Joe Mintz

The long history of weaponising law against Jews

The new justice of human rights is just the latest method of ‘lawfare’ employed against us


Portuguese Inquisition auto-da-fe

May 30, 2024 11:25

In 1737, Antonio Jose da Silva, a satirical playwright, was garotted and burnt to death at an “auto da fe” in Lisbon after his “trial”. A servant girl’s evidence of his secret Sabbath observance was instrumental in the Inquisition sealing his fate as a Converso or “secret Jew”. The Inquisition, backed by the legal authority of the King and the Church, condemned him to death because Christian justice demanded that his perfidy in accepting Christ but continuing to live as a Jew had to be punished.

The Inquisition was not the only time the legal framework has been used by non-Jews against Jews. Jewish history is littered with examples. Given this, it is less than surprising that as the idea of international justice has grown to prominence in recent decades, the Jewish state has become the subject of legal abuse in international forums.

Max Weber famously proposed that a monopoly on violence is what in the end defines the idea of a state and the authority of public legal systems. It’s a monopoly that has often had Jews in its sights. The dhimmi status of Jews in the Muslim world placed Jews (and Christians) as second-class citizens within Islamic legal systems. Jews were legally obliged to move out of the way of a Muslim if they passed them on the street, could not give evidence in courts against a Muslim, and sometimes were forced to wear distinctive clothing such as a yellow star. Just as with Christian Europe, Jews were inherently considered inferior and lacking, and thus those nations’ notion of justice demanded that they be treated as such.

The wave of expulsions of Jews across medieval Europe were enacted by legal instruments of the monarch, such as Edward I’s Edict of Expulsion from England in 1290.

Of course, as was usually the case, legal instruments were mixed with mob violence, often supported by the state. Here, the King’s justice was based on the primacy of the racial and spiritual purity of the nation, which the Jew polluted.

As Jonathan Sacks noted, the rationale for antisemitism mutates over time, and always reaches, as Sacks put it, for “the highest form of justification” available, that is the current concept of justice. It’s just curious how, whatever that concept is, it has the Jews as its target.

In the Middle Ages it was the justice of religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries it was the justifications of the new science of antisemitism. Darwinian science was abused by the Nazis to show in their perverted way the justice of the inferiority of the Jew.

Now, in the 21st century, in the era of the International Criminal Court the new highest form of justification, the new justice that antisemitism reaches for, as Sacks said, is human rights. The notion of universal human rights makes targeting individual Jews, at least in principle, untenable. Yet in this new world, the non-Jewish world still needs the Jew to be inferior, still sees them as threatening the purity of the nations (please make the world clean) and still needs Jews to accept their guilt. What better way for the virus of antisemitism to metastise than for it to be applied to the Jewish state?

For all other nations, self determination is the logical outcome of a commitment to human rights. Only for Jews is the fight for survival, in the new justice of human rights, translated into white supremacy, oppression of others and genocide.

Lawfare is nothing new for the Jews. It was a useful tool for the monarchs of the Muslim and the Christian worlds, and now it serves the nations of the world through their international bodies – the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the ICC. Just as the monarchs of the Middle Ages could solve all the troubles of their kingdoms by expelling the Jews, so can the world of today solve all its troubles of the world if it can blame them on the evil Jews. Why worry about Syria, Sudan, the Uighurs and the despotism of the Chinese Communist Party, to name but a few, when you can take the Jews and their state to court?

And don’t worry of course about actual justice – evidence and truth – where the Jews are concerned. If you were a dhimmi in Baghdad in the Middle Ages, an unfounded denouncement could condemn you to death. In Tehran in 2024 it still might. Now, in the UN and the ICJ and the ICC, unfounded claims of genocide, where words and their meaning are turned upside down, are used to condemn the Jewish state. Same old same old. Why though all the shock at this from Israel and Jews around the world? What is truly surprising is that we let ourselves be duped. Israel and all of us were so desperate, as Jews have always been, to be accepted by the nations, that we actually thought that international justice might be a real thing.

Well it’s not. It’s just another way to beat Jews over the head in the name of a perverted idea of “justice”. We were fools to think otherwise.

Joe Mintz is Associate Professor of Education at UCL

May 30, 2024 11:25

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