Torture and Confessions in Jewish Law

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

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy