“Recapturing” the “Other”: Jewish Laws of War and International Law
Journal of Law and Religion , Volume 28 - Issue 1 p. 47- 65
The story would recapture the trace of Judaism, particularly the mystical Jew, in the early literature of international law—I think most readily of Gentilis’ obsession with Judaism—a Judaism that seems at once the law that revelation and redemption replace and the mysticism that law and state refuse. Paradoxically enough, we find here our own complex relationship between law and religion exactly mirrored in the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. This article examines the relationship between the Jewish laws of war and international law. As Kennedy notes in the opening quote, one way of understanding the relationship between Jewish laws of war and international law is as part of the relationship between international law and its “other.” Kennedy defines Jewish law as mystical, and in so doing he asserts that Jewish law is different in form than state law/international law. Kennedy's opposition of Jewish law and international law is not accidental. It is a direct consequence of the history of international law. As Mutua has noted “[i]nternational law claims to be universal, although its creators have unambiguously asserted its European and Christian origins.” From this point of view, international law has “universalized” its particular origins with the consequence that any non-European or non-Christian tradition is not universal and is the “other.” This fact leads Kennedy to argue that international law has ignored (among many other things) the traces of religion, mysticism and Judaism in its history in its quest to claim secular universality.