Judaism’s Contribution to English Legal Theory

July 18 2016

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.

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Read more at Standpoint

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

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism