Judaism, Internationalism, and Leo Strauss

The brilliant and much-maligned political philosopher Leo Strauss has often been painted by his detractors as a reactionary warmonger. In a recent book, Robert Howse argues that in fact he espoused a firm belief in international law and cooperation. Furthermore, Howse contends, Strauss came to his position through introspection and the peculiarly Jewish process of teshuvah—repentance and return—in his case, for his youthful flirtation with the German right. Howse comes to these surprising conclusions in part through careful analysis of recently-published transcripts of Strauss’s classroom teaching. Steven B. Smith writes:

It is only in [his] seminars on [the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Hugo] Grotius and [Immanuel] Kant . . . that Strauss applied the insights gleaned from Thucydides to the revival of international law and just-war theory in the years after World War II. Strauss, we learn, was by no means opposed to a policy of enlightened internationalism. The very fact that he devoted an entire course to Grotius’s Rights of War and Peace is itself revealing. Here he found Grotius struggling with the same question that had occupied him since his early Weimar period, namely, how to fashion a political theory that threads the needle between sheer Machiavellianism and Kantian moralism. Accordingly, he finds in Grotius’s idea of a law of peoples, the ius gentium, a way to provide a ground for political ethics that is both rational and secular, and yet that recognizes the need for statesmanlike prudence and the ability to adapt to the needs of circumstance.

Read more at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

More about: Hugo Grotius, Immanuel Kant, International Law, Leo Strauss, Political philosophy, Repentance

As Hamas’s Reign of Terror Endures, the International Community Remains Obsessed with Jews Living in the Wrong Places

On Thursday, foreign ministers of the G-7—the U.S., Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy—along with the EU, made an official “statement on the situation in the West Bank,” an area where they are very concerned, it appears, that too many Jews are dwelling. In particular, the G-7 condemned Israel’s decision to grant municipal status to five ad-hoc villages built without proper permits. Elliott Abrams comments:

I can see “condemning” murder, terror, kidnapping, and “rejecting” that legalization. Indeed in the next sentence they “reject the decision by the government of Israel to declare over 1,270 hectares of land in the West Bank as ‘state lands.’” Building houses should not be treated with language usually reserved for murder.

The statement then added complaints about the Israeli settlement program more generally, and about Israel’s decision to withhold some tax revenues it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Why does Israel ever withhold such funds? Sometimes it is in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack. Sometimes it’s domestic politics. But it’s worth remembering something else: the Taylor Force Act, which became law in 2018 and stated that the “Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying salaries to terrorists serving in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror.” Until those payments cease, most forms of aid from the U.S. government to the Palestinian Authority may not be made. The payments continue. It is not clear if the State Department is pressuring the Palestinian Authority to end them.

Such moral considerations are entirely absent from the G-7 statement. The statement may be correct when it says, “maintaining economic stability in the West Bank is critical for regional security.” But it should be obvious that ending the pay-for-slay program and rewards for terrorism is even more critical for regional security. It’s a pity the G-7 did not find time to mention that.

The statement, it’s worth noting, appeared on the U.S. State Department website.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Europe and Israel, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy, West Bank