisdiction over the case, and thus Tali
violated no valid court order when she took her daughters to Israel.
Only after an appeals court in Genoa had heard Tali's appeal of the custody decree by a lower court in Genoa in favor of the father - an appeal which she won - did the Venice court reopen the file. There is more than a little reason to believe that it did so on the basis of an ex parte request from the father's attorney.
In other words, a fix. (In both Genoa and Venice, there have been numerous hearings without notice to Tali or her attorneys.)
The Venice juvenile court conducted no hearings in the case. It did not even bother to inform Tali or her legal representatives of its intention to enter judgment. Nitzan and Danielle were not examined by any psychologist. Nor were they consulted as to their desires, despite Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guarantees the child's right to be heard and express her opinion.
The court relied exclusively on the fact that Tali had illegally hidden with her children and the report of a psychologist appointed by the Venice juvenile court over three years ago.
That psychologist, however, conducted no tests of Tali. Her inquiry focused exclusively on Tali's religious beliefs and practices. She explicitly stated that her findings were incomplete and insufficient to serve as the basis for a custody decision. Her conclusion that Tali is "unstable" was, as she herself stated, pure supposition based on the fact that Tali had disappeared with her children.
By contrast, her findings about the father were definite: "not completely balanced"; "narcissistic"; "prone to uncontrolled fits of violence"; and in the habit of "turning to magic." In short, incapable of raising the sisters without extensive psychological help.
THREE different Israeli psychologists, including one appointed by the Tel Aviv District Court, found that Nitzan and Danielle have an extremely close relationship with their mother. (No Italian court has yet bothered to order a neutral examination of the girls.)
One Israeli clinical psychologist found that the girls identified closely with their mother, who "is raising her children with extreme devotion."
After administering a battery of tests, another clinical psychologist assessed Tali, who has been a teacher of young children her entire adult life, as a "very healthy person, well-balanced, . .. with a definite vocation for rearing children."
Nitzan describes her mother, in a letter written shortly after their forcible separation: "From my first awareness of myself, I remember our long conversations on every occasion, whether I faced some difficulty and needed advice, or whether I was happy and wanted to share my joy with someone.
"You have always been a listening ear. . . I don't know how you always managed to listen to everyone with a big smile on your face. . . ."
This is the woman deemed by the Venice courts as likely to damage her daughters, without, by the courts' own admission, one shred of actual evidence of past damage during all the years she was their primary caretaker.
On the other hand, an Italian psychologist concluded that Nitzan's thoughts of suicide, in the face of her father's repeated threats to institutionalize her if she refused to succumb to his will, had to be taken very seriously.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees the right of the child to maintain personal relations and direct contact with two parents (Article 9) and is predicated on the assumption of joint parental responsibility (Article 18). How, then, does the Venice appeals court justify a decree cutting off all contact between Tali and her daughters without any evidentiary hearing at all on the girls' best interests?
With a piece of legal legerdemain - that's how.
We need not consider the girls' best interests, nor the father's fitness as a parent, nor any other custody issue, says the court, because as far as we are concerned Tali is "unfit" to be a parent. Thus she has no right to raise any issues concerning her daughters. End of case.
And why is she unfit? Because she ran away with them in violation of the Hague Convention.
Every case under the Hague Convention involves one parent taking the children out of their country of residence. Nevertheless, as Dr. Dan Sharon, one of Israel's leading experts on child custody notes, the Hague Convention anticipates a full hearing on the "best interests of the child" after return to the original jurisdiction. If one parent's illegal taking was assumed to settle the issue, no such hearings would ever be needed.
The real basis of the Venice appeals court's decision appears tucked away near the end. Tali, writes the court, views her way of life - i.e., Orthodox Judaism - as normal, and therefore she would surely raise her daughters according to her precepts.
Forget about the rights of children and parents not to be punished for their religious beliefs (Article 2 of the UN Convention), which all signatory states, including Italy and Israel, are enjoined to enforce. Judaism has been put on trial, as the Church-sponsored disputations from the Middle Ages, and with the same outcome.
If we, as a state or individuals, remain silent, we are accomplices to our accusers.
Related Topics: World Jewry
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