Judaism and the ethics of war

Norman Solomon
2005 International Review of the Red Cross  
The sources and how to read them Judaism, like Christianity, has deep roots in the Hebrew scriptures ("Old Testament"), but it interprets those scriptures along lines classically formulated by the rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud, completed shortly before the rise of Islam. The Talmud is a reference point rather than a definitive statement; Judaism has continued to develop right up to the present day. To get some idea of how Judaism handles the ethics of war, we will review a selection of
more » ... selection of sources from the earliest scriptures to rabbinic discussion in contemporary Israel, thus over a period of three thousand years. The starting point for rabbinic thinking about war is the biblical legislation set out in Deuteronomy 20. In form this is a military oration, concerned with jus in bello rather than jus ad bellum; it regulates conduct in war, but does not specify conditions under which it is appropriate to engage in war. It distinguishes between (a) the war directly mandated by God against the Canaanites Norman Solomon served as rabbi to Orthodox congregations in Britain, and since 1983 has been engaged in interfaith relations and in academic work, most recently at the University of Oxford. He has published several books on Judaism. Abstract The article surveys Jewish sources relating to the justification and conduct of war, from the Bible and rabbinic interpretation to recent times, including special problems of the State of Israel. It concludes with the suggestion that there is convergence between contemporary Jewish teaching, modern human rights doctrine and international law.
doi:10.1017/s1816383100181354 fatcat:ov4invbknjhxncqyn45kgwjchq