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


To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy