Judaism’s Contribution to English Legal Theory

During the ongoing debates over “Brexit,” members of the British legal establishment have inclined toward skepticism about their country’s membership in the EU on the grounds that European law threatens to replace or preempt English common law. Ofir Haivry, reflecting on a similar debate that took place 400 years ago, notes the surprising influence of Jewish legal theory:

[E]arly in the 17th century . . . schemes to codify English law were inspired by figures like Thomas Hobbes and the Dutchman Hugo Grotius, proposing to replace traditional laws with new universal theories based on . . . reason and natural rights. . . .

John Selden, the foremost common lawyer of his generation . . . [argued, to the contrary,] that universal moral principles can really be upheld only within particular legal systems fitted to the disposition and character of a nation.

As the model for his approach, Selden offered the Jewish legal tradition of the seven fundamental Noahide principles that, according to the Talmud, all the descendants of Noah (that is, all of humanity) were commanded to observe. Nations were free to devise laws according to their wishes and necessities, as long as they did not transgress these basic principles. Selden pointed out that the continued adherence of the Jewish nation to talmudic law in the centuries since the destruction of their state by the Romans proved the benefit of this approach. For the Jews, scattered around the world and with no central government, had long lost all political attributes of a nation but one—they still adhered to their traditional national law.

A nation defined by its particular laws and customs was, for Selden, the essence of England, too, and this idea has endured among common lawyers ever since.

Read more at Standpoint

More about: Common law, England, European Union, Hugo Grotius, Jewish law, John Selden, Seven Noahide Laws, Thomas Hobbes


Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security