Torture and Confessions in Jewish Law

Jan. 26 2016

In the American legal system, as in the Israeli, the confessions of perpetrators tend to be preferred as evidence of crimes. Among the problems with this approach is the danger that confessions might be coerced. By contrast, the Talmud states that a person’s testimony against himself is ipso facto inadmissible, thus avoiding the problem of coercion. However, writes Shlomo Brody, rabbinic jurisprudence provides ample exceptions:

[M]edieval and modern Jewish communities that retained semi-autonomous penal systems would regularly convict criminals based in part on confessions. [Medieval Spanish scholars] such as Rabbi Shlomo ibn Adret and Rabbi Nissim of Gerona asserted that Jewish law recognized the right of a king or government to administer a justice system according to societal needs, [even if these contradicted the letter of talmudic law].

As the Talmud [itself] states, sometimes the court can punish in spite of the law. Otherwise, it [might] be impossible to convict any criminals. . . . Given this [opinion], could confessions be accepted even if coerced from the defendant? [The] talmudic evidence remains somewhat contradictory.

On the one hand, there is recognition that coerced admissions cannot be taken seriously. On the other hand, there seem to be cases in which force [was] used to confirm the guilt of certain suspects.

Commentators debate whether in these cases actual physical violence was used or if mere threats or other forms of intimidation were employed. In any case, within medieval rabbinic literature, there are sporadic sources that indicate the use of physical force, with some figures explicitly asserting that such capabilities remain within a judge’s purview.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Halakhah, Judaism, Law, Religion & Holidays, Torture

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy