Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Just War and Judaism

In my teaching, I often emphasize how religions tend to develop just war doctrines whenever they become official religions of state.  Thus, Islam has one in the Qur'an as revealed by Muhammad in Medina, whereas Christianity had to wait until the days of Augustine of Hippo in the later Roman Empire.

That Judaism is following this pattern was one of my takeaways from the essays collected in Stuart Cohen's book Divine Service? Judaism and Israel's Armed Forces.  Several chapters deal with Jewish religious law regarding warfare, which was simply absent from almost all rabbinic literature in the Diaspora.  The exception was Maimonides, who included it in his discussion of the rules for kings.

During the 20th century, however, Zionism and the formation of the State of Israel have led to an explosion of Jewish religious thought on military matters, including both the initiation and conduct of hostilities.  Cohen is more concerned with the form of this work than its substance, which I gather includes lots of disagreement.  He does repeatedly make the point, however, that these ideas matter given the increasing prevalence of Orthodox Jews in the IDF, especially in crucial combat officer ranks.  I look forward to seeing more research in this area, especially since media reports mostly focus on the outrageous statements of extremist rabbis without regard to where they fit in a broader spectrum and how their ideas are received by their intended audience.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home