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Sovereignty, Global Justice and The Ethics of War

[RG # 126] Sovereignty, Global Justice And The Ethics Of War

March 1, 2011 - August 31, 2011


Eyal Benvenisti (Tel Aviv University)
Yitzhak Benbajo (Bar-Ilan University)

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In an era of globalization and massive institutional change in the international community, developing a workable set of ideas about global or international justice is one of the most important tasks facing philosophers, political theorists, lawyers and economics. Current events raise imperative political and moral questios concerning the moral standing of states and ethnocultural communities, states' rights against interventional in their internal affairs, their right to use force to protect their territorial integrity, and their right to protect their citizens or to protect citizens of other states.

Similarly, the growing interdependence among states introduces an entire set of concerns regarding global distributive justice, whereas the histories of relationships among states (colonialism, wars, secessions, etc.) suggest concerns regarding global corrective justice. These questions focus on the duties of affluent states to aid poor countries and refugees, the duties of colonial states to compensate their former colonies, the just treatment of statelessness and the just distribution of cultural rights, citizenship, residency, wealth, and the world's natural resources. These ample practical applications of global justice are what make it one of the most viable and increasingly important subfields of political philosophy.

Some of the most fundamental themes of global justice have been widely discussed in the context of just war theory. 

The research group will study three areas:

(1) The morality of the laws of war, with special attention to the institutional arrangements recommended by the statist and the cosmopolitan competing theories of just wars

(2) The statist and cosmopolitan theories of global justice, mainly distributive, but also corrective

(3) How debates between statists and cosmopolitans in these two fields -- international justice and just war theory -- are related, and how morality and the laws of war are implemented in the different conceptions of international justice.



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The Migration of Criminal Law Principles from National to International Law

[RG # 127] The Migration of Criminal Law Principles from National to International Law


Miriam Gur-Arye (The Hebrew University)

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International criminal law (ICL) is a unique branch of law, as it addresses the gravest crimes of concern to the international community as a whole through the imposition of criminal responsibility directly upon individuals (rather than upon states). ICL has become more prominent in recent years. New institutions have been created (most notably, the International Criminal Court [ICC]) and a growing number of international norms have penetrated national laws and are now applied more frequently by national courts (e.g., through the universal jurisdiction doctrine). Still, the theoretic basis of international criminal law is weak and its relationship to national criminal law is less than clear.

The aim of the research group is to examine closely the development of criminal law principles and basic notions in order to evaluate the process of migration of criminal law norms from national to international law. Our hope is that the research will provide a better understanding of the potential and shortcomings of international criminal law at the beginning of the 21st century, and serve as the basis for normative and institutional proposal reforms.


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Research Groups:The Legitimization of Modern Criminal Law


[RG # 146]  The Legitimization of Modern Criminal Law

March 1 - July 31, 2016

Alon Harel (The Hebrew University)

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It is often said that criminal law faces a crisis of legitimacy: a crisis of perceived legitimacy, in that many of those who are subject to it do not regard it as author- itative; a crisis of normative legitimacy, insofar as it cannot plausibly claim the authority that it needs.

This Research Group will pursue five lines of research aimed at understanding and finding ways of responding to it. First, we take seriously the fact that criminal law is a political institution, whose legitimation must be grounded in political theory. Second, we will explore the ways in which criminal law can be differentiated from other legal and extra-legal mechanisms for regulating behavior. Third, we will examine the scope of activities that can legitimately be criminalized, since a failure to honor appropriate limitations on that scope is another source of the crisis of legitimacy. Fourth, we will examine the procedural features that are necessary for strengthening the legitimacy of criminal law. Finally, we will attend to criminal punishment, in particular the question of what modes of criminal punishment can play a legitimate role in a democratic polity. 


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Research Group: Rethinking Early Modern Jewish Legal Culture: New Sources, Methodologies and Paradigms

legal culture

[RG # 154] Rethinking Early Modern Jewish Legal Culture: New Sources, Methodologies and Paradigms

September 1, 2018 - June 30, 2019


Jay Berkovitz (University of Massachusetts Amherst),
Arye Edrei (Tel Aviv University)

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A substantial number of new sources for the study of Jewish history and law have come to the attention of scholars during the past fifteen years. Only recently, rabbinic and lay court records from Jewish communities in early modern Europe and the Mediterranean world have begun to be inspected, though very few systematic studies of these sources have yet been undertaken. Rabbinic and community court records are fundamental not only to our understanding of Jewish autonomy and politics. They also represent a basic tool for discovering how Jewish law functioned in practice. Our goal is to incorporate these sources into the historical narrative so that we can better understand the role that Jewish and general law played in the life of individuals and their communities.

The following questions are central to the year-long investigations that are planned:

  1. Did Jews engage in forum shopping between Jewish and non-Jewish courts, how was this viewed by rabbinic and lay authorities, and where there was opposition, what were the steps taken to prevent this?

  2. Were adjustments in Jewish law (halakhah) among these steps, how familiar were Jews with general law, and did Jewish jurists incorporate aspects of general law, such as the ius commune, into their decisions?

The proposed Research Group intends to use rabbinic and lay court records to (re)define the place of Jewish law in daily life through modern legal theory and historical investigation.

Toward this end, we will place historians and legal scholars in dialogue on the substance and ramifications of these recently rediscovered sources. 


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