Peace and Conflict in the Jewish Tradition

Authored by: George Wilkes

The Ashgate Research Companion to Religion and Conflict Resolution

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409410898
eBook ISBN: 9781315613505
Adobe ISBN: 9781317041832


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The notion that there is an essentially Jewish approach to conduct in war and to making peace is contestable from so many angles that it might be said to preclude a satisfying, concise treatment. Some seek to address this problem by straightforwardly outlining that there are divergent versions of Jewish ‘just war theory’, while others focus instead on authentic models for a Jewish pacifism (the literature is described in greater depth in Wilkes 2012 and in Eisen 2011). In either case, evidence for what is authentic or distinctively Jewish will necessarily be selective. A variety of justifications can be advanced for this selection, some ethical, some historical or textual, some theological. In what follows, judgements of the boundaries of what is construed as quintessentially Jewish will also be seen to rest on a set of entrenched polemics about the relationship between Jewish thought and the civilizations in the context of which Jewish thought has developed. Writers describing a military or pacifist ethic as ‘Jewish’ have not uncommonly distinguished their views of what is rational and practical – and consequently sanctioned by Jewish tradition – from generalizations about Western, Christian or secular international standards. Jewish accounts of the nature and limits of ethical conduct in wartime are also clearly influenced by the norms of the times in which they are written, and consequently now share much in common with Christian and secular ethics, as they once shared much with contemporary Islamic texts.

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